Group renovating historic Des Moines theater selling seats to public

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Movie lovers will have a chance to own a piece of history and help the future of an iconic theater in Des Moines.

“There are a lot of people that love the Varsity and there are a lot of people that want to own a piece of history,” said Ben Godar, the director of Des Moines Film.

The nonprofit hoping to renovate and reopen the historic Varsity Cinema near Drake University will be selling theater seats to the public on Saturday, Aug. 28. Seats will cost around $50 to $100. After the theater closed in 2018, Des Moines Film began a fundraising campaign to bring it back to life.

The group has already raised over $1 million. The money from the seat sales will help towards raising the $3 million needed to help reopen the venue that had been operating for 80 years. While some may be sad to see the old chairs leave, organizers say the age and cost of repairs left them with no other option but to replace them with traditional theater chairs.

“We are absolutely going to make changes here, but we’ve really considered those changes very carefully,” said Godar. “In the end our goal is to keep this a vibrant movie theater and a vibrant place for the community. We want to make it a comfortable place people can come to and see films.”

The sale is from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 28. Construction is planned to begin in the fall with the reopening date in the spring of 2022.

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