The Werner Herzog Theater Opens Its Doors Tonight
TELLURIDE - Who but the Telluride Film Festival could convert a ice pavilion into a state-of-the art cinema? But they’ve done it to debut at this year’s 40th anniversary festival, and nobody will be thinking hockey when Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God inaugurates – what else? – the Werner Herzog Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 7:15 p.m.
Herzog, who was honored with a tribute at the second Telluride Film Festival and has been on the program many times since, will be on hand.
The new 650-seat theater was constructed with $1 million from the Town of Telluride to enclose the Town Park Pavilion and make other permanent improvements to the building, plus $800,000 in money raised by the TFF. The fourth large festival venus – the other three, The Chuck Jones Cinema in the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village, the Palm Theater at the Telluride High School/Middle School and The Galaxy at the Telluride Elementary School – add up to a lot of options for festival passholders.
According to the festival’s Production Manager Brandt Garber, construction of the cinema is on schedule and the theater will be ready for it’s grand opening.
Telluride and the Film Festival have now been partners for 40 years to make the Telluride Film Festival one of the world’s preeminent celebrations of cinema and visual art.
“The Town has indeed recognized the importance of the Film Festival to the community in terms of culture, the arts and certainly our local economy,” said Town Manager Greg Clifton.
In terms of scope, size and budget, the Werner Herzog Theater is the largest project the town and the festival have collaborated on, with taxpayers contributing roughly $993,000 to the project, according to Clifton, who, with Mayor Stu Fraser and Parks and Recreation Director Stephanie Jacquet, worked closely with festival officials to convert the Pavilion into a cinema.
Garber said the conversion wasn’t easy, with much of the design and construction efforts carried out by Telluride’s BONE Construction Company.
Hockey rinks don’t readily lend themselves to the acoustic and visual requirements that facilitate quality moviegoing experiences, but that didn’t faze TFF or BONE staffers. Designers tailored blueprints to address the lack of acoustic quality in the hockey rink, installing a Cardoid subwoofer and Meyer Sound systems – both extraordinarily expensive, cutting-edge audio setups. Organizers also installed acoustic-friendly tiles across the theater, optimizing sound quality by providing insulation from the noisy floor underneath, which was funded by a $75,000 contribution from the San Miguel County government, according to Clifton.
Film Festival designers also encountered a problem with projecting film on the 18-by-43-foot screen. Not surprisingly, the Town Pavilion and hockey rink were not originally designed with an optimal space to house 35 mm and digital projectors. Film Festival organizers and contractors worked around the problem, constructing a purpose-built projection room to house the equipment and staff necessary to screen films requiring varying technological setups.
There was another obstacle with converting the Pavilion into a cinema: flat seating, which designers addressed by raising the last 11 rows of seats, to improve viewing experience. While the seats appear uniform in size, they are actually varying dimensions, to best utilize the theater’s tight space.
The pavilion, known locally as home to the Telluride Lizard Head Hockey Club, now looks like a legitimate movie theater, complete with exit signs, LED lighting lining the rows and handicap access. Soon it will also boast smell of piping-hot movie popcorn, which Garber promises, will be available at the concession stand, along with an assortment of snacks and soft drinks.