As Dukes head back to JMU, giving their families a look around campus, one building they come across is unlike the others — Grafton-Stovall Theatre. Soon, crowds of movie-lovers will make their way to this special stage to catch the latest flick everyone is raving about.
On August 12, the University Program Board announced on Twitter that Grafton-Stovall Theatre movies will be free for the upcoming school year. UPB Coordinator Lexi Swiminer wanted to tackle accessibility issues so students can enjoy films without a financial burden.
Last spring, UPB reevaluated its budget, and with additional funds from the university and increased revenue from advertisements, it was able to take away the $3 cost of movie showings. Film director and senior communication science and disorders major Rachel Pellegrino said that since most UPB events are free, it would only make sense to make movies free too.
“It seems like it’s not that big of a thing, but we see it as a way for people to go out and do something — to hang with other people,” Pellegrino said. “We’re definitely hoping that this brings more people to our movies.”
Since UPB is expecting larger audiences at the movies this year, it’ll begin offering Tuesday night showings at Festival Conference and Student Center to reach East Campus students.
Removing the cost barrier will also allow UPB to partner with campus organizations to host free movie events. For example, Swiminer wants to work with the Center for Multicultural Student Services to show support for Black History Month through free showings. She said that partnerships, along with increased accessibility, will likely gain a larger student audience from both sides of campus.
“I don’t think there’s a reason not to come,” Swiminer said. “Going to the movies is a low-risk activity for students to connect with other people on campus. While movies are fun and entertaining and something to laugh at, it’s also sometimes a way to learn.”
As a big movie buff, junior public administration major Tyler Strosnider spends one or two nights each month enjoying a night out at Grafton-Stovall with his friends.
“It’s good to just go out there and have a good time, and it’s so cheap,” Strosnider said. “It being free now is going to make it so much easier, and I’m probably going to be going more.”
Since the theater is only a short walk from most dorms and parking garages, Strosnider’s first thought was that it would be more convenient to see popular movies without spending a fortune.
“We’re all just trying to make it in life right now, you know?” Strosnider said. “Everything is so expensive in school, and the fact that they’re getting rid of just that little bit of money we’re going to have to owe just makes it so much easier as a student.”
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