FilmScene to host outdoor film series coming to Northside

FilmScene and the Iowa City Downtown District have come together to open a five-week socially distanced outdoor film series, which will show blockbuster hits like ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Princess Bride.’


Christopher Hunter

The location on Linn Street where Fillmscene will host FilmStreet Outdoor Cinema, a socially-distanced film series begining on Friday, July 31. Contributed.

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Editor

While the act of sitting inside a cool, dark theater may be excluded from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new option for local moviegoers has arrived: free, outdoor, socially distant movies, provided by a partnership between FilmScene and the Iowa City Downtown District.

The five-week series, called “FilmStreet Outdoor Cinema,” will offer showings each Friday from July 31-Aug. 28. The lineup of five blockbuster movies shown outdoors on the Northside begins with Jurassic Park, which will show tonight at 8:39 p.m.

FilmScene closed its physical doors to the public when COVID-19 cases began to pop up in Iowa City in mid-March, but it had been too chilly to start thinking about outdoor film possibilities, said Programming Director Rebecca Fons. FilmScene started to speak with the Downtown District over a month ago in order to start planning for the series.

Other arthouses and independently-run movie theaters have also turned to the outdoor film and drive-in movie concept, Fons said.

“So we’re joining the team of all those fellow film exhibitors around the country who are showing films outside,” Fons said. “It’s actually really interesting, this summer has sort of been the summer of the ‘outdoor movie.’”

The films will show on Linn Street in an area where the road has been blocked off so diners at restaurants can also safely social distance while eating, according to Andrew Sherburne, the Interim Executive Director and Co-Founder of FilmScene.

Sherburne said the location would be perfect since FilmScene partnered with the Downtown District, which encompasses all Northside restaurants.  Patrons can eat outside in a socially distanced manner, and then possibly stick around until the movie starts, he said.

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“It just seemed like a nice way for everyone in the community to support each other in the ways that we’re trying to engage creatively with our community,” he said.

Christopher Hunter, the director of special events for the IC Downtown District, said that moviegoers will sit within the boundaries of taped squares that are six feet apart in order to comply with social distancing rules. The audience will be asked to wear a mask unless they are eating or drinking.

Film showings are on a first-come-first-serve basis, and Hunter said certain health guidelines will be considered throughout the evening.

“We’re trying to limit it to four people per box or so and try to keep it less crowded,” Hunter said. “We do ask that people remain in their area at all times, unless they want to go to the restroom or grab a snack.”

To accommodate an audience of various ages and interests, Fons compiled a list of movies that are appropriate (PG or PG-13), but would also provide thrills for all viewers. The list includes Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Princess Bride, Rear Window, and Jaws.

“We wanted to have films that provided escape and provided a sense of fun, and maybe some memories of classic movie-going experiences that people have had,” she said. “They’re movies that we love to watch with our friends and family and one another so we knew that the larger community would feel that way too.”

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