Commercial Film Festival in City Park in 2011

More than 50 people, mostly from neighborhoods adjoining City
Park attended a forum to learn more and provide input about the Open-
Air Cinema Festival that will be held in City Park from July 13 to
August 19, 2011. (This story is by Arthur Rosenblum, published in the
Greater Park Hill News.)

Open-Air is the American subsidiary of a European company that
has been running these festivals worldwide for twenty years. Open-Air
also sells and leases small and large versions of its equipment. The
festival will show first-run, feature and art house films on the west
side of the Museum of Nature & Science and sell food and alcoholic
beverages to patrons. Tickets will cost $15 in advance and $20 at the
gate. A grandstand holding 1,500 people will be constructed between
the south rose garden and the walk behind the museum. Films will be
viewed on a 75-foot wide by 45-foot high inflatable screen that will
be deflated during the days.

The forum was conducted by City Park Alliance, a group that
advocates for City Park but did not take a position on whether or not
the film festival should be held in the park.

District 8 City Councilwoman Carla Madison, an early advocate for
the festival, presented a history of events leading to the approval of
the festival. She also presented a defense of the legality of City
Council entering into a contract with Open-Air to conduct the festival
with an admission charge. City Attorney David Broadwell echoed
Madison’s claim that the festival is legal, in compliance with the
Denver City Charter.

City Council approved the contract with Open-Air in January 2009
for what was to be a three year festival beginning this year in Civic
Center Park and then moving to City Park in 2011 and 2012. Open-Air
cancelled this year’s festival, saying that they didn’t have enough
time to arrange for sponsorships and a liquor license.

Julie Frahm, representing Open-Air Cinema, discussed plans for
the festival and addressed a wide range of concerns voiced first by
Joe Halpern, an attorney speaking on behalf of opponents and then in a
question and answer session with the audience. Halpern and others have
steadfastly argued that private paid events are in violation of the

Frahm said she attended more than fifteen community meetings and
attempted to modify plans based on concerns she heard. Among those
concerns were parking impacts in the neighborhoods. Frahm explained
that there will be 1,500 parking spaces in the park that should easily
accommodate all the cars that might drive to the festival. The parking
plan was modified to move the festival entrance to the area closest to
the zoo and museum parking lots and garages that will be used on those

Frahm also said that no films will be shown on the evenings when
City Park Jazz concerts and special events at the museum and zoo are
being held.

Noise drifting into the neighborhoods continues to be a concern,
especially with speakers facing into Park Hill. Frahm explained that
sound checks found that the noise from the films will not exceed 55
decibels, the legally allowable limit. She will provide neighborhood
associations with emergency contact numbers in the event that sound
issues arise. The nearest house to the cinema site will be 1,000 feet

Maintaining what has been referred to as the park’s “iconic
view,” which many park activists are concerned about, was addressed by
moving the screen and grandstand to the southern-most part of the
museum/rose garden area. The view of the park meadow, lake, the Denver
skyline and mountains will be fully visible from the area west of the

Concerns were expressed about the sale of alcohol in the park and
Madison and Frahm both stressed that Open-Air would have to go through
the standard liquor license application process before Denver’s Excise
and Licenses department. The process includes a public hearing with
neighbors speaking for and against the application. Open-Air will be
required to demonstrate a community need and desire for the license.
After the meeting, Madison told the GPH News that the boundaries for
affected areas from which residents will be able to testify will be
expanded to five blocks in every direction from the park.

Residents who have opposed the festival since it was announced
registered complaints and circulated e-mails objecting to the format
of this forum, which allowed more time for presentations by supporters
of the event than to opponents. While that was the case, a City Park
Alliance representative who screened the audience questions attempted
to present every opposition point, but avoided asking duplicate

Larry Ambrose, a long-time opponent to admission-based events and
the Open-Air festival, urged opponents to boycott vendors who
participate in the event. Others promised to voice opposition at the
liquor license hearing.

Long-time Park Hill neighbor and park activist Georgia Garnsey
said that she had asked repeatedly for data supporting the demand for
this kind of event. Councilwoman Madison responded, “There is no
data.” Garnsey responded then there is no demand, to which Madison
replied, “We’ll find out.”

City Park neighbors will let us know next summer how much demand
there is for an outdoor film festival in the park.

Cross-posted from:

Leave a Reply