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Declining Interest Endangers
University film co-ops are fighting By Peter Mooney
renovations and afading student interest.
THE UNIVERSITY'S FILM CO-OPS HAVE LONG OFFERED
AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE HIGH TICKET PRICES AND SMALL
SCREENS FOUND IN MANY COMMERCIAL THEATERS.
THOUGH REGARDED AS ONE OF THE BEST COLLEGIATE
FILM PROGRAMS IN THE COUNTRY, THE CO-OPS ARE
STUGGLING WITH FINANCIAL RESTRAINTS SO SEVERE THAT
THEIR FUTURE IS BECOMING ENDANGERED.
"Where before we would need to show some moneymaking films to
offset our losses, now we have to show all moneymaking films," said
Mike Rubin, president of the Ann Arbor Film Cooperative.
To many, the current fare offered by the co-ops pales before the more
innovative films brought to campus during the co-ops' heyday in-the
60's and mid 70's.
"In the 60's, we had a weekly showing of experimental films and the
seating capacity was insufficient to satisfy demand," said longtime
Cinema Guild member Edward Weber.
In more prosperous times, the film co-ops were able to buy much of
the equipment now in the auditoriums. "We put all the projectors into
Lorch Hall. We purchased a lens for cinemascope and we were the
original sponsor of the 16 mm film festival," said Cinema Guild's
Now, to save money, film groups
are showing fewer films on
weeknights, fewer recent films, and
fewer films that are unfamiliar to
Cinema II, which had been
known as the foreign film co-op, has
been unable to show any films this
semester. The group is $11,000 in
debt and until it pays auditorium and
film projection debts, the University
won't allow it to rent auditoriums.
The group hopes to come back next
No one attributes the film co-
ops' financial setbacks to a single
factor. One of those frequently
mentioned, however, is the high cost
of renting auditoriums from the
"I think that to reduce the cost of
auditoriums would help the film co-
ops a great deal," said University
Film and Video Professor Hugh
Currently the University charges
film societies $125 for the use of
auditoriums. The film groups point
out that among Big Ten institutions,
Michigan is one of only two which
charge for the use of auditoriums. In
addition to the auditorium costs are
film rentals that can range from $50
to $100 for a classic film to $500 to
$700 for a recent release. The co-ops
must also pay film projectionists.
Recent problems have become so
acute that University administrators
are taking heed. At a meeting on
September 28, representatives from
the University's film co-ops met
with Dean of Long Term Planning
Jack Meiland, Associate Vice
President for Academic Affairs Mary
Ann Swain and various other faculty
members and administrators to
discuss the increasing financial
troubles of the film programs.
No decisions were made, but
according to several of those in
attendance, Dean Meiland agreed to
take their concerns about the
auditoriums to the University's fee
committee in order to determine if
the costs truly reflect the
If auditorium rentals were brought
down, ticket prices could also be
lowered - which some believe is
Mooney is a Daily Opinion page
Ann Arbor resident Jim Cruse and Alan Schulman, RC senior, mer
Film Coop, sell tickets at a recent showing.
the key to increasing attendance.
"The price went up to $2.5C
from $2 or $2.25 a few years ago
and we'd like to bring them back
down," said Rubin.
Other factors that have been
mentioned as possible reasons for
declining attendance include the
increasing use of VCRs on campus
and the changing tastes of students.
"In the early eighties there were
less videos. Where three years ago
you could find Rambo, now you can
find Renoir and Ozu, basically
anything you want," said Rubin.
Cinema Guild member Louis
Goldberg added that "the reason I
think film co-ops are in a decline is
a difference between the popular
choices of the students and the co-
As a result, many co-ops are
reducing the number of showings
during the week and choosing well-
known films they believe are sure
money-makers. "I definitely feel that
the film societies have become more
mainstream because it's difficult to
take risks when the financial
situation is tenuous. Even if a film
is good and should be shown on
campus, you really have to think
about it before you make that
decision," said Mediatrics Co-Chair
Marisa Szabo. Mediatrics is an
extention of the University
Besides trying to get lower rental
rates, film co-ops are hoping to find
innovative ways to attract more
students. Mediatrics plans to move
away from a menu of films which
Co-Chair Heidi Heard calls "All-
Heard says the group would now
like a more eclectic mix of films.
The AAFC has already begun
improving its diversity.
"Starting this weekend we're
showing a big cult film festival.
Alfred Hitchcock remains
a campus cinema favorite.
We're showing widely known cult
films like Pink Flamingo, Texas
Chain Saw Massacre, King of
Hearts, and Faster Pussycat, Kill!
Kill! under the umbrella of cult
films. We're showing more obscure,
but equally as good films such as
Morgan!, Bedazzled, Targets and the
midwest premiere of Ms. 45," Rubin
In the 70's, film co-ops brought
in such luminaries as Wernor
Herzog, Robert Altman and Frank
Capra to discuss films. Rubin feels
this is an important way to intensify
film interest. Last year, the AAFC
brought director Margarethe von
Trotta to Ann Arbor for Ro s a
Luxemburg 's midwest premiere.
The ever-popular James Dean lashes out at father Raymond Massey in 'East of Eden.' Films such as this are getting harder tofind on campus.
PAGE 6 WEEKEND/OCTOBER 2, 1987
WEEKEND/OCTOBER 2, 1987