FilmScene undergoes transformation and reopens in the Ped Mall

After being closed for 18 months, FilmScene at the Ped Mall is reopening complete with renovations and a four-week celebration.


Tate Hildyard for The Daily Iowa

Photo Illustration by Tate Hildyard for the Daily Iowan.

Anaka Sanders, Arts Reporter

The pandemic shut down FilmScene 18 months ago, along with many other theaters.

This pause was a chance for the theater to renovate and make its Pedestrian Mall location a space moviegoers are excited to return to.

“We learned that there are so many films that we want to share with this community,” said Filmscene Executive Director Andrew Sherburne. “Having five screens in two locations provides us with lots of room to show larger films, as well as smaller films that can really diversify our film lineup.”

While the FilmScene location in the Chauncey building has been open for some time, the Ped Mall location just reopened on Sept. 24 after a long hiatus.

The lobby has been revitalized with fresh paint, new lighting, and new furniture, making it a more welcoming space to hang out before and after shows. There has also been a new laser projector installed in their Scene One cinema to provide a brighter picture. Both rooms have new seating for a more pleasant viewing experience.

“It will feel good to sit down there again, with a new coat of paint and some more comfortable seats, and take in a movie again,” Sherburne said.

To celebrate the return of the Ped Mall location, FilmScene is putting on a “Home Scene Home” event that will take place over the next four weeks, featuring classic films with correlating specialty drinks. Each weekly film will also be paired with prize packages from different shops in the community.

FilmScene Projectionist and Bijou Film Board Executive Director Harry Westergaard said that many people have a personal connection to the Ped Mall location. He has seen many theaters come and go in Iowa City, but FilmScene has always remained.

“It feels a little bit more comfortable and homier, it’s just a fun place to hang out,” Westergaard said. “There’s just a sort of handmade quality to it that I really appreciate.”

FilmScene collaborates with the Bijou Film Board, a student-run organization centered around showing independent, foreign, and classic cinema.

Bijou hosts screenings at FilmScene every Tuesday and Saturday, along with the FilmScream event happening on Halloween. FilmScream is a 12-hour marathon of B-list horror films where viewers can stay up all night enjoying the films with food and coffee.

Orson Codd, marketing director for the Bijou, said that there isn’t yet a screening scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Ped Mall.

“We’re still waiting to get a title confirmed but we may or may not have a special Halloween screening coming up at the Ped Mall on the 30th,” Codd said.

The reopening of Ped Mall theater is meaningful to both the employees and the film viewers.

“I think the Ped Mall space is a place that holds a lot of fond memories for people,” Sherburne said. “There have been a lot of first dates, and even a few marriage proposals in this space. This is a place the people hold near and dear to their hearts and we’re so excited to make it active again.”