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Varsity Cinema renovation project receives $100,000 state grant


A $100,000 grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority has helped push past the halfway mark toward a goal to raise $3 million to pay for renovations of the Varsity Cinema.

The city of Des Moines recently was notified that the Varsity Cinema project was receiving the grant from the state agency’s Community Catalyst and Building Remediation program. The money is to be used to help pay for renovating the century-plus-old theater located at 1207 25th St.

Renovations to the Varsity, described as the Des Moines area’s oldest single-screen, independently owned movie house, include returning the structure to its original appearance and creating space for a micro-cinema on the second floor and more space on the first floor for gatherings before and after movies.

The Des Moines Film Society bought the historic structure last year.

In February, a capital campaign began to raise $3 million to pay for the proposed renovations. To date, more than $1.6 million has been raised, with donations coming from more than 750 individual and institution donors.

“All of these funds combined will allow us to preserve the Varsity and make it truly the hub for film culture in Des Moines,” Ben Godar, the Des Moines Film Society’s director, wrote in an email.

Renovation work on the Varsity is expected to begin this fall and be completed in 2022.

More information about the renovation project can be found here.

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