Arts and Culture

Denver Film Festival Reveals Three Red Rocks Drive-In Screenings

Saoirse Ronan in a scene from Ammonite, one of three films to be featured in Red Rocks drive-in screenings as part of the 2020 Denver Film Festival.
Saoirse Ronan in a scene from Ammonite, one of three films to be featured in Red Rocks drive-in screenings as part of the 2020 Denver Film Festival. YouTube
Last month, the Denver Film Festival announced that its 43rd edition would unspool virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now there are a trio of exceptions. During the October 22 to November 8 event, DFF will screen three high-profile flicks using a drive-in format at Red Rocks that was pioneered over the summer for the 2020 Film on the Rocks program.

The flicks include Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand; the Winston Duke-Zazie Beetz vehicle Nine Days; and Ammonite, a period romance headlined by Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

Denver Film Festival director Britta Erickson says the idea of including in-person screenings as part of this year's offerings was cemented by the success of the Film on the Rocks experiment. "There's no beating the environment of Red Rocks and the way we had such a huge screen up there with our LED system," she allows. "They were pretty evenings."

And popular ones. Of 32 Film on the Rocks screenings this year over the course of eight weeks, all but four sold out; the maximum capacity was 300 cars, and Erickson jokes that each one held "2.75 people, which I guess means some of them brought three-quarters of a person." Although she acknowledges that there's no substitute for an amphitheater packed with 8,500 movie-loving fans, "I was walking through the rows of cars for the screening of Rudy and loved seeing the delight on children's faces. People were reveling in a night of entertainment outside of their house."

Cineastes will get a chance to try out the format for themselves when Nomadland debuts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 22, DFF43's opening night. The film explores the phenomenon of people who live out of their cars in encampments mostly located in the West, and Erickson touts McDormand's performance as Oscar-worthy. Here's the trailer:

For its part, Nine Days, which gets under way at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 24, is "an exploration of unborn souls coming into the world" that's helmed by first-time director Edson Oda, while Ammonite, on view at 7 p.m. on October 29, draws on the life of British paleontologist Mary Anning (Winslet) and her relationship with a young woman (Ronan).

"They're very different films," Erickson points out. "I think it's a nice balance."

For information about ticket prices for these films, as well as the virtual screenings, visit the Denver Film Festival website.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts