FilmScene receives funding assistance from the city

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MARCH 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City City Council unanimously approved a request by FilmScene for financial assistance from the city on Tuesday.

FilmScene opened its new Scene 1 theater in downtown Iowa City in late 2013. Councilor Jim Throgmorton said FilmScene fills a gap downtown.

“Until 20 years ago, there were three [theaters in Iowa City], then there were two, then one, then none,” he said. “FilmScene has brought something new, and I think very successful, into downtown.”

The assistance from the city will help the theater expand, FilmScene cofounder Andy Brodie said.

“Of course, you are trying to grow your organization,” he said. “Our budget’s very small, and we’re hoping to hire new staff. We will need additional income, and the city funding will help us to do that.”

Brody said FilmScene, 118 E. College St., had plans to build additional locations in the future.
FilmScene originally came before the city in 2011 with plans to create an “art-house cinema,” and after years of planning and fundraising, the project became a reality with the Scene 1 theater.

“A couple of years ago, the founders of FilmScene came to the city,” said Iowa City economic-development coordinator Wendy Ford. “In those interim two years … they figured out how they were going to run their business. [They] really put everything together, including raising $200,000.”

This fundraising was partially done through an online crowd funding campaign.

The theater has a 67-seat cinema in addition to a café that serves beer, wine, and food.

Scene 1 has been very successful since its opening, Brodie said.

”We’ve sold more than 6,000 tickets since we opened full-time,” he said. “We hoped to have 500 members; we did that way ahead of schedule.”

The request approved by the city will give FilmScene $75,000 over the next three years. This will be given in a descending amount each year — $35,000 will be given in fiscal 2015, $25,000 in fiscal 2016, and $15,000 in fiscal 2017.

Throgmorton said it is important for the city to provide assistance to growing businesses downtown because they can be very beneficial and provide alternatives to drinking.

“[It's good] for the vitality of downtown and to enhance alternatives to alcohol,” he said. “When the weather starts heating up, and more people are in the Ped Mall, it will be interesting to see how FilmScene changes the dynamic of the mall in the evening.”

It will probably take the theater three years to become sustainable, Ford said.

“A three-year business plan projection shows that it would take them those three years to break even,” she said. “Each year, the loss is expected to be a little bit less, [and] they should be able to run in the black by that fourth year.”

Throgmorton said this assistance from the city will be what FilmScene needs to get on its feet.

“Metaphorically, it’s kind of like a stick in the ground next to a young tomato plant,” he said. “Once it’s thriving, you don’t need it as much.”

The city’s projections show that over the coming three years the city projects a net loss of approximately $179,000 for the theater.

Though the theater is currently ahead of these projections, Brodie said he doesn’t know exactly what the future holds.

“We’ve been open about four months, and our projections were very conservative,” he said. “It’s too early to say, you know; numbers can fluctuate.”

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