Downtown cinema is a step in the right direction


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For the University of Iowa students who prefer drinking as their No. 1 activity, downtown Iowa City offers more than enough places to fulfill that desire. From Summit to Sports Column to Airliner to Union, there is an overdose of bars.

However, the community doesn't have as many evening entertainment options that aren't focused on beer and liquor. UI and Iowa City officials have been seeking to change that by adding more alternative options.

Sure, there are bands and poetry readings, but downtown, it's sometimes difficult to find anything to do but drink.

That is why the city's decision to give FilmScene's Cinema the go-ahead was the right one. The theater will add another culture-filled alternative to Iowa City's nightlife.

Last week, the City Council approved nonprofit FilmScene's proposal to locate at 118 E. College St. temporarily for its screening of independent and alternative films.

"It [the cinema] will be a first-run cinema showing primarily independent, foreign, and documentary films, as well as a variety of special programs and events," said Andy Brodie, a cofounder of FilmScene.

With Union and Brothers towering over the other businesses in the west strip of the Pedestrian Mall, this area is perfect to introduce FilmScene's new theater.

"It's a great location in the heart of Iowa City, with terrific retail neighbors such as the Soap Opera, Revival, and Raygun," Brodie said. "Downtown also offers a variety of dining options within easy walking distance — FilmScene will be a vibrant addition to downtown's existing arts and cultural landscape."

Downtown clearly has enough late-night entertainment for the "partying crowd," leaving hardly enough structures to house entertainment that appeals to people who aren't happy with doing nothing but binge drinking on weekend nights. The cinema will bring a place for night entertainment that's both art-oriented and appealing to those looking for more sober fun.

Iowa City is an extremely art-friendly community; the town offers its residents numerous opportunities to experience art in various forms, such as music, visual art, and readings. Opponents may see the new cinema as a poacher on local venues such as the Englert, the Sycamore Cinema, and the Bijou.

But just as downtown bars know, the hunting ground is filled with young prey just waiting to try something new and different.

While the new cinema won't take much business from either the Englert or the Sycamore 12, the theater that may be affected is the Bijou, which shows independent, foreign, and classic cinema.

With the UI remaining one of the top-10 party schools in the nation, a little more culture — in any form — can't be bad.

UI student Nolan Quint supports having something more to do than drink downtown.

"I'm excited about the new theater, and I've talked to a lot of people who are excited, too," he said.
The city's decision on the new cinema gave people exactly what they said wanted.

In a recent downtown market assessment — conducted by Divaris Real Estate Inc., on behalf of the city and the UI — a movie theater was the top choice by respondents when asked what they desired downtown.

The new cinema will feature mostly independent films, as well as foreign films and documentaries — films that haven't been easily accessible here recently.

OK, so an independent film house won't exactly give you Abraham Lincoln jumping around trains slinging a steel-tipped ax (awesome), or the legend of Thor teaming up with Iron Man to stave off an alien invasion (even better) — but the theater is a different option.

It's an option other than drinking that, quite frankly, Iowa City doesn't have right now. We mean, sure, there's the odd game of Risk on second-floor Daum, but for some students, there are only a couple of choices: the ever-terrible Smirnoff or the even-worse Hawkeye.

This cinema shows at least a small change in the culture of downtown.

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