Free outdoor movie showings offered this summer at ‘FilmScene in the Park’

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 11:16 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The inaugural season of “FilmScene in the Park,” a free outdoor film series in Iowa City, kicked off Wednesday with a screening of the animated film “Wolfwalkers.”

The event, held on Wednesday and Saturday nights through August, is a collaboration between the nonprofit cinema FilmScene and Iowa City Parks and Recreation.

While FilmScene cofounder Andrew Sherburne said the timing of the launch worked out well, with so many people spending more time outdoors because of the pandemic, the cinema had been eyeing a summer outdoor series for a decade, as part of its move to the Chauncey building in downtown Iowa City. Next to the high-rise is Chauncey Swan Park, where the films are shown.

University of Iowa students Olivia Bohlmann and Rachel Vingg hadn’t heard of “Wolfwalkers” until recently, but Wednesday’s screening offered them an opportunity to do something they hadn’t done in a while: go see a movie.

“Definitely have the experience of a movie theater with other people here, too,” Vingg said. “Definitely different than just watching it on your laptop inside.”

Guests brought blankets and lawn chairs to sit in socially-distanced spaces on the grass, and unlike traditional movie theaters, they were even encouraged to bring their own snacks and food.

Bohlmann and Vingg, who set up their spots more than 45 minutes before showtime, took games with them to stay busy after grabbing dinner.

“We didn’t know how many people would be here, so we thought if we show up early, we could bring a game or something and just kind of set up and relax,” Bohlmann said.

With a high-quality projector, 48-foot screen, and speakers strong enough to be heard over downtown traffic, Sherburne said they hope to offer moviegoers an experience unlike any they’ve had before.

“It’s not a backyard movie. This is an open-air, outdoor cinema,” he said.

But providing that experience isn’t cheap.

According to city council documents, FilmScene and the City of Iowa City each invested $50,000 to buy the equipment and put the series on.

“We thought if we’re going to do it, let’s be ambitious, let’s go big, and so that’s how we got to where we are,” Sherburne said.

Unlike traditional movies, there was no box office, as the entire series is free and open to the public.

Sherburne said they wanted to eliminate barriers that might have prevented people from enjoying a night out at the movies during a challenging time.

“We’re all looking for ways to connect with our community right now, and so this is a special one that we can do,” he said.

This summer’s “FilmScene at the Park” selections range from “Nomadland,” this year’s Academy Award winner for best picture, to classics like “The Wizard of Oz.” The entire schedule can be found here.

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