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FilmScene celebrates a year of success

BY ISAAC HAMLET | DECEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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At 118 E. College St., a chalkboard perched behind a long counter lists the food and beverages on sale, including craft beers, wine, and sandwiches. Patrons sit on couches and at tables, chatting or celebrating a local artist. 

On first glance, FilmScene resembles many downtown cafes and restaurants. 

But go through a door and you'll find yourself in a 68-seat theater — one that has been home more than 30,000 movie fans in the past year. 

At 11 a.m. Dec. 14, the Iowa City nonprofit cinema will celebrate a first year of business with a brunch at the Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St., in a program called Eye Opener. 

“Eye Opener is an event to celebrate all the work [of the cinema] and the work of the donors who have helped us,” said Emily Salmonson, FilmScene’s director of operations. “We were so successful in the first year that we wanted to have a sort of birthday party to celebrate everyone’s contribution to making [FilmScene] successful.”

The cinema opened its doors to film fans a year ago, hoping to recruit 500 members in its first year. FilmScene met this goal in only three months and now has more than 900 members.

Its success has been so great that the theater created an executive producer position, filled by Tiefenthaler two months ago. 

“I’ve been doing literary programming in Iowa City for roughly seven years,” he said. “I was already a member and supporter of FilmScene and was stoked to have film return [to downtown],
“I remember crying greatly when the cinema closed in the Old Capitol mall. I went there every week to see its independent films. So when the job opened up, applying was sort of a no-brainer.” 

A big part of Tiefenthaler’s time since his hiring has been used planning the Eye Opener event. 

“We just wanted to do something unique,” Salmonson said. “Usually these kind of anniversary parties are more like a cocktail hour or a dinner. But especially at this time of year, there are so many holiday parties going on [in the evenings] that [a brunch] is something that would be unusual, and memorable, and just fun.” 

The event will also include a movie poster silent auction containing the posters from the films the theater has featured in the past year. 

An unannounced short film will also be played for those who attend to thank the community for its support. 

“We’ve had more than 30,000 movie goers for more than 200 feature films,” said cofounder Andrew Sherburne. “It’s been wonderful to have the privilege to show so many films and to have this space in the community. And it’s been encouraging how many people have been able to join us.” 

Even as they finish planning this year’s Eye Opener, the employees of FilmScene look forward to the coming year, crafting new goals. 

“Hopefully, we’ll expand with more community-targeted events,” Tiefenthaler said. 

“We want to do things such as a summer camp focused on youth education in film.” 

Some of these plans include possible expansion into another building and opening two new screens for the venue. 

“Just over a year ago, we didn’t have a cinema in downtown Iowa City,” Sherburne said. “To be a part of making that a reality has been really gratifying. Every time we sell out a show or have a really strong community partnership it’s a great reminder that it was all worthwhile.”


FILM
Eye Opener 
When: 11 a.m. Dec. 14
Where: Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque
Admission: $15-$35


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