'Cedar Rapids' movie debuts tonight at Sundance

CEDAR RAPIDS — First Sundance, then the nation, then who knows? The world?

“Cedar Rapids” the movie is ready for its close-up. So is the city.

Except for an aerial view of downtown, moviegoers may not see much of the real Cedar Rapids in the Fox Searchlight movie premiering at 9:45 tonight at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

The comic romp through an insurance convention — starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Sigourney Weaver — will have four Sundance screenings and hit more cities Feb. 11. It’s slated to come to Cedar Rapids on Feb. 18, said Anna Wilcox, general manager at Galaxy 16 Cine, 5340 Council St. NE.

The movie actually was shot in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2009, reportedly moved there in the wake of the Iowa film tax credit collapse. Michigan offers a 40 percent tax rebate on eligible expenses for movies filmed in the state, bumped up to 42 percent for films shot in specified core communities, including Ann Arbor.

Comparable in size to the Cedar Rapids, Ann Arbor reaped the bulk of its rewards during the production phase. Estimated economic impact was $1.1 million during filming, plus boosts to smaller vendors and businesses frequented by cast and crew, said Kay Seaser from the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the city’s film office.

Ann Arbor also is a Sundance film presenter, with the Midwest premiere of “Cedar Rapids” slated for Jan. 28 at the Michigan Theatre in that city.

It’s time for the real Cedar Rapids to shine.


Mayor Ron Corbett and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz will travel to Ann Arbor for the film premiere.

“I’m anxious to see the film,” Corbett said, “because it has our name associated with it and to have the chance to tell them about Cedar Rapids — how we’re challenged with the great flood of 2008 and how we’ve spent the past 2 1/2 years trying to recover and set the stage for a greater future for our community.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the mayor of Ann Arbor,” Corbett said, “and seeing the community from their standpoint. With the filming in their town, they had the economic benefit of the actors and the ripple effect of the filming.”

A different ripple effect is about to hit home.

Having the name “Cedar Rapids” on movie marquees is “priceless,” said Marilee Fowler, president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“You can’t put a value on having our name in newspapers, on marquee signs, on websites promoting that movie,” she said. “The general public is not going to know it was filmed in Ann Arbor unless they stay and read the credits.

“Just having our name out there in the film production world and on marquees — they’re going to know where Cedar Rapids is,” she said.

She says the timing is excellent, since the plot revolves around an insurance convention, and the City of Five Seasons is on the brink of building a new convention complex downtown.“I’m hoping (the film) is not too off-color, so we can use it to promote our new facility and Cedar Rapids as a great meeting place,” Fowler said.