After Offseason Closure, TFF Intends to Find New Operator
TELLURIDE – After 27 years of operating Telluride’s Nugget Theatre, Jim Bedford and Luci Reeve are calling it quits, after showing the films scheduled for Thursday evening.
As Telluride approaches the off-season, the Nugget’s slowest season of all, Bedford said he and Reeve can no longer afford to keep the Nugget’s doors open. Between April 8 and June 24, and between September and December, he said, the Nugget loses money.
But the show will go on, according to the Telluride Film Festival, which leases the Nugget from Bill and Katrine Formby, and has subleased it in turn to Bedford and Reeve. A new operator will be named soon, according to TFF Executive Director Julie Huntsinger.
"After years of excellent service, the current operators of the Nugget, Jim Bedford and Luci Reeve, have decided to no longer run the theater,” Huntsinger said on Wednesday. “The theater will close for a few weeks as ski season winds down and a new operator will begin another era at the Nugget.”
“We are not happy about not operating movies, but we are happy about stopping the bleeding,” Bedford said. “I have been showing movies since 1973. We would love to continue doing it, but can’t continue doing it under these conditions.”
Bedford posted the news that he and Reeve are leaving the Nugget on Facebook on Wednesday, eliciting an outpouring of concern. But Bedford did not note that the TFF would name a new operator.
Bedford said the decision to walk away from the business came after he said TFF declined his request to reduce the rent by 50 percent during the five slow months of the year.
“We just can’t see us doing it any longer,” Bedford said, adding that he and Reeve have had to pour money back into the theatre over the past few years, and now face the need to upgrade the theater to digital projection technology, which could cost upwards of $50,000.
“It just doesn’t make economic sense to us,” Bedford said.
Katrine Formby said the news that Bedford and Reeve were stepping away from the business came as a surprise, but in the digital age, with multiplex theatres ruling the market, Formby knows it’s almost impossible for a one-screen movie theater to stay alive. The Formbys extend below-market rent to TFF because, she said, they love Telluride, the film festival and movies in general. Formby said she appreciates what the festival and Bedford and Reeve have put into keeping the Nugget open.
“I do think that Telluride should be very grateful to the Telluride Film Festival for putting it all together to keep the Nugget open all of these years,” Formby said. “Without all of this, a one-screen theater cannot stay alive. It has been a great blessing. I will also say Jim and Luci have done a great job running it on a shoestring. They don’t even have a cleaning crew. They clean it themselves."
Huntsinger echoed Formby’s comments that it is a challenging time for theaters and praised Bedford and Reeve for their work.
But Huntsinger went on to say that an “exciting equipment upgrade” will be made to the Nugget as required by movie distributors who no longer provide 35mm film prints.
“It is a challenging time in theater exhibition, but the Telluride community is committed to having a year-round cinema operating in town and continuing to host TFF and other festivals,” she said.
“TFF intends to lead the charge in ensuring this happens."