Film Streams’ Dundee Theater offers more than just a traditional cinema experience.
At the theater, moviegoers are immersed in a thoughtful and engaging context that enhances their appreciation of the art form.
“We are committed to presenting and discussing film, and we’ve invested our resources to become a center for shared experiences,” explains Sarah Yale, Film Stream’s Board of Directors Chair. “Ultimately, our goal is to serve our vibrant community with a place to come together to screen films based on their creative, artistic, and social merits.”
Between Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater and the Dundee Theater, the organization offers classes and hosts multiple programs to engage with children and adults to discuss and dissect what they’ve just seen. With a keen focus on education and community, the theater aims to bridge the gap between generations, making cinema a collective experience once again.
Film Streams hosts a variety of programs within five principal areas: new releases, classics, community collaborations, education, and special programs.
At its core, Film Streams is a space for community engagement. The theater’s “School to Screen” education program reaches hundreds of young minds each year, particularly teenagers.
The theater also provides adult programs, including Courses and Deep Dives, designed to provide audiences with the tools to view films as more than mere entertainment such as delving into the context surrounding the films.
Yale explains film is a powerful medium for exploration and conversation, which plays a crucial role in fostering understanding of the art form’s impact on society, and deepening thought on various subjects relevant to the community and the world at large.
Film Streams takes pride in its collaborations with other nonprofit organizations, leveraging the power of film to further their missions and ignite important discussions. The cinematic medium is an instrumental tool for social change and reflection, making movie nights promoting non-profit organizations a rewarding experience.
While the film industry has seen significant changes post-2020 given the rise of streaming services, the organization remains committed to the theatrical experience, and Yale notes that their cinemas offer an experience that everyone can relate to, and something you simply can’t get from sitting on your couch at home. “By sharing feelings and perspectives, the viewer walks away with an awareness and appreciation for something new.”
“Film is such an inclusive medium that can resonate with every demographic,” explains Yale. It’s an art form that promises to move the viewer, to evoke memories and emotions, and often, open the viewers’ minds to new perspectives.
One of the theater’s defining aspects is its curated selection of films. Unlike multiplex cinemas driven by commercial interests, Film Streams takes pride in offering thoughtfully selected titles. Taylor Eagan, Director of Programming, collaborates with a professional booking agent to handpick films that resonate with Omaha’s diverse local audience.
Film Streams’ See Change initiative exemplifies its commitment to showcasing films with diverse casts and directors, where they aim to have at least 50% of the films they showcase directed by women. Film Streams is the only cinema in the United States that strives for gender equity in the films that they screen. By supporting artists who tell unique and diverse stories, Film Streams fosters an inclusive cinematic space where underrepresented voices are amplified.
Moreover, the theater’s four skilled projectionists, who are union members, ensure that rare 35-millimeter films are expertly screened. Considering which auditorium is best suited for a particular film adds an extra layer of thoughtfulness to the curation process.
“We don’t only screen movies that mirror our vibrant community, but we also create opportunities to discuss the art form in meaningful ways that invites everyone to come together,” explains Yale.
Between the two Film Streams theaters are four cinemas. The Peggy Payne Theater, named in honor of Alexander Payne’s mother, holds approximately 300 seats and serves as the largest auditorium at the Dundee location. The Linder Microcinema, on the other hand, boasts around 25 seats and offers an intimate experience for those seeking a more personal film-viewing setting. At the Ruth Sokolof Theater in North Downtown Omaha, the Mary and Rachel houses provide roughly 160 and 80 seats, respectively.
The Dundee Theater’s journey began in 1925 when it opened, and it remains the longest-running film showcase in the region. Throughout the years, it changed ownership and underwent renovations, embracing its identity as strictly a repertory house for a time. Eventually, the Sherwood Foundation acquired the theater in 2013, but following this acquisition, Film Streams stepped in, taking the reins of the venue’s renovation and subsequent reopening in 2017.
With Film Streams’ ownership, this transformation reimagined the theater into the vibrant cultural hub it is today.
Film Streams proudly collaborates with other nonprofit organizations, forging connections with the community and creating a platform for essential discussions. The theater offers two paths for nonprofits: through the Community Collaborations Series and the Screen Share program.
Under Community Collaborations, nonprofits can apply to host events at the theater, leveraging its expertise and resources to support their initiatives. A volunteer committee of community leaders, working alongside the director of programming, selects the collaborations every quarter. The collaboration events typically occur on Tuesdays.
Yale says these collaborations are mutually beneficial. “They give us the opportunity to partner with local non-profit organizations, aligning our missions and utilizing film to promote meaningful dialogue. These partnerships are not only incredibly rewarding but also allow us to work alongside some of the most talented and creative non-profits in our area.”
For organizations that may not secure a collaboration opportunity, Screen Share provides an affordable rental option on Monday nights. Film Streams also offers rentals to the public. This option is used for birthday parties, gaming and live sporting events, nonprofit events, education opportunities and more.
Beyond its diverse programming, the Dundee Theater embraces its role as a comfortable spot to stop in, working in harmony with Lola’s Cafe, located directly inside the establishment. Together, they create a dynamic experience for visitors. In addition to a meal or coffee, the theater offers traditional concessions with popcorn and beverages.
After serving on Film Stream’s Board of Directors for nearly a decade and counting, Yale says, “It’s been exciting to engage the community and extend the appreciation for Film Streams. Our theaters have evolved into spaces where people can gather to grow, converse, and find a deeper meaning in the stories they see unfold on screen.”
In an era of overwhelming content, the Dundee Theater remains an Omaha staple for impactful cinematic experiences, enriching, and bringing additional business to the Dundee community. By championing diverse voices, fostering community connections, and celebrating the art of cinema, Film Streams seeks to enlighten with the power of storytelling through cinema.
The organization and its theaters stand as a testament to the power of film to unite, educate, and provoke thought.
“Film Streams has become an important part of the cultural landscape in Omaha, and we are proud of what we’ve accomplished and excited about our future,” says Yale.