Paul E. Anna: High Points
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I went to the movies the other night at the Wheeler Opera House.
Anyone who is a fan of flicks in this town knows that the Wheeler is, by a country mile, the best place to see a film here in Aspen. While the seats can be a bit tough on the behind and the leg room is a challenge for tall people, the big screen, the movie palace grandeur and the general ambiance of the place make it a pleasure.
But the one thing that really makes the experience of going to the Wheeler to see a film great is that Jon Busch is there.
Anyone who lives here and goes to the Wheeler to see movies owes a great debt to Jon. For as long as I have been here – we came in 1993 – he has run the film program at the Wheeler, bringing in outstanding first run, art house, eclectic and foreign films for us to see. I believe he began his tenure at the Wheeler in 1990 when he was a young man of 50 and has been the face of film at the Wheeler ever since.
As head of the Wheeler Film Society, Jon’s place in Aspen history has been cemented. If we had a “Hollywood Walk of Fame” he would be the first to have his hands placed in the concrete.
On Tuesday there were maybe a dozen folks in the theater to see the film “Harvard Wins 29-29”. No doubt the crowd was severely diminished by the film’s subject (it dealt with a long ago contested football game), the weather (it was pouring that evening), and a review by Stewart Oksenhorn in that day’s Aspen Times that basically said it was a waste of time.
Nonetheless, Jon took to the stage at exactly 7:30 p.m. to address the assembled dozen with the same enthusiasm he would have had if the place were full and the film was spectacular. For years he has done this before each film and I have always been amazed at how his reed thin voice and his modest profile seem to grow to fit the stage as he tells people about that night’s film and the upcoming program. He is so gracious as he tells people “Welcome to the show” and then he discusses the films.
I am reminded of the classic Italian film “Cinema Paradiso” when I see Jon on stage. That film follows a man who goes back to his ancestral village for the funeral of a projectionist who ran the movie theater in his hometown. It captures the passion the man had for film as a boy and how important a place a movie house can be to a small village.
In a time when so much has changed in this village it is good to know that we can still count on Jon Busch being here, bringing us great movies. There is still something special about sitting in the dark on an offseason Tuesday watching, as the trailers roll by before the film, and hearing people in the row behind you whisper, “I want to see that”.
It’s my favorite thing about the Wheeler. Thanks, Jon.
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