Sean Beckwith: The next phase for movie theaters in the valley |

Sean Beckwith: The next phase for movie theaters in the valley

I don’t know who created artsy films; I assume it was the French, but they coined so many other artistic endeavors that it’s hard to figure out what’s not under their umbrella. One thing I do know for certain, though, is America created the blockbuster.

The reason why Americans love big-budget movies is because we don’t spend $12 to try to interpret something. We want to walk into a movie featuring a big-name cast and have the surround sound knock back our hair like we just got off a roller coaster.

No offense to Aspen Film or other organizations of that ilk but, as heartbreaking as a refugee story is, did you see the end of “Avengers: Endgame”?

If you’re a comic book nerd under the age of 40, you probably saw Marvel’s teaser trailer for Phase 4 that debuted Monday. It’s basically a minute-and-a-half of goosebump-inducing footage from previous Marvel productions with a Stan Lee voice-over followed by a minute-and-a-half sizzle reel of upcoming movies and a barrage of theatrical release dates. I’ve watched it like 70 times.

The catch is, where am I going to watch them? There’s not a regular movie theater in the valley scheduled to be open beyond August, and the MCU has release dates set as far as 2023. Every time I drive by Movieland 7 in El Jebel, the “Temporarily closed, reopening soon” message on the marquee makes me sad.

In similar financial troubles to Movieland and at risk of closing, Isis Theatre in Aspen needs to either start a very successful streaming service in an extremely competitive market or hope for a Miracle on Hopkins Avenue. Locals obviously have a very selfish reason for wanting a movie theater in town, but, and this might be the first time I’ve written this, think about the tourists.

One of my favorite traditions while on summer vacation was to catch a matinee on the day weather didn’t cooperate (or whenever I could convince my dad that we need to see whatever action movie was headlining summer). Isis closing for good would be an apt death knell for the every man in Aspen.

What’s next? We’re going to close Belly Up Aspen and replace it with another jazz café? Puke. It’d be like when you went to grandma’s house as a kid and the only toy was a music box that played “My Favorite Things” — and not the John Coltrane version.

It may not be a surprise that the same person who once lobbied against the assigned reading in favor of comic books and got a “D … see me” grade for it also dislikes stuffy art scenes, and Aspen leans stuffy. We put an oversized Solo cup on display for a ski season. If you want to see an impressive piece of Solo cup art, go to Boulder on a Sunday and watch a hungover college kid fit an entire yard of Solo cups into a single garbage bag.

That said, stuffy art scenes attract wealth, which leads me to a possible solution. The Isis building is city-owned. Well, the real estate transfer tax that’s left the Wheeler flush with funding may get siphoned off to help a few other community projects. I can’t think of a better place to start than a fellow theater.

I don’t know how all of the RETT reallocation will work out seeing as City Council is still figuring out what to ask voters to do with it or how it would even attract an operator, but I do know the RETT is a massive asset, bordering on loophole, that will only continue to grow as the real estate prices do. It should be preserved and utilized to help the Wheeler but also a lot of the other community assets that are at risk of getting consumed by developers.

I don’t want a four-course meal and an art film; I want a pack of Haribo Star Mix, a beer in each pocket, over-buttered popcorn and an Aston Martin with machine gun headlights.

The custom of going to the movies also is part of the allure. Even if the movie sucks to the point that you walk out, it’s still fun. A buddy and I still joke about Matt Damon’s magic fedora in “The Adjustment Bureau.” That basic question — “What’d you think?” — people pose no more than 30 seconds after exiting a theater is one of my favorite things to ask or be asked.

I am so incredibly excited to get back to a movie theater. Not a drive-in, not a movie night at home, not a janky setup on a restaurant patio but a movie theater with the little “No phones, please” skit as the lights dim.

It is irrefutable that the path off the couch and back to a cool movie theater seats is via blockbusters, those movies you have to see opening weekend because Tom at work is going to spoil it. I don’t want to come across as too hyperbolic, but this is kind of true: The Avengers next mission seems to be saving the movie industry. Let’s just hope the Roaring Fork Valley is one of the lucky ones to get scooped up by Spider-Man.

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Email him at


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