Rooftop lounge attracts more patrons

BY ALEX HANAFAN | JUNE 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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A new addition to one local business is bringing more to the scene.

Earlier this month, the FilmScene, 118 E. College St., opened a new, heightened experience.

The nonprofit cinema located on the Pedestrian Mall has received attraction from all over the community with its new rooftop lounge that looks over the Iowa City downtown.

The test for the new rooftop began at the end of May and was a hit, said Emily Salmonson, the FlimScene director of operations.

The patio reached fully capacity with more than 40 people watching the film. Shortly after, FilmScene decided the patio would be great for business and officially opened the first week of June.
Salmonson said the FilmScene people do the rooftop special to get the community talking about the cinema.

“When people are eating outside the area and see a screening on our patio, friends or couples try to make a night of it … like dinner and a movie,” Salmonson said.

On Wednesdays, the establishment hosts a “Happy Hour” upstairs on the rooftop from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., in which people can bring wine and beer from the downstairs concession and bring it upstairs.

Twice a month, there are popular screenings on the rooftop patio, and tickets are a little more expensive because of the special event.

This weekend, The Breakfast Club — a sold-out show — will be screened on the rooftop.

“We don’t like when people spend a lot of money, we like to get people talking about art,” Salmonson said.

The Bijou Film Board, a student film organization, partnered with FilmScene in the fall of 2013 to get the student community more involved with the art of film and discussion. The FilmScene hosts its own series of films conducted by the Bijou called “The Bijou Series” that play during the week at the downtown cinema.

UI doctoral student Gloria Song said she thinks that business will succeed because of the accessibility of the movie theater. She said she believes that students will utilize the patio more in the summertime because of the environment.

“If more people knew about this location, they would go all the time,” Song said.

The Bijou funds the Bijou series by paying for the movies screened and the hired projectionists. All other funds for the FilmScene, including necessitates for the new rooftop, are collected by donations.

There have been more than 700 donors, and each donor is put on a tier system. Donors of $500 or more are allowed to rent out the patio for a personal screening with 40-plus guests. Approximately 20 people reached the private rooftop-party level after their donations over the past year.

This summer, the FilmScene will fulfill those promises, and as a result, it is almost booked up for the next month, Salmonson said.

Leah Vonderheide, the executive director of Bijou Film Board, said she thinks the new rooftop is a major attraction for people heading to downtown.

“The FilmScene has gone far above our expectations this year,” Vonderheide said.

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