Cinema on Campus

What’s up, Doc?

By Michelle Welch

It can be difficult to find the motivation to get out of Hyde Park, even if you could use some entertainment. Luckily, when you need cheap cinema fare (but not the trip downtown), campus offerings have you covered.

Doc Films » Doc is the first stop for getting your film fix at the U of C. Vanity Fair’s The Film Snob’s Dictionary describes the group as such: “Hard-core beyond words and lay comprehension, the society is populated by 19-year-olds who have already seen every film ever made, and boasts its own Dolby Digital-equipped cinema and an impressive roster of alumni that includes Snob-revered critic Dave Kehr.”

Between first and tenth week, Doc screens nightly movies at the Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. Weeknights are reserved for special series assembled by Doc volunteers and typically revolve around a certain theme, director, or period. Past series include the filmographies of the Coen brothers and Alfred Hitchcock, “Cinematic Sexualities in the 21st Century,” and “Cinemasaurus.” Weekend slots are reserved for second-runs of recent theatrical releases as well as occasional classics.

Tickets are a steal at $5 apiece. You can also purchase a quarter pass for $30, $28 if you had a pass the previous quarter—or duck paying completely by becoming a volunteer. Picking up a weekly shift as a ticket seller, fire guard, show captain, or projectionist will grant you a free pass to every show on the calendar, and the chance to meet other film fans. Doc also attracts industry guests and offers advance screenings to upcoming films. Past guests include Ang Lee and Robert Redford, and advance screenings have included Children of Men and Adventureland.

Film Studies Center » Located on the third floor of Cobb, the FSC isn’t just for celluloid-hungry zombies from the Cinema and Media Studies Department. Just sign up with the desk attendant and you’ll be given instant privileges to watch any movie from the on-site-only film library catalog. As a primarily academic research facility, the FSC boasts a large collection of both obscure and well-known titles on DVD and VHS, including rare and out-of-print titles. The Center welcomes requests, so the collection is ever-growing. Film buffs should also check out the FSC-sponsored lectures and workshops with guest filmmakers, historians, and critics.

Cinema and Media Studies Department » Another hidden gem, this department has a lot to offer, even if you’re not taking its classes. You can attend screenings in Cobb 307, often scheduled between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. during the week, with some weekend and weekday afternoon times.

Anyone interested in catching a free movie can stop into the Film Studies Center and check the week’s schedule listed according to course. While a variety of well-known classics are always on the calendar thanks to perennial offering Intro to Film, depending on the class, you might find 1920’s German films on the docket for one evening, and on the next night something even further out there.

Fire Escape Films » Want to see your own work on the big screen? Fire Escape can help, even if you don’t know the lens cap from the hand strap. The group pairs newbies with veteran student filmmakers to work on an intro project, so newcomers can learn their way around the equipment, and, as Fire Escape puts it, “break as few things as possible.”

If you don’t have time to make your own movie, you can still check out what the other kids are doing: Fire Escape holds three annual screenings at Doc in winter and spring quarters. On the opposite extreme, you can’t get much more intense than teaming up for the 48-Hour Film Festival.

Cinephilic campus groups abound, but don’t forget that your friends and dormmates can also broaden your movie-watching horizons. Many houses compile lists of residents’ collections for easy borrowing, and some have a movie czar in charge of screening a flick once a week.

So when even Doc’s too much of a trek, your house lounge is the perfect place to get to know your roommate’s zombie movie collection—or just divert yourselves from all of that Civ reading with an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.