She Loves Movies

My daughters and I moved into Winterset from our previous home, a farm seven miles from town, when they were thirteen, nine, and six. The transition was rough, but town life had its advantages. The post office was next door. Hannah, Mary, and Rebecca could walk to school. The Iowa Theater was just two blocks up the street.

I’m not sure how old Rebecca was when she started saving her ticket stubs, but they became her teenage souvenirs. She wrote the name of the movie, the date she went, and who had gone with her on the back of each one. The big bowl of colorful stubs* was a key element of her bedroom decor. When she was old enough to work, she got a job behind the checkout counter at Winterset Home Video.

Titanic (1997) undoubtedly played at the Iowa Theater, but once (or twice) was not enough for Rebecca. At 15, she didn’t have a driver’s license, and her older siblings had gone off to college. Indulgently, I chauffeured her (and various companions) to theaters in Des Moines so they could experience the tragedy (and swoon over DiCaprio) again and again. (I always dropped them off with Kleenex.)

College students are notorious for changing their majors, but at the University of Iowa, Film Studies was Rebecca’s one-and-only. She graduated in 2004, and after spending two unhappy years in New York returned to the Midwest to get a masters in Arts & Media Management at Columbia College in Chicago. Her first industry job was at Cinema Chicago, producers of the famous Chicago International Film Festival.

People in Winterset give me credit for renovating the Iowa Theater, but I never would have undertaken such a task without Rebecca. She was 34 and newly married when I stuck my neck out in 2015 and purchased the building, but she commuted home willingly, frequently, and even joyfully during the two-year gut-and-rehab. Partway through the project, she left Cinema Chicago to work on the rebirth of The Iowa full time. Together, we consulted with contractors, applied for and received 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS, raised funds locally and beyond, sourced popcorn and butter machines, and hired a staff.

Near the end, as we were planning the Grand Reopening, Rebecca took a new job as programming director at FilmScene in Iowa City, shortening her commute by two and a half hours. Now, at last, she is fully back in Chicago. She still programs The Iowa’s lineup of movies, but her new real job is an awesome one—Director of Programming at the Gene Siskel Film Center, a public progarm of the Art Institute of Chicago. She commutes from the apartment she shares with husband Jack Newell to downtown Chicago, except on days she works from home.

Rebecca and I were recently interviewed about the Iowa Theater for THIS IS IOWA, an online publication produced by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Writer Amber Rottinghaus did a fine job telling the story of the theater’s rebirth! You can read it here.

*She still has them!





18 Responses

  1. Julia
    | Reply

    Once again Marianne, thanks for sharing your family and adventures!

  2. Diana Barry
    | Reply

    A wonderful story, thanks for sharing.

  3. Ron Miller
    | Reply

    We’ve visited Winterset from the UK a number of times and followed the renovation avidly on Facebook, it’s a wonderful movie theatre. My wife had my name put on one of the seats there, so I have a permanent connection. It’s how a traditional cinema should be, well done

    • Linda Duff
      | Reply

      Hey!!! I know you and your wife!! 🙂
      I think I even saw your seat at the Iowa. Come back and visit again so you can reacquaint yourself with your seat, The Iowa, and all of us who miss you two!
      XOXO Linda D

  4. Jeannie
    | Reply

    A tale of emboldened women
    supported by enlightened men.
    Such a tale needs retelling often
    thus spiriting others
    to take their callings seriously.
    Gratefully received and applauded.

  5. valerie
    | Reply

    Dear mom — You have a generous gift for encouraging others. Yes, you renovated The Iowa. And, you help build people into all they can be. love you, val

  6. Diane Mitchell
    | Reply

    Great story! Maybe one day I will get to visit and see the “fruits of your labor.”
    PS: I continue to be inspired by your quilting skills and miss seeing your broadcasts.

  7. Rita Parrish
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this mother and daughter love story! It is beautiful!

  8. BETTY
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to each and every one of them. Blessings and best wishes to you and your family for 2022.

  9. Deb Rowden
    | Reply

    Great story, lovely piece in This is Iowa. Happy New Year!!

  10. Brian Downes
    | Reply

    I have tremendous respect and appreciation for what you girls have accomplished.

  11. Barbara
    | Reply

    This is such a wonderful story to tell. The community of Winterset must be so thankful for and proud of you and Rebecca and your team for all that’s been accomplished.

  12. Jim Graham
    | Reply

    James L. Graham

    It runs in the family! I just finished reading our father’s diary from 1940. He was a senior at Winterset HS that year and boarded in town due to the distance from the family farm. He would see about two movies every week and even rate them (good, bad, excellent, etc.). We were big on movies too growing up in Houston. I would ride my bike to the movies. Having just finished reading my own diary written in 1973 I am reminded of how often I would see a movie during my US Army deployment to SE Asia. So Rebecca follows a long line of movie goers.

  13. elizabeth a hinze
    | Reply

    Thank you, Dreams do come true : )

  14. Jerry Parkin
    | Reply

    The Iowa Theater is again a hallmark of Winterset. My wife and I love going to movies there. Being able to walk to the theater, enjoy Iowa popcorn with real butter and watch either a new or a classic movie is something that we look forward to.

  15. Billie Wade
    | Reply

    Great story, Marianne! Thank you for sharing it.

  16. Stephanie Finnell
    | Reply

    Winterset has put forth a long line of strong, caring women. My grandmother was born in Winterset and was a one-room schoolhouse teacher in various schools. I care for children in my home (early childhood) and my daughter recently obtained her Ph.D and teaches at a college in Kansas. Your story is validating for us that those roots run deep!

  17. AngelaBaker
    | Reply

    Your whole family is teeming with “creatives”. Bravo!

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