The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

‘FilmScene in the Park’ brings community together to experience cinema

The event, which runs on select weekends from May to October, requires a variety of people in order to run smoothly. The next showing is Sept. 16.
Cody Blissett
A FilmScene at the Chauncey sign is seen in Iowa City on July 13, 2023.

On warm nights between the months of May and October, people of all ages may find themselves at the Chauncey Swan Park, where Iowa City’s FilmScene hosts screenings of blockbuster and indie films. The free outdoor event, known as ‘FilmScene in the Park,’ begins at sunset on several weekends throughout summer.

FilmScene in the Park has always been a part of the vision for FilmScene, according to executive director and co-founder Andrew Sherburne.

“It’s one of the most robust outdoor cinemas in America, and it took a lot of fundraising and so many people to come into existence,” Sherburne said.

FilmScene in the Park was created after the indoor theater temporarily shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. While outdoor cinema had been a part of the theater’s original plan, the pandemic offered the opportunity for FilmScene to launch the series.

“It’s a wonderful way to welcome a diverse and joyful crowd to share a moviegoing experience under the stars,” Sherburne said.

Since its debut in 2021, the series has had a community impact with around 300 people at each showing, Sherburne said.

“The series is now sponsored by Dr. Suzanne Stock, Orthodontist, and supported by FilmScene’s over 2,000 member households,” Sherburne said. “Together, this keeps the series free for everyone.”

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Aside from sponsorships and funding, the event requires planning as well. Between setting up outside, monitoring the crowd, projecting the movie, and tearing down equipment at the end of the night, a large staff is required to work the event.

In the hours leading up to the event, projectionists work outside setting up speakers, the portable projector, and other key pieces of equipment, shared events coordinator at FilmScene, Angie Mabeus. Projectionists make sure the movie plays, and they are responsible for putting everything away at the end of the night.

“We have a staff position for our FilmScene in the Park events that we have lovingly named our ‘park ranger.’ That staff member is tasked with assisting the projection team with all of their setup and tear down, as well as managing the outdoor concessions for the night,” Mabeus said.

Mabeus shared that hosting responsibilities usually either fall on her, Sherburne, or the programming director of the FilmScene, Ben Delgado. Among those responsibilities are giving opening announcements and thanking sponsors.

“And of course, our front-of-house team makes sure the popcorn keeps popping for our hungry guests and all is running smoothly inside as well,” Mabeus said.

The outdoor theater at the Chauncey is not just used for the FilmScene in the Park series. FilmScene has worked with the University of Iowa to organize other outdoor park events. During On Iowa! there was an annual park screening organized with the Bijou Film Board, Bijou Executive Director Kat Trout-Baron said.

“We encourage all first-year and returning students to come to the event and find a cinematic community in Iowa City,” Trout-Baron said.

FilmScene and Bijou have also partnered with Undergraduate Student Government and Late Night to present the “Top Gun” series in the park theater.

“The park series is a great opportunity to get as many people as possible, specifically large groups of students, and allow them to have a place to relax, connect, and enjoy art,” Trout-Baron said.

The next Film Scene in the Park feature will be a showing of “A Hard Day’s Night” at 7:20 p.m. on Sept. 16.

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About the Contributors
Emma Gaughan
Emma Gaughan, Arts Reporter
Emma Gaughan is a second-year student at the University of Iowa, studying psychology and criminology, as well as completing a writing certificate. She is from West Des Moines, where she developed her love of both writing and the arts.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.