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Varsity Cinema set to reopen

A Des Moines theater landmark is set for reopening next spring as film lovers and Drake students eagerly await its return. 

The Varsity Cinema, a movie theater that borders Drake University, closed its doors in winter of 2018 after 80 years of providing a variety of films for the people of Des Moines ranging from small independent pictures to Oscar winners. 

Shortly after the doors closed, a nonprofit film organization, Des Moines Film, stepped in to save the historical site by devoting their time and resources to making sure the theater was revitalized. 

“Des Moines Film was formed to grow the film culture in Des Moines,” Director of Des Moines Film Ben Godar said. “Our long-term goals always included operating our own art house cinema, so when the Varsity closed, we saw it as the perfect venue to realize that vision.”

Des Moines Film’s vision for the new Varsity is a place for both film lovers and the community in general to connect with each other about the art of cinema. 

“We want it to be a community space where people can not only enjoy a great film, but to connect with other people,” Godar said. “We want it to be a hub for film education and a resource for local filmmakers.” 

After a period of pushing back plans, the reopening of the Varsity Cinema by Des Moines Film is set for the spring of 2022. With its opening around the corner, students share their reactions to the historic campus neighbor’s return. 

“I have heard about the renovations and I’m so excited,” Drake Theater student Abby Rogers said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for students to have a brain break and be able to go to a movie theater within walking distance.” 

While Des Moines Film wants to attract the filmmakers of Des Moines, they also want the Varsity to feel like home for average film lovers such as Drake student Whittaker Friedman. 

“I had heard talks about the cinema and seen the fundraising sign in the window. I think it’s a great idea,” Friedman said. “It definitely needed a refresh, and the renovations will get students in those seats–I know I’ll be one of them.” 

Upgraded concessions and the addition of a café/bar area are some of the renovations in the works at the Varsity. With renovations like these centered around comfort and connection, the Varsity could be a new hub for younger students to meet each other. 

“I think it is a good opportunity to meet new people and bring some buddies or a date to experience a variety of movies,” first-year student Liam Nugent said.

With students excited for the arrival of opening day, they have begun to brainstorm ways to bring attention to the student body about the Varsity returning to Drake’s doorstep. 

“Maybe a campus-wide event discussing details about the operation and the reopening could work,” Nugent said. “I think a lot of people will get hyped up if they get informed.”

The Varsity Cinema has been known for bringing a film experience to Des Moines, and because of Des Moines Film, the theater will continue to do so like it has for decades.

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