In March, Turner Theatre received a budget of $25,000 from Elon University to continue its operations, according to Bryan Baker, director of multimedia projects and theater manager.
The operations budget covers the amount it takes to purchase films prior to public release. “To show a brand new movie, a movie that hasn’t hit home DVD or you can’t Netflix or anything, costs about $800 to screen that film. If you screen that film for more than a day it doesn’t cost another $800 it may cost another $100 depending on what that movie is,” Baker said.
However, the cost of films in Turner Theatre differs from the amount allotted by SGA to the Student Union Board’s Cinema Board. On Fridays and Saturdays, SUBCinema showcases popular films on a separate budget, while Turner Theatre’s budget pertains to independent, documentary and family-friendly films on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Despite the difference in costs and film genres, the two organizations found an opportunity to provide free entertainment to students and faculty due to the theater’s strategic location on campus. Although Southeast Cinemas at Alamance Crossing is less than 10 minutes away, Baker emphasized Turner Theatre’s ability to bring films to campus for students who do not have access to a car.
“We thought it would be great to partner with SUB and bring them in and give them a theater to be able to show students movies,” Baker said.
Sophomore Julia Walter, Turner Theatre’s student manager, highlighted the importance of having a cinematic culture on campus. “I think [Turner Theatre] has been more of a community builder more than anything, where everyone can come together and watch a movie,” Walter said.
An indicator of Turner Theatre’s cinematic culture is the rate of attendance by students and faculty members during showings. In 2017, Walter noticed an increase of attendance after the limited releases of "Moana" and "La La Land."
“We had to turn people away because we didn’t have enough seats,” Walter said.
Baker agreed with the increased numbers of students and faculty but acknowledged its fluctuation based on the films shown.“There’s also been movies where we’ve had five people or ten people,” Baker said.
Even with the variations in attendance from the Elon community, Turner Theatre is catered towards students within the School of Communications. As the ElonDocs, Cinelon, ElonTonight and Bachelors of Fine Arts programs use Turner Theatre for their festivals in the upcoming weeks, the theater continues to focus on the impact it has on students within the School of Communications to exhibit their work.
“The primary reason Turner Theatre exists is to provide not only an opportunity for our Cinema and Television arts program to have an opportunity to show their movies and also to be able to view movies that they would like to see to continue on their education,” Baker said.
Walter, a Cinema and Television Arts major acknowledged the payoff, but expressed a desire to use the theater as a networking tool for the future.
“I think it’s definitely paid off for everything that we’ve done. We’ve got a good system now. One thing I would like to see us do more is to show more alumni films because we do have a strong network of alumni who work on films," Baker said. “That would be helpful just to get those contacts.”