Bringing Movies Back Downtown

It began simply:

To bring the movies back downtown!

FilmScene is Iowa City’s nonprofit cinema, whose mission is to challenge, inspire, educate, and entertain our diverse communities through the shared discovery of film. 

2011-12 — Our Founding

Founded as an organization by Andy Brodie and Andrew Sherburne in the fall of 2011, FilmScene began with a simple goal: to bring movie magic back to downtown Iowa City. Early on, we focused on building and connecting with the Iowa City film community by producing exciting events in like Alloy Orchestra at The Englert Theatre and the Starlite Cinema open-air movie series in City Park.

Early on, FilmScene forged alliances with community leaders, cultural institutions, and film lovers, as well as creating a formal partnership with the University of Iowa's Bijou Film Board. 

2013-16 — Our First Home

In 2013, we endeavored to open a full-time cinema on the Pedestrian Mall in downtown Iowa City. Following a year-long “Make a Scene” fundraising effort, which included the Founders Circle initiative and a $90,000 IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, FilmScene opened the doors to our "Scene 1 Cinema" on Thanksgiving weekend 2013 with the help of over 1,000 supporters.

Our initial success on this single screen led to an expansion in 2015. The Screening Room, was our second screen, a 35-seat cinema that allowed FilmScene to become a sustainable multi-screen operation showcasing over 150 films annually. We also began our popular Rooftop Series featuring beloved classic under the stars.

Over these early years, FilmScene introduced and expanded many still-popular ongoing series, including The Picture Show, family and children’s series, Late Shift at The Grindhouse weekly genre movie showcase, Vino Vérité which supports filmmaker visits, and our immensely popular summer Animation Camp.

2017-20 — A Showcase Cinema

With this resounding community support, FilmScene embarked on a multi-year, multi-million dollar comprehensive campaign in collaboration with The Englert Theatre to support a capital expansion into a new era. The Strengthen, Grow, Evolve campaign raised funds that allowed FilmScene to open a purpose-built three-screen venue, FilmScene at The Chauncey.

Opening in 2019, this new facility brought our screen count to five screens in two locations. It also introduced a permanent outdoor cinema space in Chauncey Swan Park. Known as FilmScene in the Park, this new space serves over 3,000 moviegoers every summer for free community screenings of all ages classics.

FilmScene’s mission expanded during the lead-up to our new building, with an increasing focus on community-building aspects of cinema, with diverse initiatives including a free children’s series; dedicated efforts to diversify programming including African Diaspora, Reel Representation and Pride at FilmScene series. 

2021-now — A Permanent Home

The COVID-19 pandemic was a massive hit to the film industry, and shut FilmScene's doors for over 500 days. But our community remained invested — patrons picked up popcorn-to-go weekly and our membership grew. Upon reopening, FilmScene's programming expanded to include larger wide release films in addition to our robust slate of indies, global cinema and special events — over 500 unique films each year.

In 2022, we launched Refocus Film Festival. Our biggest programming initiative, Refocus is an annual celebration of the art of adaptation. A multi-disciplinary, four day festival every October, the event features dozens of films, filmmakers, music, art and conversation centered on the art of adaptation. 

A full decade after our “Make a Scene” initiative brought the movies back to downtown Iowa City, FilmScene is thriving. The organization celebrated its 10th anniversary in November of 2023 with a party for hundreds of supporters.

As of 2024, FilmScene now operates five screens in two facilities, an outdoor cinema, and a nationally-renowned film festival which together reach over 80,000 patrons annually. While we’ve grown dramatically since our early years, the organization remains committed to a vision of a better community through the shared experience of cinema.

© 2024 FilmScene