July 22, 2024

Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, is often celebrated for its rich history, vibrant arts scene, and thriving community. While it might not immediately come to mind as a film hub, Des Moines boasts a dynamic and diverse movie scene that caters to a wide range of cinematic tastes. From historic theaters to modern multiplexes and local film festivals, Des Moines offers a unique experience for movie lovers. This article explores the various facets of the film scene in Des Moines, highlighting its theaters, festivals, and local cinematic culture.

Historic Theaters

Des Moines is home to several historic theaters that offer a glimpse into the golden age of cinema. These theaters not only showcase classic and contemporary films but also serve as cultural landmarks that enrich the city’s heritage.

The Des Moines Civic Center

The Des Moines Civic Center, though primarily known for its live performances and Broadway shows, occasionally screens films, particularly those related to arts and culture. This iconic venue, located downtown, is a must-visit for those who appreciate architecture and the performing arts.

The Varsity Cinema

A true gem for cinephiles, the Varsity Cinema has been a staple in Des Moines since 1938. Located near Drake University, this historic theater specializes in independent, foreign, and classic films. After undergoing renovations, the Varsity has retained its vintage charm while incorporating modern amenities, making it a beloved spot for both locals and visitors.

Modern Multiplexes

For those seeking the latest blockbusters, Des Moines offers several state-of-the-art multiplexes that provide a top-notch movie-going experience. These theaters feature the latest in sound and projection technology, comfortable seating, and a wide selection of snacks.

Flix Brewhouse

Flix Brewhouse in Des Moines is a unique venue that combines the pleasures of watching a movie with the enjoyment of craft beer and gourmet food. As the only cinema brewery in the world, Flix Brewhouse offers an exceptional dining and cinematic experience, making it a popular choice for date nights and family outings.

AMC Classic Cobblestone 9

Located in Urbandale, just outside of Des Moines, the AMC Classic Cobblestone 9 is a favorite among locals for its convenient location and affordable ticket prices. This theater is known for its friendly staff and clean facilities, providing a pleasant movie-going experience for all.

Local Film Festivals

Des Moines hosts a variety of film festivals throughout the year, celebrating both local talent and international cinema. These festivals offer a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work and provide audiences with the opportunity to experience diverse and thought-provoking films.

The Des Moines Film Festival

The Des Moines Film Festival is a premier event that attracts filmmakers and movie enthusiasts from across the Midwest. This festival features a wide range of genres, including documentaries, short films, and feature-length narratives. With panel discussions, Q&A sessions, and networking opportunities, the Des Moines Film Festival is a cornerstone of the city’s film community.

Wild Rose Independent Film Festival

The Wild Rose Independent Film Festival celebrates independent filmmaking with a focus on innovative and original storytelling. Held annually, this festival highlights the work of up-and-coming filmmakers and provides a platform for voices that are often underrepresented in mainstream cinema. The festival’s intimate setting allows for meaningful interactions between filmmakers and audiences, fostering a supportive and creative environment.

Local Cinematic Culture

Des Moines’ film scene is supported by a passionate community of filmmakers, critics, and enthusiasts. Local organizations and clubs often host film screenings, discussions, and workshops, contributing to the city’s vibrant cinematic culture.

Des Moines Film Society

The Des Moines Film Society is dedicated to promoting film appreciation and education in the community. Through its various programs, including film screenings, lectures, and collaborative events, the society aims to foster a deeper understanding of cinema as an art form.

Drake University

Drake University, located in Des Moines, offers a robust film and media program that nurtures the next generation of filmmakers and critics. The university frequently hosts film-related events, including guest lectures and screenings, further enriching the city’s film culture.


Des Moines may not be as widely recognized as Hollywood or New York when it comes to the film industry, but it holds its own with a vibrant and diverse cinematic scene. From historic theaters and modern multiplexes to film festivals and local organizations, Des Moines offers a rich tapestry of experiences for movie lovers. Whether you’re a casual viewer or a dedicated cinephile, Des Moines’ film scene has something to offer, making it a hidden gem in the heartland of America.

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