The dictionary defines a nugget as a small lump of gold or precious metal, and that’s about right when it comes to the local Nugget, as well. The Nugget Theatre is precious to moviegoers in this region: It’s Telluride’s only movie theater, reliably screening, from week-to-week, not only new films, but critically-acclaimed, first-run blockbusters that would be difficult to find — save for the clout of the Telluride Film Festival (TFF), which has curated its programming since 2013 — in many other small towns.
The TFF announced Wednesday that the Nugget, “Telluride’s only year-round cinema,” would go dark until mid-January. The theater, the release said, “has announced plans to close temporarily due to safety precautions during a winter remodel by Nugget Building owners. Movie screenings will be on hold beginning Monday through mid-January, pending (the) construction schedule.”
And then the theater’s operators offered a glimpse of hope for those thwarted cinephiles who prefer to take in films on big screens (where directors intend their works to be seen). For the next several weeks, TFF will be coordinating with Palm Arts “to present a program of films at the Michael D. Palm Theatre for the Performing Arts while the Nugget is closed.”
The film festival has not yet announced which films might be shown, starting when or for how long. Nor did it address the trickiest question of all: how long those films might run.
“I’ve been working with” TFF, said Kathy Jepson, the Palm’s facilities and operations director, “to allow some of their films to be screened while they’re out of their primary space. They haven’t given us any movies yet. We certainly want them to have a place to show their films during this busy time of year. It’s a nice amenity for locals and visitors to have a movie house, and we’ll do our best to accommodate them.”
That said, Jepson added, the Palm Theatre is “absolutely busy” in winter, “even if not always with public events. We function as a rehearsal space,” Jepson pointed out, and as a venue for school band concerts.” Indeed, between now and mid-January (when the Nugget, pending the construction’s completion, reopens) The Palm will host a holiday kick-off concert with classical violinist Tessa Lark Dec. 8, Palm Dance will present “The Wizard of Oz” Dec. 21, there will be a magic show on Dec. 30, and a Live at the Palm Performance will take place Jan. 11.
And that’s not counting the films that the theater will screen as part of its own Palm Classic Film Series, such as the free holiday double feature of “The Wizard of Oz” and “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 14 (another Palm Classic Film Series feature will show later in January).
The bottom line is, whichever TFF films are imported to the Palm, they will have to share an already-crowded venue, and are therefore unlikely to play for a week or even two, they way they do at the Nugget.
And yet, it is important to seek out these movies, and to patronize them (it shouldn’t be too difficult: the Palm boasts a huge screen, excellent sound system, comfortable seating and can accommodate more than 600 patrons). As TFF’s press release pointed out, Telluride’s only year-round cinema “faces a dire fate if audiences do not show up for films. … Like many small theaters around the country, the Nugget’s fate is uncertain.”
On Thursday, a representative of the Telluride Film Festival declined to offer any additional information about which movies might play on the Palm’s commodious screen this holiday season, or when said films might begin showing (“All the information we have to share at this time is included in the press release”). As it is, the provocative coming-of-age comedy by Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit” (2019), is on at the Nugget through Sunday.
“We will share the confirmed schedule on our website and mailing list as well as with local media outlets as soon as it’s available,” the spokesman said. The Nugget Theatre is online at nuggettheatre.com.