TELLURIDE – The intimate setting in which the Telluride Film Festival has flourished over the past four decades is expanding just a little – by 650 seats, to be exact – just in time for the Festival’s 40th anniversary celebration, Aug. 29-Sept. 2.
Last week, TFF, along with the Town of Telluride, announced that Telluride’s Town Park Pavilion will be transformed into the Werner Herzog Theatre, named after the influential German film director and producer, for the 40th annual Telluride Film Festival. The new venue will become the festival’s most technologically-advanced theatre, with an ability to seat 650.
While the Werner Herzog Theatre will usher in a new era of maximized cinema enjoyment, organizers say the festival will remain an intimate one, and the festival will not be expanding its 2013 passholder base.
“It’s an exciting and unpredictable time for movies,” said Telluride Film Festival Executive Director Julie Huntsinger. “We want to evolve technologically, but maintain the unique environment where a small group can gather in-person, together, in one room, to watch movies and passionately talk about what they have just seen.”
Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said it had always been the plan to convert the partially-enclosed Pavilion structure and its ice rink into a fully-enclosed, multi-use building that can be serve as both an indoor theater and concert venue, but the question always remained, when and how does the town fund the retrofit?
Fraser said much of that was answered during the final day of last year’s event, when Huntsinger informed Fraser and other town officials that the Festival would be willing to fund a portion of the structure’s conversion, in hopes that it would be ready for its 40th anniversary. Over the next six months, the conversion of the Town Park Pavilion is being fast-tracked to reality, with the town covering $1 million of the cost out of its Parks and Recreation Fund, TFF providing $800,000, and San Miguel County providing $75,000.
“This is an amazing partnership,” Fraser said on Tuesday. “I think this is great for this community, for tourism, our economy, and our ultimate dream of what the Pavilion was going to be. This allowed us to move ahead so much more quickly, versus having to wait until we were able to raise that $800,000. I am just thrilled.”
While the festival, in a long-standing tradition, does not announce its program in advance, its 40th anniversary promises to be both a retrospective as well as a look forward to an exciting future in Telluride. Huntsinger said organizers were intent on showcasing the new theatre’s excellence while presenting the world’s best films and filmmakers.
“We have been looking at this possibility for years,” Huntsinger said. “The town has had plans to finish the pavilion project. As we found our audience making more and more interesting choices in small films, and as we experimented with scheduling solutions, we felt that the time was right to help finish what is a very smart addition to the town’s facilities and provide us with more venue flexibility.”
For its 40th anniversary, an additional day of festivities has been added, making it a five-day-long celebration of cinematic programming. Despite the addition of an extra day, prices will not increase for festival passes. Huntsinger said the anniversary will be a chance to thank and honor the founders, filmmakers and audience members who have helped create the institution that is the TFF.
“We hope people will attend the 40th anniversary this year to hear the founders describe in their own words the evolution of the festival,” she said. “It will be a part of the conversation, for sure. Suffice to say that we have stayed true to our mission, grown a little physically, but remain committed to delivering a reliable and good show every Labor Day.
“Passion on everyone’s part is the single most important ingredient. That’s pretty timeless, and I hope we have much of it for a very long time.”
Festival passes may be purchased at telluridefilmfestival.org/passes. Pass levels and descriptions may be found on the Festival’s website.