Revenue / 09.08.20
Denver Arts & Venues Has Kept Music, Movies, and More Playing in 2020
“You scramble to do the very best you can under some very difficult situations.”
Since mid-March, that quote could be attributed to literally thousands of professionals working in arts, entertainment, sports, live events and ticketing in general. But in this case, it’s the lament of Brian Kitts, Marketing and Communications Director for Denver Arts & Venues.
Arts & Venues is the city and county of Denver agency tasked with operating some of the region’s most popular facilities, including the Denver Performing Arts Complex, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, the Colorado Convention Center and Denver Coliseum. Kitts has been on staff for the past nine years, after spending the previous decade working for the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche and Denver’s Pepsi Center.
By far, this has been the most challenging time of his career. “We’re a little bit different from some arts organizations,” he says, “in that we’re actually a city agency. Part of that duty is to support both cultural organizations and those in the arts community. As we got to summertime, we saw that our indoor venues were going to remain closed. But we recognized that outdoor venues like Red Rocks were going to allow us to do small things, whether it’s small symphony concerts of just four or five people on stage and a state-mandated crowd of 175 or yoga classes or fitness sessions.”
The Sculpture Park Fitness Series has proven to be one of Arts & Venue’s most well-received ventures during the pandemic. “For the past several years, we have done a yoga and fitness series at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre,” Kitts says. As we go into COVID-19-related thinking this year, Sculpture Park is one of those unique outdoor spaces right at the edge of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Instead of asking people to drive 20 miles to Red Rocks, we went ahead and programmed a fitness series at the arts complex. It’s been fun and different. We’ve worked with [local fitness studios and cultural arts organizations] that specialize in dance, Zumba and things like that.”
The diverse lineup of classes includes cardio, high-intensity interval training, yoga and meditation. All classes are 60 minutes in length, don’t require equipment and are open to all levels of experience. The series began Aug. 4 and is running every Tuesday and Thursday through Sept. 29. Venue staffers have marked 10-foot circles, 6 feet apart, throughout the park to give attendees peace of mind while exercising together. “There has been no problem social distancing,” Kitts says. “It’s much easier to take the COVID-19-related precautions that you need to.”
Early in his career, Kitts worked as a movie publicist, and he’s proud of the changes he’s helped bring to the Denver agency’s Film on the Rocks program. “Film on the Rocks is something we’ve been doing inside Red Rocks Amphitheatre for 20 years now,” he says. “Now that you can’t have people in the amphitheater at any capacity, we went ahead and set up a screen that can stay up all summer long in one of the parking lots. Yes, it’s a parking lot. But it’s probably the prettiest parking lot in Colorado!”
Four different movies are being screened over four consecutive nights each week. The series began Aug. 13-16, with the schedule including “Grease,” “Jurassic Park” and “The Big Lebowski.” Audio is delivered to each vehicle via a designated FM radio frequency.
“We have a 300-car capacity each night, and we have a long-standing contract partnership with the Denver Film Society to go ahead and program that,” Kitts says. “It’s one of those things that you look at the impact of something like that, and we’re working with one of our cultural partners. They’re getting something that puts their people to work. The parking attendants, the concessionaires, the sponsors. Three hundred cars a night may not sound like a lot to some, but they’ve been selling out. We do four nights a week at $60 a pop. It’s not going to make anyone rich, but it does provide a service to the community. And it keeps the arts live and alive.”
Other fun programs Arts & Venues has championed include the Colorado Symphony’s Cellos Under Glass (four cellists over three nights perform 60-minute concerts behind Plexiglas at the Denver Performing Arts Complex Galleria; a performance snippet is viewable here) and the “Red Rocks Unpaused” virtual concert series that launched Sept. 1. “There are different ways to look at what constitutes arts and entertainment,” Kitts says. “The series of free live streams that has been paid for by Visible, one of our venue sponsors. We’ve been getting upwards of 5 million people watching those a night all around the world. The first night was Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Last night was Lil Baby and Megan Thee Stallion, and tonight is Sam Hunt and Brent Young. Many of those five million people normally wouldn’t be able to be here. That’s really special to us.”
Kitts’ hard work has paid off in a number of small ways he hadn’t anticipated when COVID-19 started affecting local ticketed events. “It’s a small thing,” he says, “but when you see somebody show up at 7 in the morning to work out at Sculpture Park, and they say, ‘Thank you! Thank you for putting in the effort to do this!’ That feels like you have made somebody happy.”
But Kitts is aware that even bigger challenges are on the way. As Colorado’s chilly fall and cold winter close in, outdoor opportunities will dwindle and go away almost entirely. “We are going to be doing some additional shows at Red Rocks that are going to be fun for fans,” Kitts says. “But after this season is done, we intend to shut all venues down until after the first of the year — both in terms of saving operational costs and labor costs.”
Yet Kitts remains hopeful. His experience and years in the business have taught him that “this too shall pass.” And when the coronavirus crisis is over, he and his colleagues will be poised to resume their great works. “You can plan for labor disruptions and players strikes and lockouts. You can plan for terrorism. But I don’t think any of us saw this coming!” Kitts says. “I remember back to what it was like after 9/11. So, you do have to put it into context that things will return to some semblance of normalcy; that’s an important thing to keep in mind.”
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Tags: Sports , Music , Venues , COVID-19 , Coronavirus