FilmScene hosting outdoor 'FilmStreet' screenings of 20th-century classics the next 5 Fridays
After months of theaters pinning their futures on Christopher Nolan's upcoming film "Tenet," June and July saw the movie delayed twice before being removed and then re-placed on the 2020 film-release calendar.
"('Tenet') is an interesting film because it bridges the divide between the multi-plex and the art hour theater," Rebecca Fons, FilmScene's programming director, told the Press-Citizen in a recent interview. " 'Tenet' was sort of the benchmark, sort of the canary in the coal mine. It affects the whole industry."
Now, after having to delay and subsequently un-date its planned re-opening — partially because of the shifting release date of "Tenet" — FilmScene has come up with an alternative for crowds looking to experience the theater this summer.
Starting Friday, FilmScene will partner with the Iowa City Downtown District to screen five 20th-century crowd-pleasers over the next five weeks in a series organizers are calling "FilmStreet."
Each of the screenings — the first of which will be "Jurassic Park" (1993) — will be held on the closed-off portion of the 200 Block of North Linn Street, between East Market and East Bloomington Streets.
"Seating is first-come, first-serve and, due to the pandemic, once all available seats or marked spaces are accounted for, the maximum capacity will be reached," organizers wrote in a news release. "Groups should seat themselves together, and attendees are encouraged to bring seats. Masks will be required on-site for all. Northside businesses will be open at the start of the film, so grab a snack and enjoy!"
The series is currently scheduled to conclude on Aug. 28 with another Spielburg favorite, "Jaws," the seminal summer blockbuster that celebrated its 45th anniversary in June.
“Ever since we closed originally, we’ve been constantly trying to revisit creative ways to engage with the audiences," Andrew Sherburne, FilmScene's founder, told the Press-Citizen.
Since opening in the Chauncey Building last year, theater staff have talked about the potential to screen movies outside, in Chauncey Swan Park. While the means to hold screenings in that space are not yet in place, the series' partnership with ICCD provided a compelling alternative in a time when theaters everywhere are struggling to do business.
For the line-up, Fons, FilmScene's programming director, said they made sure to pick movies that not only offer a taste of nostalgia and escapism but are also well-suited to watching in the open air.
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"I love 'Rear Window,' " Fons said of the Hitchcock-directed film in the line-up. "I think if you haven’t seen a lot of Hitchcock, it’s a great entry point (and) it’s a really fun film to watch outside in a city amongst tall buildings. It also speaks a lot to our situation — stuck at home: (the main character) is stuck at home and he thinks he sees a murder and he kind of becomes obsessed with that. It speaks to that feeling of being sort of stuck inside."
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Attendees will be seated with those they arrive with, divided between 30 and 40 "pods," Sherburne said. While the exact number of attendees will depend on how large groups are, Sherburne is guessing the crowds could be total around 70 or 100 people.
Meanwhile, the theater is continuing to operate its virtual theater, which has become increasingly robust over the past few months.
“I think it has gotten somewhat normal. Distributors are a little bit better at giving you a head’s up," Fons said. "Now, we can be a bit more choosey and a bit more timely.”
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This virtual screen is one the theater plans to continue — not only does it give individuals who are social-distancing a chance to engage with the theater from home, Fons said, but it also allows individuals with mobility issues to more easily engage with FilmScene.
While the virtual screen is open to everyone, with some films being free for members, Sherburne said the group has seen membership rise over the past few months.
"It’s interesting because FilmScene made a commitment right away when we closed — because we wouldn’t let membership expire while we were closed — so we did that for a time ... it means our membership is at an all-time high," Sherburne said. "During closure, we unceremoniously surpassed 2,000 memberships because we’ve only been adding — not subtracting."
Currently, there are no plans for "FilmStreet" to run beyond its five-week series, but — with the future ever uncertain in the entertainment industry, especially — there is the possibility the series ends up expanding.
“I think if we’ve learned anything from the past few months is don’t plan too far in advance; we wanted to put together a series we could be proud of," Sherburne said. “(Events like this allow us) to engage with our community and with our audience … hopefully, if we’re not able to open up our theater, then we can continue to do it.”
Interested in going?
Cost: Free, but space is limited; space distributed on a first-come, first-served basis
Where: North Linn Street, between East Market and East Bloomington streets
- 8:24 p.m. Friday: "Jurassic Park"
- 8:16 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7: "Indiana Jones and the Raider of the Lost Ark"
- 8:06 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14: "The Princess Bride"
- 7:56 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21: "Rear Window"
- 7:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28: "Jaws"
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