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FilmScene rooftop patio reaches first anniversary

BY GIRINDRA SELLECK | JUNE 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa City’s FilmScene has made movie night under the stars a real option in downtown Iowa City, and other businesses seek to get in on the action.

Since opening its doors, 118 E. College St., in 2013, Iowa City’s art-house cinema, FilmScene, has brought new avenues for culture to downtown — in June, 2014, it expanded with the addition of a rooftop patio.

“The first thing people would ask us is if we showed movies up there,” said Jon Graf, FilmScene box office attendant and local filmmaker. “The answer is, Yes we do.”

Having just reopened its rooftop for the spring and summer seasons, the nonprofit organization will host an anniversary screening series opening on June 21, including well-known movies Meet the Parents and Jaws.

FilmScene Executive Director Joe Tiefenthaler said the cinema has had success with its patio.

“The space has been wildly popular,” Tiefenthaler said. “It’s a beautiful rooftop already, and when you bring a movie night up there, it can become something really special.”

Tiefenthaler said he hopes other downtown businesses would follow FilmScene’s lead and open up rooftop spaces of their own. Luckily for Tiefenthaler, this seems to be the case.

Nancy Bird, the Iowa City Downtown District executive director, said there are “lots of rooftops in the planning,” although she said it’s too premature to say when and where.

With the rising popularity of rooftop patios, the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss various legalities and exemptions for “rooftop service areas” during its meeting Thursday.

Bird said FilmScene’s setup is a success.

“The FilmScene patio is remarkable because it’s so public,” she said. “It’s allowed the people of Iowa City an opportunity to really see the offerings of what a rooftop patio can do for a venue.”

Tiefenthaler agreed, saying, “It’s been a wonderful test case for the city to see what kind of unique offerings those kinds of spaces contain.”

Iowa City has 34 ground-level patio spaces, Bird said.

“Some restaurants don’t have street-level space on the Pedestrian Mall, and this is another option that provides a unique view to celebrate our town and the businesses in our community,” Tiefenthaler said.

Bird and Tiefenthaler agree that FilmScene’s rooftop has set a precedent for other businesses in the area, and it appears the model is picking up steam.

The Chauncey building — FilmScene’s future home — was finally approved last week after a Iowa City City Council vote, and Tiefenthaler said the cinema plans to have a rooftop patio at its new location.

“There are a lot of unique viewpoints to be discovered as Iowa City continues to build up around the downtown and River Crossing areas; it’ll be really interesting to see what we can do,” Tiefenthaler said.


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