FilmScene and Englert partner to raise more than $6 million together

FilmScene and Englert announce a collaborative fundraiser to support the arts community fund FilmScene’s expansion.


Savannah Lane


Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

Iowa City is a powerhouse when it comes to the arts. It boasts countless performing arts venues from Hancher to Gabe’s that showcase local artists or bring in magnificent performers from all around the world. One Iowa City staple will move to a new, larger home early this fall.

On April 20, FilmScene and the Englert put on an event to announce their continued partnership and the new home for FilmScene in the Chauncey Swan Building, at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets. They announced a campaign to raise $6.5 million to be split between the two that will be used to fund the sustainability of Englert as a historic theater and FilmScene’s continued development.

April 20 saw the first public showing of FilmScene’s new home; guests were invited to sign their names on the wall of one of FilmScene’s new theaters and were offered free frozen yogurt provided by Yotopia.

On the Englert stage, the directors of Englert and FilmScene spoke about their mission to make Iowa City “the greatest small city for the arts in America.”

FilmScene and Englert are both nonprofit organizations. Englert Executive Director Andre Perry said the theater has helped FilmScene grow since the latter opened.

“We want to help FilmScene to really hone the space at Chauncey and ensure its sustainability as an organization,” he said. “Whatever you’re doing, you should be doing good work that serves your community. In this case, I’m working for a nonprofit, which is the Englert. It’s community first. What can we do to help make life better in this place?”

The fundraiser addressed some of Englert’s modernization issues. Englert closed in 1999, but through a community effort, reopened in 2004. Since then, much of the sound equipment has become outdated.

“The Englert was able to invigorate, bring some energy to the local arts scene,” Perry said. “When FilmScene opened, there was a new nonprofit arts entity on the market, so we should do what we can to welcome it into the community and give it advice that we can. That attitude has turned into a lot of program collaborations.”

Andrew Sherburne, the associate director of FilmScene, said Englert has been a great help offering advice as a fellow nonprofit for the arts. Englert was described as an “older sibling” to FilmScene.

“In the process of coming together, it needs to be realized that there are a lot of shared programmatic interests. It’s nurturing and growing our festival programming,” he said. “It’s expanding our education and outreach efforts by adding staff dedicated to that. How can we as an arts community work better together?”

The current FilmScene space has two theaters and screens, and the Chauncey expansion will add three more. The administrative home of FilmScene and Bijou will move there as well, but the current FilmScene location on the Pedestrian Mall will remain.

“It’ll double the number of screens we have, which allows us to expand our programs, expand our showtimes, expand our reach and our audience,” Sherburne said. “It makes us more nimble, more versatile, it offers up richer programming opportunities. It’s a bigger space, a beautiful space. It really shows the value that cinema bring to this community.”

The FilmScene people have planned the move to Chauncey since opening in 2011.

Along with FilmScene, Bijou will move to the Chauncey. Bijou was originally run from the IMU, but when FilmScene opened, they partnered.

Bijou Executive Director-elect Molly Bagnall, also current editor of the Bijou Blog and co-host of Bijou Banter, said she looks forward to moving into a bigger building with more visibility, and she is ready to take on her new role next year.

“I could not be more excited about moving into that leadership role for Bijou. Moving into a new building is something no executive director of Bijou has ever had to deal with,” she said. “This is one thing that no one else can prepare me for. Specific programming things might change; we don’t know what that’ll look like. There’ll be so many more theaters, so there are so many more opportunities to do things.”

FilmScene Executive Director Joe Tiefenthaler said the cinema’s tie with Bijou allows it to connect with more students.

“What can we present in the future? What more can we do for students? What more can [Bijou] get out of our partnership?” he said. “This is a really fun phase in which a lot of ideas are getting thrown against the wall, and we get to pick and choose. We’ll do trial and error, but it’s a time of idea creation between the two organizations. We’ll reach more students than ever.”