A New Movie Theater Comes to Downtown Iowa City

The FilmScene brings independent American and international films to their Cinema in the Ped. Mall


Little girls with missing front teeth and white haired grandparents alike are traipsing down the long glass hallway to a cheerful lobby, looking forward to coffee and popcorn, a comfy armchair, and a good movie at Iowa City FilmScene.

It has been just under six months since FilmScene, Iowa City’s only seven-day-a-week movie theater was opened by Andie Brodie and Andrew Sherburne, and already they have surpassed their ticket-sales goal for the entire year.  They had hoped to sell 10,000 tickets to their 67-seat theatre in 2014, and as of early-May they have met that goal.

IMG_1576 copy“That’s pretty good for only being up for five months,” said Sherburne. “We’re about 40% ahead of where we were projected to be. A lot of people have wanted this for a long time and it just shows that people were hungry for this.”

The founders of FilmScene, former Bijou director Andie Brodie and independent filmmaker Andrew Sherburne, succeeded in creating FilmScene in December of 2013, after two years of working make the necessary connections, find a suitable location, and a campaign to raise the money required to open FilmScene. The effort to raise the money began with a campaign that targeted higher-dollar donors, then moved on to a crowd-funding phase. The community responded to the crowd-funding request and more than $91,000 were donated by Iowa City-area film-lovers. In total, the campaigns raised almost $250,000.

“We knew it was going to take a lot of work to get something up and running,” said Sherburne. “Doing it as a non-profit, we had to raise a lot of money. Raising the money and…following through with all those things was a lot of work and it took a lot of time. The only way to do it was slow–it did take over two years.”

With daily programming of independent features and documentaries, foreign films, student-focused late-night weekend movies, and animated films for children, people of all ages can be seen lounging in the lobby and sinking into the arm chairs and couches that furnish FilmScenes 67-seat theatre. Since FilmScene opened, it has shown a variety of films, including early showings of films that turned out to win Oscars, like Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty.  In programming for the single theatre, Brodie and Sherburne have tried to cater a variety of ages and movie preferences.

IMG_1577 copy“Quite a wide variety {of people come to FilmScene},” said Brodie. “We try to do different kinds of series and films and things that attract all ages. We’ve done things that are geared towards kids and families and we’ve done stuff that brings in a lot of college students and we’ve done stuff that brings in an older demographic.”

While in school at the University of Iowa, Brodie directed the student-run Bijou Movie Theater, which is now housed in the IMU. Though the theatre there seated more people, it was far enough from downtown that it did not serve the wide-swath of movie-goers that Brodie and Sherbourne believed needed a place to see great films.  And since The Englert and the Campus both stopped showing movies there was no place in downtown Iowa City to see movies.

“I really like seeing people enjoy film–these kinds of films especially,” said Emily Salmonson, director of operations at FilmScene. “I always wished Iowa City would have {an independent film theatre} that would show films we usually wouldn’t see.”

The programming at FilmScene is ultimately carried out by my Brodie, but FilmScene still collaborates with the Bijou film board, gets feedback from a student advisory group which makes a list of movies they would like to see as well as a couple of series they curate on their own, and suggestions from FilmScene and board members. Requests from the community are welcome.


“We definitely love hearing from people in the community,” said Sherburne.