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Film Scene launches

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | OCTOBER 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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As the movie reels of Campus 3 clicked off for the last time in April 2007, another movie-going chapter closed in Iowa City’s storied history.

The shuttering of the long-standing downtown movie theater turned into a more than six-year absence of permanent cinematic offerings.

While millions of investment dollars have since been poured into the downtown core in the form of new restaurants, retail, and high-end living and office space, motion pictures stayed out of the equation.

Although the movement to mark the movies’ return was voiced at the time through growing numbers of area residents, it took the creative minds of just two to finally make it happen.

During a soft opening surrounded by the still somewhat under-construction Scene 1 cinema, Andrew Sherburne and Andy Brodie unveiled the first leg in what they say will feed the desire for film Thursday evening.

“I’ve been trying to get a full-time cinema back downtown for the past six years,” Brodie said. “Now, that’s persistence.”

For the cofounders of FilmScene, the nonprofit independent film organization, founded in 2011, the goal from the beginning was never to reintroduce a multiplex style. Rather, since June 2012, the pair have striven to bring a complete art-house cinema showing primarily American and foreign independent films.

In celebration to the opening (a grand opening is set for November), Alloy Orchestra brought an intimate performance prior to the silent film showing of He Who Gets Slapped.

The sold-out show introduced the now-68 seat cinema to the public.

The new facility is a part of a more than $1.6 million in historic restorations to the two-story Packing & Provisions Building, 118 E. College St. under the direction of Moen Group developer Marc Moen.

Bijou, the more than 40-year-old independent and student-run cinema at the University of Iowa that exited the IMU also operates in the new building, collaborating with FilmScene.

Will Hartman, a Bijou board member, said he looks forward to an expanded clientele and greater publicity not available in the Bijou’s former location.

Having a movie theater back downtown, he said, speaks volumes to the growth and maturity of the city over the past several years.

“It’s on the upswing,” he said. “The more sort of cultural locations downtown, the better.”

Operating seven days a week on a 365-day cycle, Scene 1 will show more than 20 screenings per week with matinee, night, and late-night screenings, Brodie said.

In light of recent delays and a crowd-funding campaign that raised several thousand dollars more than sought, however, work remains.

Michael Kanellis, the associate dean for patient care and a professor in the UI Department of Pediatric Dentistry, who grew up in Iowa City, called downtown’s cinematic return just a piece in what is occurring nationally.

“I think that what is going on [here] is going on in larger cities,” he said, citing offerings in New York and Portland. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Final installation of seating, the completion of the café, lighting and more remains to be finished, Brodie said.

Still, for Sherburne, the work that has taken place, while postponed, should be looked at as a prime example for downtown’s future.

“There really is a hunger and excitement for what we’re doing,” he said. “This building went from something that wasn’t a standout to something I think will be a jewel for downtown.”


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