Willy Wonka drive in

A parking lot on the Aspen Meadows campus in the town’s West End will host drive-in movies this weekend, as the world embraces gathering in cars to watch classic films. This weekend's selection: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, shown here, and Field of Dreams. 



Drive-in movies are coming to Aspen’s West End this weekend, with a two-night run of family friendly films in a parking lot at Aspen Meadows.

The Movies at the Meadows event has been in the works since April, said Susan Wrubel, executive and artistic director of Aspen Film, but an official announcement was held off until Monday, with the ongoing formulation by Pitkin County public health officials of social-distancing guidelines for drive in events. Wrubel said everyone is now on the same page, so long as there is an amendment to the standing public health order as expected before Friday, June 26.

“You can’t mess around when it comes to people’s health and safety,” she said. “We are adhering to everything. The county is being super careful, so that actually has made me feel better about doing this.”

The pop-up drive-in venue located off of Gillespie Street has room for 46 cars. Admission to the movies — Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) on Friday and Field of Dreams (1990) on Saturday — is free but reservations are required. Wrubel said both nights are likely to be fully reserved by Tuesday morning, but there is a waiting list. Cancellations are asked to give a 24 hour notice. Email movies@aspeninstitute.org to RSVP or get on the waiting list, and include the make and model of your car, and the film you want to see. More information is available at aspenfilm.org/movies-at-the-meadows/.

Guests may only attend in automobiles – no motorcycles, no bikes, no walks ups.

There will be no on-site concessions, but movie-goers can order snack items from Plato’s Restaurant at Aspen Meadows in advance, no later than Wednesday evening. Of course, bringing your own food items or ordering to-go from any local restaurant is encouraged.

“We are trying to make this as contactless as possible,” Wrubel said. Snack items from Plato’s will be tied to your reservation and can be picked up in a to-go bag at the entrance to the parking lot, upon presentation of a valid RSVP. Restroom facilities will be available at the Boettcher Building or, for those with ADA needs, the Paepcke Auditorium, which is a short walk away. 

Cars will enter the lot from Third and Gillespie streets. Vehicles will be given assigned spots based on size, and each size category will be given its own staggered arrival time. The films will start at approximately 8:45 p.m. Sounds will be delivered to cars’ radios via an FM transmitter.

This weekend’s double feature is likely a one-off at the Meadows, at least for the immediate future, Wrubel said. Organization partners — Aspen Chamber Resort Association is the lead sponsor — are renting the outdoor movie screen, which is a high-demand item these days and unavailable for reservation again until months down the road.

But plans are coming together for more drive-in venues in the upper valley, and Aspen Film is expecting to continue to be involved in programming. Aspen Skiing Co. is planning to install infrastructure including a screen at Buttermilk, and Snowmass is planning offerings. The Art Campus at Willits also held a drive-in feature Friday night at Crown Mountain Park with a screening of the Rolling Stones’ concert documentary Havana Moon.

Wrubel said drive ins, with the safety-bubble of your own car, should be embraced as a COVID-friendly way to gather, especially compared to other considerations currently being weighed by health officials. These include whether bars should open and attendance caps and protocol for wedding receptions.

As for the films picked, they were intentionally chosen for their appeal to a wide segment of the population, with family friendly credentials.

Willy Wonka “appeals to a wide swath of kids and adults,” Wrubel said. As for Field of Dreams, it’s a feel-good film about baseball starring local second homeowner Kevin Costner, “perfect for a summer evening,” she said.

Perhaps as movie screenings move to paid attendance, programmers could get edgier with the showings. But this first venture into the drive-in format is a “giveback to the community,” Wrubel said. “So it needs to be family friendly and open to everyone.”




Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.