FilmScene launches funding campaign

By Pat Shaver

IOWA CITY—It’s all or nothing.

FilmScene, a non-profit cinema group opening a theater in Iowa City in October, launched a crowdfunding campaign this week. Within about 24 hours of the campaign going live, it had secured more than $10,000. The organization needs to raise at least $75,000 in donations by Sept. 8 or it will receive none of the donations and all of the pledges will be refunded, said Andrew Sherburne, FilmScene’s associate director and co-founder.

“If we do make the goal, we will certainly be able to make it the best movie-going experience we can,” he said.

A link to the campaign, run through the IndieGoGo platform, can be found at

“It’s a marathon for sure, not a sprint. Even though we came out of the gates really strong, we need to keep it up,” Mr. Sherburne said.

Work is continuing on the theater, called Scene 1, in the renovated Packing and Provision and former Vito’s building operated by Moen Group at 118 E. College St. The first event is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The funding from the Make a Scene campaign will help pay for costs associated with the completion of the cinema and cafe.

“In 2007 and 2011, a movie theater was the No. 1 desire for downtown (in marketing studies). FilmScene was founded to answer that call, now it’s time for the citizens to support what they asked for,” he said.

The $75,000 crowdfunding campaign is part of FilmScene’s overall fundraising total of more than $200,000. FilmScene is already more than halfway to its goal via personal donations and in-kind support from project partners like the University of Iowa’s Bijou Cinema and development partner Moen Group. Additionally, FilmScene has achieved significant savings where possible, such as by salvaging seats from the former Hancher Auditorium.

“Ultimately, we wanted everybody in the community to have a stake and be a part of this. It is a true community effort,” Mr. Sherburne said. “The nice thing about crowdfunding is that it gives everybody a chance to be a part of it.”

The non-profit arts organization was founded by Andy Brodie and Mr. Sherburne in the fall of 2011.

“One of the things that we’re excited that FilmScene is adding to town is the additional cool factor. It makes Iowa City a better place, which is what we all want,” he said. “This will have a positive economic and entertainment impact on Iowa City and the surrounding area.”

Early fundraising efforts have focused on the Founders Circle, a group of supporters with gifts of $1,000 or more. To date, FilmScene has raised $63,000 in individual and business donations to the Founders Circle.

Founders Circle members will be permanently honored by name on a custom public art piece being created for the FilmScene lobby, along with other special perks. The opportunity to join the Founders Circle will remain open through the end of the year.

Scene 1 will include an 85-seat theater with full surround sound and high-end digital cinema projection. The venue will be a dedicated year-round cinema showcasing modern cinema, including American independent, documentaries and foreign films — first-run movies that are not regularly offered at commercial multiplex theaters.

Filmgoers will be welcomed through a lounge that will offer catered food and desserts, traditional movie fare, and wine, beer and coffee. Café seating for about 50 people will provide an area for discussion before and after the film, as well as a casual meeting place. They are still in the process of selecting an operator for the café.

Scene 1 marks the return of full-time cinema to downtown, which hasn’t had a dedicated movie theater since the sale and closure of the Campus 3 in 2007. In a city-sponsored market survey in 2011, respondents cited “movie theater” as the most-wanted entertainment addition for downtown.

In three or four years, FilmScene will open a space at the corner of College and Gilbert streets in a high-rise, mixed-use building in downtown Iowa City developed by the Moen Group. The Scene 1 theater would likely continue operating in some capacity, but the ultimate vision is to open a two-theater facility.

Each of the two theaters will span two stories of the building. Along with showing films, FilmScene plans to offer programming such as filmmaking seminars and other community events. It also plans to partner with the UI to offer theater space for classes.

This summer, FilmScene announced a partnership with the UI’s Bijou Cinema. Starting this fall, the Bijou Film Board and its student members will work with FilmScene’s professional staff and board of directors on the operation of Scene 1. This summer marks the Bijou’s last season of programming at the Iowa Memorial Union.


FilmScene’s primary program areas:

  • First-run films: American independents, documentaries and foreign films.
  • Repertory selections: Classic films on the big screen, presented from restored or archival prints whenever possible. Selections include American and foreign classics, genre works, and programs by guest curators.
  • Filmmaker support: FilmScene seeks to provide a creative home and venue for film and media artists. Support services include fiscal sponsorship, residencies, facilities and other resources as available.
  • Community development: Lectures and conversations with film professionals, partnerships with other nonprofits and community groups on film-based events, and other activities that engage the public in a continuous dialogue about film and contribute to a vibrant local arts community.