Principia may be known for many things, but its proximity to cultural attractions is not one of them. Fortunately for Principians, Student Life screens movies every semester. If no other campus-wide or house-sponsored event is occurring on a given weekend, Student Life will show a movie in a theater setting such as Wanamaker Hall or Cox Auditorium.
According to Student Event Manager Brett Grimmer and Student Life Programming Manager Joshua Sprague, Principia has presented 10 movies this semester, at press time. Copyright law requires that Principia contact a public performance licensing agent – in this case, Swank Productions – to obtain the rights for showing each of the films it wants. In exchange for the rights to show a mixture of two recent releases and three “library films” this semester, Principia paid approximately $4,500. According to Grimmer, who negotiated the prices, the process included “about three weeks of negotiating. It ended up saving us $700 to $800 for the year.” Next semester, however, costs might rise due to plans to renovate Perry Lounge as a more accessible student hangout and movie-watching location.
The process by which movies are chosen by Student Life is fairly simple. Grimmer coordinates with social heads and social assistants to choose movies that will both appeal to the campus and satisfy student demand. According to junior Erica Suess, a social assistant, “Options are given at social head meetings. Brett or one of the SAs will give suggestions, and we’ll get feedback from social heads.” Sometimes, social heads or social assistants will share movies that students have mentioned. The group votes to decide which movies students will be likely to want to see the most.
There are guidelines for which movies are appropriate to show to the campus in general. The “Blue Pages” contain a section regarding what kind of media can be shown on campus. Sprague said, “It mentions in the ‘Blue Pages’ that we want to enhance, enrich and uplift the thought of the community. So at all of our events, that is one of our goals.” This rule means that no movies rated NC-17 can be shown, and films are carefully considered for thematic content. Additionally, Student Life ensures that each film will not detract from the atmosphere of Christian Science at Principia. A veto system is in place in order for Student Life to definitively make sure each film fits these criteria.
This veto process was most recently employed during the film selection for Halloween weekend, which was zombie-themed. Three zombie movies were considered, but all three had factors that were inconsistent with the “Blue Pages” stipulations.
Grimmer, the social assistants, and social heads considered “Zombieland,” “World War Z” and “I Am Legend.” “Zombieland” was deemed too obscene and “World War Z” too violent. “I Am Legend,” however, underwent careful consideration before it was ultimately rejected.
According to Suess, “It was shown two years ago, so we thought it was a good idea. But it ended up that the movie was shot down because of the idea of contagion that is prevalent in ‘I Am Legend.’” Due to recent international news of contagion and the fear associated with it, “I Am Legend” seemed to be an equally inappropriate choice. Instead, the film “Coraline” was shown in Crafton, and subsequently received the lowest attendance of the year, although Grimmer and Sprague believed this was in part due to the absence of many sports teams from campus and the less-than-desirable location for movie viewing.
Other films, such as club-sponsored films shown in venues like Wanamaker and Cox, must be approved by Student Life. They are subject to the same copyright stipulations as other films shown publicly by the school. According to Grimmer, the reason a movie (such as the BSU and GSA’s recent attempted showing of “For the Bible Tells Me So”) would be turned down is if club members did not receive appropriate permissions from the film’s manufacturers, or if they did not submit a request to Student Life in time to plan for the necessary Media Services support.
The movie showings on campus are centered around what students want. Grimmer and Sprague said that they are always open to new ideas. According to Grimmer, students other than those who work for Student Life are highly involved in the actual presentation of the films, as well. He said, “We want to put on events that are student-driven. The SAs are the face and host of the event. We believe they are better attended when it is student-idea-driven. Students do the facilitating, hosting and promoting.”