Why the Isis is so essential to Aspen
On behalf of Aspen Filmfest’s Board of Directors and staff, I wish to convey how critically important we believe commercial movie theaters are to Aspen’s continued appeal as a vibrant community and celebrated mountain resort. The notion of losing our theaters, which are such an integral part of our town, is unthinkable.
As Aspen grows increasingly fragmented economically, the Isis provides a great and affordable gathering place, offering locals and visitors of all ages the chance to share popcorn, laughter, wonderment, and each other. From kids to seniors, everybody goes to the movies.
As a result of Aspen’s multiple theater screens, we’ve enjoyed everything from blockbusters, comedies and family fare to the occasional art-house films and documentaries. If our last remaining full-time movie theater disappears, what safe and reasonably priced downtown entertainment opportunity is left for us, our friends and families, most especially our children?
Economic-benefit arguments can (and should) be made for the unique place a movie theater plays in maintaining Aspen’s downtown vitality 365 days a year. Whether peak season or offseason, local restaurants and other businesses benefit from the diverse customer base that a movie theater draws. Whether it’s a bite to eat before the show or an ice cream and stroll through town afterward, moviegoers populate and energize the commercial core on a daily basis. What other entertainment is comparable to this? Of its many benefits, those most elusive to economic analysis are what make the movie theater truly irreplaceable.
In its heyday, the movie theater was called a dream palace, and not just because the stories on the silver screen were bigger than life. At the very beginning, during the great period of European migration, movie theaters brought people from all walks of life and countless nationalities under the same roof. It’s how many new citizens learned English and got their first taste of American values. Before long, movie theaters had spread across the country into medium-sized cities and, perhaps more importantly, small towns everywhere. Witness the birth of our own Isis Theatre in 1904.
Like it or not, the moving image is the dominant communication of our time. And there’s a reason. Something meaningful and deeply individual can transpire when the lights go down. Is it mere coincidence that most people can vividly recollect their earliest, if not first, movie-going experience? We would suggest that it is a sign of something more. Moviegoing provides a cultural connection, as well as an experience of cultural consciousness. Are we truly willing to just give this up?
For those who would leave the Isis’ fate to “free market” economics, please consider at what cost. We’re not talking about retail, timeshares, or any number of brick-and-mortar scenarios. We’re speaking about something less tangible that nevertheless enhances our quality of life.
Sitting in a dark theater with other people reacting to what’s on the big screen ” that’s what makes going to the movies unique. You can’t duplicate that shared experience in a home theater or in front of a computer screen.
The Isis draws us together as a community and that’s a good thing. It feeds our imagination and opens a window to the world. Most importantly, it connects us to each other.
As you reflect on the benefits that the Isis has brought to Aspen, we encourage thoughtful, proactive leadership from all sectors ” local government, private sector, concerned individuals ” to create a process and chart a course that will retain the optimal number of screens in the downtown core and ensure their continued lively presence on a year-round basis.
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.