There’s always a bit of nostalgia inherent in film. No matter the subject matter, films are in some small (or, often, in-your-face) way about how we engage with how we record and examine and understand our collective or personal past. Movies both trigger memories and forge new ones. So it’s with several layers of nostalgia that FilmScene prepares to re-open its flagship location on the Iowa City Ped Mall, with renovations galore and grand plans filled with giveaways and gratitude.
“There is a lot of nostalgia at the Ped Mall,” Emily Salmonson, FilmScene’s director of operations, said in an email. “My husband and I had our first date during FilmScene’s very first Parisian New Year Celebration back in 2013; that’s a pretty special memory for me.”
Four weeks of new celebrations kick off on Friday, Sept. 24. Four special prize packages, themed to movies opening in the space, will be given away to lucky patrons on four consecutive Mondays. Andréas Fontana’s lavish conspiracy thriller Azor kicks off the openings in the Ped Mall space, paired with a prize package that includes a gift card to Maestro Empanada. Titane, from Julia Ducournau, follows, opening Oct. 1 and teasing a prize including macarons from Deluxe Cakes & Pastries. El Planeta and The Velvet Underground round out the offerings, opening Oct. 8 and 15 respectively and giving audiences the chance to win similarly apropos prizes.
“We’re always conscious of the unique qualities of the two spaces,” programming director Ben Delgado said in an email, speaking to the challenge of deciding what will screen at the Ped Mall location and what films will land in the Chauncey space. “Films with a more DIY aesthetic — for example, Todd Hayne’s The Velvet Underground that embraces the spirit of the downtown New York art scene of the ’60s/’70s — are more of a natural fit for FilmScene at the Ped Mall. There are still details to work out as far as bringing certain series and programs back to that space, but you can’t do a full moon werewolf movie screening anywhere other than our [Ped Mall] rooftop — so we’ve got our lunar calendar ready to go.”
The nonprofit theater has had renovations on the horizon for a couple of years, ever since they launched the Strengthen • Grow • Evolve campaign with downtown arts partners Englert Theatre. But the COVID-19 pandemic not only delayed certain aspects of their efforts, but added a delightfully cinematic drama to their reopening.
“2020 obviously threw about a dozen wrenches into our growth, but as a team, and with the help of our community of movie lovers, we’ve managed to get back on track,” Salmonson said of the struggles the organization has faced over the last 18 months. “I think all our staff is stronger for having to go through such a devastating and nerve-wracking time. We’re professional pivoters at this point and our team is the absolute best.”
FilmScene was founded a decade ago, in the fall of 2011, with the Ped Mall location opening in late fall of 2013, after a year-long, $90,000 IndieGoGo campaign.
“Reopening the Ped Mall reminds me how far we have come together as an organization,” Salmonson wrote. “It has been tremendously fulfilling to watch FilmScene grow and to be a part of that success. It still brings me so much joy to welcome new community members who experience FilmScene for the first time. And again, so much joy to see our wonderful FilmScene die-hards return to the movies. I cannot wait to welcome them back to our original home.”
Those new community members are sure to be wowed, but what surprises are in store for the die-hards?
“Each space has its unique identity, but we’ve taken great care to make sure that moviegoers get the same experience at both spaces,” Andrew Sherburne, FilmScene’s executive director, said in an email. “There’s the same great popcorn, the same friendly staffers, the same picture and sound quality and now even the same comfortable seats! … We’re excited by the possibilities of five screens, and we’ll open to learning as we go.”
In addition to the upgraded seating, there’s a new Barco Laser Projector in the original Scene 1 cinema space, new chandelier lighting in the lobby and a host of other improvements.
“The Ped Mall is super special to me,” Salmonson said. “I can remember all the way back to our opening season and it brings back feelings of excited anticipation. We were hopeful that people would show up to our movies, hopeful they’d love our popcorn and hopeful they’d feel at home enough to keep coming back!”
Check out FilmScene’s full slate of upcoming screenings on their calendar; their COVID-19 procedures and precautions are outlined on their website as well. There’s films to be enjoyed by all at their Home Scene Home reopening.