Film Streams Announces Acquisition of Dundee Theater

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February 26th, 2016

Omaha, NE — A local cinema breathes new life into an Omaha landmark.

A rending of the new Dundee Theater.

A rendering of the new Dundee Theater.

This past Thursday, Film Streams announced that they will restore and reopen the 91-year-old Dundee Theater on 50th and Dodge St. When the Dundee Theater reopens, it will join the Ruth Sokolof Theater in North Downtown as the second venue operated by Film Streams. The organization’s Founder and Director, Rachel Jacobson, said the project took plenty of research and evaluation.

“We thought about what our mission is as a non-profit,” Jacobson said. “We thought about who we are as an organization because we’re so committed to Omaha and film. We looked at whether we would be able to raise the money. We’ve got Alley Poyner [Macchietto Architecture] involved who do a lot of renovations and restorations. They looked at the building to see if it was going to be such a huge project that it might not even be worth the effort.”

“Then, we looked at it in terms of programming, something we’ve been thinking about for a really long time. The two biggest complaints we get in our annual survey are that we don’t bring enough of the foreign and independent films that everyone wants to see and that we don’t hold stuff long enough we when do bring them. The only way to reconcile both of those issues is to add additional screens.”

In the last year alone, Film Streams showcased 185 different programs on just 2 screens. Jacobson said the sheer amount of programming they offer caused a lot of traffic jams and sometimes they had to say no to great programming opportunities simply because they didn’t have the screens for it. The acquisition of the Dundee Theater not only provides for additional programming opportunities but also sustains Omaha’s last single-screen movie theater, one of the few in existence around the country.

“The amazing thing about Film Streams is that we’ve been so lucky to engage so many wonderful people,” she said. “We’re in a really good position to make this work, to make sure the theatre renovation is done right and thoughtfully so that the theatre lasts for another hundred years.”

While other historic Omaha neighborhoods like Benson and the Old Market have their own cultural institutions like music venues, art galleries, and performance spaces, Dundee lost many of its artistic hubs over the years. Places like the Dundee Dinner Theatre and several art galleries went under one by one. Jacobson said Film Streams’ acquisition will be more of a restoration of art and culture in the area rather than simply a renovation of the space.

“I grew up on 58th and Underwood,” she said. “Dundee is such a vibrant neighborhood. You know, the zip code that has the most Film Streams members is 68132, the Dundee zip code. I think people that are interested in the stuff we do and show live around there. We’re hearing from so many people saying, ‘I can’t wait to walk to the theatre!’. Hopefully, we can create a real place-making community center. That’s what we really want to do.”

She said there’s plenty of work to be done over the next several months as the organization prepares for a 2018 re-opening, but all of the work will be worth it to keep a piece of Omaha’s history alive.

“We’re thrilled to be able to do this and really grateful to the Sherwood Foundation,” she said. “I think we’ll be good stewards of this really important cultural landmark and we’re honored to have that privilege.”

For more information on Film Streams’ acquisition of the Dundee Theater, visit www.FilmStreams.org.

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