FilmScene welcomed 10,000th customer


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Evan James was hanging out in the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., on Tuesday when he decided to attend the 5:45 p.m. showing of Cousin Jules at the FilmScene cinema, 118 E. College St. Minutes later, he bought a ticket for the French documentary, leaned against the lobby wall, and was promptly startled by a chorus of noisemakers blown by theater staff.

James had become FilmScene’s 10,000th customer, and the theater followed its slogan to celebrate: “make a scene.” In a public display, James was awarded a decorative popcorn-container trophy and a “check” for 10,000 popcorn kernels — which, he said, he’ll have to share with his movie-goers.

“It was a big surprise,” said James just before taking his place in the 67-seat theater. “I get tired of watching movies at home alone on my laptop. I like the movie experience of being in a theater with lots of people.”

With the 10,000-ticket milestone, FilmScene’s Scene 1 Cinema — located in the former Packing and Provisions Building — is 40 percent ahead of its attendance projections for its first seven months, said Associate Director Andrew Sherburne.

This achievement is especially sweet for Sherburne and FilmScene cofounder Andy Brodie; they have worked toward opening the art-house cinema since 2011.

“As someone who loves films and makes films, I think it’s absolutely essential that film is a part of the cultural landscape,” Sherburne said. “It’s a very accessible art form that combines elements of many different art forms: visual, music, dramatic, even literature.”

Since opening its doors in October 2013, FilmScene has wasted no time in joining Iowa City organizations and businesses, including University of Iowa faculty and students, the Bijou Film Forum, the Englert Theater, and the Iowa City Downtown District.

In May, FilmScene will partner with Mission Creek for its new film series Sound+Vision, celebrating the intersection of music and film.

“There’s a real hunger from other nonprofits to use film as a tool to inform the public,” Sherburne said.

Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said she is not surprised by the success of FilmScene, givn the intensity of Brodie’s and Sherburne’s vision and the precision of Marc Moen’s restoration work on the space at 118 E. College St.

“FilmScene has added to the vitality and mix of entertainment options downtown, and its art-house vibe fits the context of Downtown Iowa City beautifully,” Bird said. “It will help prove the market for future endeavors to come and the artistry of restoration itself.”

Of the 10,000-plus customer visits, FilmScene members such as Tom Carsner can claim a large portion of ticket sales. The ACT employee and avid film fan said he frequents FilmScene about once a week, attending at least one screening of nearly every documentary, independent film, and foreign film shown.

“Foreign films tell stories from a different perspective, and in independent films, the stories are more interesting and have more depth than your usual Hollywood fare,” Carsner said. “But these are often films you need to go to Chicago or other large cities to see … what I really like most about FilmScene is it’s getting high-quality films sometimes the same day as they’re released in America.”

Carsner said he is grateful for the time and gas money FilmScene has saved him — even if the theater isn’t quite as spacious as, say, the Sycamore Cinema or Coral Ridge in Coralville.

“[FilmScene’s cinema] is small, but it’s a good start,” he said. “I would put up with almost anything in order to see these films.”

As for the current milestone, Sherburne said 10,000 kernels of popcorn is a small price to pay.
“It’s a chance to have a little fun with it,” he said, days before Evan James’ visit. “It will be a celebratory moment. Then we’ll go back to business, start the film, and carry on.”


May-Azaki, May 6-31
This four-week film series will honor the career of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, featuring screenings of his films My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises.

Craft Beer Week, May 12-18
FilmScene is known for offering craft beers and wine, and it will introduce its summer beer selection with tastings and special programming on its rooftop patio.

Late Shift at the Grindhouse
Every Wednesday, FilmScene will screen some of the weirdest, goriest, and campiest B-movies around, including Evil Dead (1981) on May 21 and The Sore Losers (1997) on May 28, with games and trivia to accompany them.

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