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Beall: A welcome change downtown

BY MIKE BEALL | JULY 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Bijou will team up with FilmScene to operate an independent cinema in downtown Iowa City, and I couldn’t be more excited.  

The Bijou’s board and student members will work alongside FilmScene’s professional staff in the new FilmScene theater on College Street on the Pedestrian Mall, scheduled to open in the fall. The new theater will bring a welcome change to downtown Iowa City and the local movie scene.

Currently, the primary reason I don’t attend Bijou movies as often as I’d like is simply because the IMU is so far away from where I live.  Maybe I am just lazy, but I, like majority of students who have moved out of the dorms, live just east of campus in an apartment complex and use my feet as my primary mode of transportation.

It can therefore be quite a chore to make it down to the IMU on a weekend, especially when a magnetically large portion of the student population is already downtown having a good time. 

Laziness is not my only reason for excitement; FilmScene will be one of the few non-drinking alternatives in downtown. The university likes to pretend that there are an abundance of alternatives to the city’s drinking culture on a weekend night, and the city has worked hard to push bars out and other businesses in, but in reality, there are still few options downtown. Sure, you might catch some music at a few venues but these venues are almost always bars themselves. You only have to visit FilmScene’s location, nestled next to Brothers and surrounded by still more bars, to grasp the severity of the problem. 

Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of students and residents that don’t partake in Iowa City’s drinking culture. Downtown Iowa City is the center of business and culture in our community but on weekends, these individuals are left out of the fun. This new partnership allows Bijou to tap into that wider community. 

The Bijou has been well run and has been in existence for more than 40 years, but this move (outside of a UI building for the first time ever) should drastically expand its viewing audience.

And that expanded audience is, perhaps, the most exciting part of the Bijou’s new digs. The Bijou has long existed to provide an “arthouse” alternative to Iowa City’s other cinemas, and it does a great job of that. At the end of this month, for example, the Bijou will screen Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the summer’s best-reviewed movie. It’s also a movie that was essentially drowned out of Iowa City’s movie theaters by a flood of loud, obnoxious action movies and cartoons.

Taking the Bijou from the IMU to the heart of downtown Iowa City will draw a bigger crowd and hopefully lead to more eyeballs on films like Before Midnight and the Bijou’s consistently great lineup of documentaries.

And hopefully, it’ll keep a few more eyeballs off dreck like The Lone Ranger and a few long-suffering non-drinkers from wandering through a desert of downtown bars.

There is no apparent downside to the Bijou’s decision to shack up with FilmScene.  Popcorn and movies, something downtown Iowa City has been missing desperately.


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