Andy Brodie and Andrew Sherburne have already seen one dream come true. On Thursday, they’ll see another.
That’s when Scene 1, their 70-seat art house/indie cinema, opens its doors to a month of sneak peeks.
Two years after conversations began in earnest, their organization FilmScene is bringing movies back to downtown Iowa City, with a grand opening in the works for November.
“We both said, ‘Enough is enough. If nobody else is going to do this, we have to,’ ” said Sherburne, 34, of Iowa City, a documentary filmmaker. He is moving into a part-time marketing and promotions role with Scene 1, while Brodie, 33, of Iowa City, is serving as the full-time executive director.
Their long-range vision includes a two-screen cinema in a proposed downtown mixed-use high-rise, but they didn’t want to wait several years to see that dream realized.
“(Scene 1) is an intimate space,” Sherburne said. “It’s a comfortable environment to watch a film and the right environment. A lot of these (indie) films are intimate. … You’ll feel like you’re part of something exciting.”
Nearly half the $200,000 in startup funds came via the Founders Circle, in which 79 people pledged $1,000 or more to the cause. An all-or-nothing IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to raise $75,000 in 35 days actually brought in $91,000 this summer, allowing the non-profit organization to begin its run with a little money in the bank for operating expenses.
The cinema is actually nestled in part of an 1860s building at 118 E. College St. that’s been everything from a packing and provisions company to a casket manufacturer and, most recently, Vito’s, a bar popular with the college crowd. When Brodie saw the 30-foot ceilings in the back of the building, he knew it would be an ideal spot for a one-screen theater.
Iowa City developer Marc Moen bought the building in 2011 and has turned it into a mixed-use space that houses a clothing store, art gallery and mechanical-engineering firm, as well as Scene 1.
In addition to showing first-run American independent films, documentaries, foreign films and classics, the theater also features a cafe and concessions area, as well as access to a rooftop patio.
With state-of -the art audio/visual equipment to buy and all the theater spaces to carve out, “it’s surprising how fast” the money goes, Brodie said.
“You can always use more, like any arts non-profit,” he said. “We should have a little bit of a reserve when we start, and we’ve been able to build a pretty big following through all the programming we’ve done up to date and the fundraising efforts, which is nice to have before we open our doors.”
FilmScene also has been able to save a few bucks here and there. Pre-flood Hancher patrons will recognize the cinema’s permanent seats — 62 donated seats diverted from the scrap heap after the Iowa River raged through the University of Iowa’s signature auditorium in June 2008. Couches will be added in front and back, bringing the seating capacity to between 70 and 75, including handicap-accessible spaces.
“People really like that soft seating,” Brodie said. “It turns the front row from something that people avoid into something they kind of seek out. … It’s just a trend we’ve seen in cinemas recently.”
Such trends gave root to the whole FilmScene project. A former volunteer and one-time director at the University of Iowa’s Bijou Cinema, Brodie has been in small theaters all over the country, assisting with film festivals and showing his own films.
“I’ve seen a lot of really cool venues for cinema in different cities — large cities and college towns — and just hated that when I came home to Iowa City, a city I love a lot, that we didn’t have that kind of a space — a full-time, 365-days-a-year modern space with the kind of movie-going experience that people were really responding to well in other places.”
The UI’s student-run Bijou, which has bounced around the Iowa Memorial Union since the 1970s, is moving its programming into Scene 1.
“It will be a great evolution of what they’ve been doing,” Sherburne said, and will help fill the vision of daily, year-round screenings. FilmScene also will continue its partnership with the Englert, including this week’s silent films accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra from Cambridge, Mass.
“There’s been a hole in the fabric of the Corridor’s art scene, and FilmScene will fill that missing piece,” Sherburne said. “Film is an art form, certainly, and one that combines quite a few others — whether it’s the written word, theatrics, music, visual arts. It’s all these things wrapped up in one. It’s deserving of its own home, and that’s what we set out to do, and I think we’ll meet that goal.
“Movies are something that people have been going to for more than a hundred years, and people want that in the cultural heart of the community — and that’s what downtown is to our community.”
If you go:
— Buster Keaton’s silent film, “The General,” 8 p.m. Wednesday (10/2), Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City; $15 to $20, Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or Englert.org
— SOLD-OUT: An Evening with Alloy Orchestra at Scene 1, 6:30 p.m. Thursday (10/3)
— “Gold Fever,” documentary, 7 p.m. Oct. 10, Scene 1, free
— Grand Opening: To be announced, November