November 10, 2006

Doc Films cuts spending, reevaluates programming

Doc Films has decided to reduce its expenditures to better meet audience demand.

“The idea is that we need to turn our financial situation in a different direction,” said fourth-year Fred Pfeiffer, chair of the Doc board.

Under the new, more conservative budget, Doc Films will not allow weekday programmers to spend more money than their series is expected to generate. As a result, programmers will need to put their artistic ideas into a financial framework, Pfeiffer said.

“Specifically, we’ve looked at how much, on average, a quarter’s weekday series can earn and accordingly adjusted the amount that this programming can cost,” he said.

The board’s decision followed talks with the board of programmers—Doc’s artistic side—about how to cut costs while still scheduling interesting and diverse films.

Doc officials were unwilling to disclose precise earnings figures.

Doc is also working to add another matinee weekend movie showing to generate profit, Pfeiffer said.

For now, there are no plans to increase ticket prices, which rose from $4 to $5 last year.

Doc is currently surveying its audiences to determine what its clientele most appreciates. The group hopes to learn what factors prompt customers to buy tickets and movie passes, as well as which films people most want to see.

“One of the tricky things is figuring out what people want,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s a lot more complicated than you would expect. You have to factor in what’s on DVD, what things people have just seen in movie theaters and don’t want to see again.

“We’re hoping that by reaching out to the audience and then to the campus community, who is maybe not going to Doc, we can improve weekend programming.”

Pfeiffer said Doc finished a successful round of surveys last week.

“It’s a tangible analysis we can give to the programmers,” he said. “People had very specific suggestions and recurring suggestions for directors and genres they wanted to see, which we are very interested in.”

Doc is also planning a series of special events for 2007 to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Pfeiffer said the group hopes to attract a new audience with faculty movie presentations, three director events, and an exhibition on Doc alumni in the film industry.

“This is the other prong for reinserting ourselves into campus and Chicago,” Pfeiffer said. “Students on campus know who we are, know what we do, but we are not as present in their minds as we could be, and that is what this is all about.”