Sneak a free peek at pre-DVD movies

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By Erin Emin Wood

When RyeSAC premiered Scooby Doo as its first Wednesday Night Movie at the Ram in the Rye, attendance wasn’t what you’d call spectacular — just five to 10 people. But that was hardly a surprise given the date: Sept. 11, 2002.

“Right now it’s a well-kept secret at Ryerson,” says RyeSAC v.p. student life and events Crystal Adair. “Hopefully it won’t be for long.”

Although Adair’s hope of playing the hottest summer films to a packed Oakham House of students salivating for a pre-DVD look at the hits hasn’t materialized yet, things are looking up.

Seven days after Scooby Doo, about 15 people showed up for the sleeper hit Insomnia, and last week’s Men In Black II screening had an audience of 20. In just three weeks Oakham House’s lounge was one-third full, showing films that aren’t yet on video — without the audience having to pay a dime.

“The idea for movie nights came out of the philosophy of cheap events for students,” RyeSAC v.p. Student Life and Events Crystal Adair explains. “For $2 —$1 for spaghetti dinner and $1 for popcorn — students get a great night out and some of the best movies that have just left theatres.”

Bankrolling the cheap films is Criterion Pictures, which, for a licensing fee of $750 a year, has allowed RyeSAC full access to its considerable collection — including summer mainstays like Spiderman, Minority Report and Mr. Deeds.

With this agreement, students who might otherwise have to pay to see first-run movies can watch them for free. It sounds detrimental to the health of the business, but Suzanne Hitchon, a representative from Criterion, says “the movie industry recognizes that they can stop you, but even without the licensing, people will see their movies anyway. At least [this way] they receive some royalties on it.”

Of RyeSAC’s $750, half or more goes to the studios that own the films, which receive compensation on a pay-per-play basis — Columbia Studios for example, will receive about $200 when RyeSAC showcases Mr. Deeds later this month.

Meanwhile students see the movies for free — which is part of the contract and automatically charges 35 per cent of any ticket sales to the studios.

But Hitchon doesn’t believe the studios need to worry about students refusing to purchase the DVDs of movies they’ve already seen.

“It [actually] enhances DVD sales,” she says, “because the people who buy DVDs don’t buy them because they want to see the movie, they’re buying it because they want to add to their collections.”

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