FilmScene rushes to raise $


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With the help of more than 300 donors, a soon-to-open year-round downtown Iowa City cinema — a first in more than five years — is inching closer to its opening night. 

FilmScene, a local nonprofit organization founded in the fall of 2011, has worked over the past several months in developing a first of several movie theaters in the city’s center.

Downtown Iowa City has been without true cinematic offerings since the 2007 closure of Old Capitol Town Center’s Campus 3 cinema. When open, Scene 1, located in the Packing & Provision Co. Building, 118 E. College St., will be a roughly 85-seat art-house cinema dedicated to American and foreign independent films alongside first-run movies not regularly offered at traditional movie theaters.

But a lack of funding prompted the group to establish a final $75,000 crowd-funding campaign.

To date, FilmScene has raised $39,363, with 11 days remaining.

FilmScene cofounder Andrew Sherburne said the current pledge is just one-third of the organization’s complete funding needs.

“Our prior fundraising went directly into the cinema build-out to make sure work was started on time,” he said in an email. “This money is needed to finish the job. It is the most urgent and direct way for community members to ensure that we can open our doors this fall.

Specifically, the current campaign will help with the theater’s construction costs, including a planned second projector on the rooftop for outdoor showings and a community area on the main floor with a cafe and seating area.

Additionally, the dollars raised will mostly go toward covering previous and future expenses, including construction and the day-to-day operation of the theater.

As of midnight Tuesday evening, 362 funders had contributed.

Sherburne said the campaign is “all or nothing,” meaning that if the establishment doesn’t meet its goal, it will give back to the donors all of the money that had been raised.

Sherburne and cofounder Andy Brodie hope to open the cinema near the campaign end date of Sept. 8.

If they don’t meet the goal of the campaign, the opening could be pushed back months and might even go into next year, Sherburne said.

Members of the Iowa City business community included in the Founders Circle — donors of $1,000 or more, include Buzz Salon, Hands Jewelers, and MidWestOne bank.

Several programs have been organized for the upcoming months, with the first showing planned during is a special September Friday the 13 event for individuals who have donated $40 or more.

A public grand opening with a showing of the 1924 film He Who Gets Slapped, followed by an Alloy Orchestra performance for 75 guests are slated for Oct. 3.

The main cinema space will seat roughly 80, including two rows of couches.

In addition to this main watching area, seating and event space will be available on the rooftop patio, where the planned second projector will be used to show outdoor films.

At least two films will be shown each night, with a few late-night and matinee options available on the weekends.

While new releases will be shown, particularly independent films, Sherburne said the group is also planning on playing a number of classics and family-oriented series.

He maintained that the organization has a full-time staff dedicated to keeping the new theater open 365 days a year.

The new facility is a part of a more than $1.6 million in historic restorations to the two-story building under the direction of Moen Group developer Marc Moen.

Moen declined to comment for this story.

While FilmScene is not working alone on this project — a partnership with the University of Iowa’s longtime Bijou Cinema was made official in July — few organizational adjustments have come to pass in the recent months.

“In some ways, it’s business as usual,” Bijou Executive Director Jesse Kreitzer said.

Kreitzer said despite the new location, all of the traditional business done by the Bijou will remain the same.

The more than 40-year-old independent and student-run cinema announced the closing of its on-campus location in the IMU in July.

Under the new partnership, Bijou staff will also serve a liaison between FilmScene theater and the UI. Because the Bijou no longer has to directly run the day-to-day operations of the theater, Kretizer said, it will have lower overhead costs, open up opening up new opportunities for the organization, such as collaborating with other university programs.

“It’s a good time to be bringing on new members,” he said.

But despite the cinematic investment, several UI students who spoke with The Daily Iowan on Tuesday said they were unaware of the new movie-going offering.

“I would go to that,” UI junior Keaton Williams said, referring specifically to the rooftop viewing area and café.

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