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By Sonja Puzic

Early figures are reporting that RyeSAC failed to sell enough tickets to cover the costs of last week’s “Spike Lee Speaks Out” event.

RyeSAC’s vp finance and services Derek Isber estimated the financial loss from Spike Lee was under $20,000, but maintained that bringing the acclaimed filmmaker to Roy Thomson Hall was not a failure.

“We got national and even international media attention for RyeSAC…it was a huge success,” he said. At last Wednesday’s board of directors meeting, Vice-President Student Life and Events Cristina Ribeiro said profits from last year’s RyeSAC-sponsored session with director Kevin Smith (also held at Roy Thomson Hall) could cover the losses incurred by Spike Lee.

The Kevin Smith event made roughly $18,000 for RyeSAC. But Ribeiro said Thursday that “I don’t know anything about a huge loss (of money).”

She added that the venue “was pretty full and everyone who came out was happy with the event. It’s not like every other seat was empty.”

During a March 14 interview, events co-ordinator Jeff Zoeller said the Spike Lee session “was planned as a ‘break-even’ event” and was “doing pretty well.”

According to a sales chart from Roy Thomson Hall, just over 50 Ryerson tickets were unsold from its block of about 400. During the event, the bottom section and the middle level of the hall seemed to be full, but an entire section on the right side was empty.

There was no one in the balcony area, but those seats weren’t available for purchasing. McMaster University, York University, Centennial College, Humber College, Fanshawe College and George Brown College all chipped in and bought blocks of tickets from RyeSAC. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened,” said Isber.

John Harkenss, a senior entertainment writer for NOW Magazine, said Lee likely couldn’t draw the masses because he hasn’t produced a hit film in a few years. “His movies never did (appeal to different types of people).

His appeal is urban and he’s a very narrow-cast filmmaker,” said Harkenss.

The veteran film reviewer also thinks university students may not necessarily be able to identify with the now-aged former rebel. “People at Ryerson were probably about 10 years old when Spike Lee had his last big hit,” he said.

Still, RyeSAC claims that students who came to listen to Lee’s words of wisdom had a great time. “We don’t judge the success of our events based on money lost or gained,” said Zoeller.

“The Kevin Smith event and the Spike Lee event were both successful in their own way.”

– with files from Rob Shaw

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