The stunning new FilmScene theater opens

FilmScene’s dazzling state of the art movie theater at the Chauncey opens.


Sam Westergaard

The new logo for the new FilmScene location in Iowa City.

This article has been updated to better portray the renovations taking place at the Englert.

Strengthen. Grow. Evolve. These are the words that FilmScene and the Englert used to describe their vision for the future of the arts in Iowa City. On Sept. 20, 2019, the new Chauncey location for FilmScene opened, and the people of Iowa City got their first real look at what those words mean.

The first thing most people notice at the Chauncey is the unique architecture, specifically the wood siding that cocoons each screening room.

Of this, moviegoer John Hudson said, “It’s quite wonderful, the architecture, the ambiance.”

The building also takes advantage of natural lighting, with three of the outer walls being made of glass.

We are looking ahead to the future as we work to create a community that is vibrant, expanding, and supportive”

— Nina Lohman

As beautiful as the lobby is the screening rooms might be even more impressive. There are two screening rooms open now with a third in the middle of construction. The larger room seats 121 people while the smaller seats 67. The smaller theater has a small balcony, but people are most excited about the new seats in each theater. Instead of cushioned metal chairs, both rooms have soft luxury recliners.

Longtime FilmScene patron Will Kapp said of the new screening rooms, “It’s insane. It’s so big, it’s crazy.” adding about the chairs, “[They’re] so much better than the little metal chairs.”


The chairs aren’t the only thing that got an upgrade. The Chauncey boasts the most impressive technology available for playing movies. The new Xpand 3D projection system allows for the playing of 3D movies and plays films in the highest resolution possible. The Barco Digital Cinema projector emits 23,000 lumens, around 32 times brighter than the average car headlight. The Theater also has a brand-new 35mm film projector as well as the classic 16mm for Bijou movies.

But what sort of movies are playing on this new technology?

“We’ll generally have lots more programming,” said programming director Rebecca Fons. “More screens equals more films and special events.” Fons talked about the upcoming movies saying, “we’ve identified Sept. 20 to Dec. 31 as our opening season, and we’ll be presenting a treasure trove of special events to celebrate the new location.”

In those opening months FilmScene will be playing a plethora of films, from more mainstream hollywood movies like “Joker”, “Jojo Rabbit” and “The Irishman,” as well as the independent cinema they’re known for in “Aquarela”, “Anthropocene”, and “Monos”.

It’s insane. It’s so big, it’s crazy.”

— Will Kapp

Even though the Chauncey has all of these features, it’s far from finished. There will be ongoing construction for months, including the third screening room and outdoor renovations in order to prepare for free outdoor public screenings next year. However, the construction on FilmScene isn’t the only thing to look forward to.

“Over at the Englert we’re investing an equal amount of money,” said development director Katie Roche.

Because the Englert is FilmScene’s partner in the Strengthen Grow Evolve project, it will be receiving vast renovations as well. Most of these renovations will be focusing on restoring the older and damaged parts of The Englert and updating the technical aspects, such as the wiring, audio system and the Iconic Marquee.

It’s quite wonderful, the architecture, the ambience”

— John Hudson

The Chauncey and the renovations at The Englert both tie back to the idea of Strengthen Grow Evolve, with strengthening through renovation and growth through the opening of the Chauncey.

On what strengthen grow evolve means, the co-chair of the project, Nina Lohman said, “It means we are paying attention. It means that we are honoring and preserving the vision and work of those in our community who have helped create the place we live now. It means we are listening to the conversations around us right now, conversations that communicate the wants and needs of our friends and neighbors. And it means we are looking ahead to the future as we work to create a community that is vibrant, expanding, and supportive.”

That support is what FilmScene credits for allowing them to grow and open their new location, as well the reason they opened it.

“People need spaces to gather and it’s great that we are able to provide that for the community,” Lohman said.

Roche thanked that community saying, “[The Chauncey] exists because the people of Iowa City made it happen.”