Budget Insider: Scoring free screenings around campus

    I would like to take a moment to apologize to the hosts of all the Facebook events I’ve flaked on, but I’d also like to thank them for saving me time and money in unexpected places. In days gone by, this behavior might have been a deplorable etiquette faux-pas, but it’s 2015 and a triple-booked virtual dance card has its perks. This past week my lengthy list of RSVPs taught me a valuable lesson: you don’t have to go very far (or even leave your cyber bubble) to get VIP treatment. It also garnered me the biggest win of my life – that is, if you count a t-shirt and a seat at an already free screening a big win – and with a little social-networking savvy, so can you. After all, if you can’t get a break at the bank on your education, why not save a little on those extra-extra-curriculars, movies and TV? 

    If you can’t leave Chicago: 

    A short trek off campus and into the city can net some serious profits in terms of collegiate freebies. The University of Chicago is hosting a free advance screening of Amy Schumer’s movie, “Trainwreck,” on April 20, but the moviegoer may have to masquerade as a hated whatever-the-U-Chicago’s-mascot-is to get in. The movie does not come out in wide release until July 17, so seeing it months early is certainly the VIP treatment, but the long haul and cost of travel to the other side of the city might deter you from going. 

    If you can’t leave Evanston: 

    Northwestern-affiliated groups regularly host events screening different movies at theaters in Evanston, and getting on the VIP list takes nothing more than an active social media presence. Representatives from Universal Pictures Northwestern suggest liking their Facebook page to get clued in to screenings and contests they put on. Most recently, an early showing of the ridiculous cyber-thriller “Unfriended” included free tickets handed out in Norris to Facebook fans, as well as a contest in which five winners  received a free t-shirt, iPad case and poster along with VIP seats (this writer was among the elected). 

    If you can’t leave the school: 

    For a totally free experience, skip the transit and stay on campus, or, better, don’t even leave bed! Groups like Northwestern University Women Filmmakers Alliance and A&O screen films and occasionally offer free snacks. Everyone alrady knows about A&O screenings, but they’re definitely worth the trek to McCormick auditorium. Eliza Abramson, a junior in the School of Communication who organizes A&O screenings, works with two distribution companies to bring new titles to campus. "We work with our committees to pick something that is appealing to a wide variety of experiences," she said. If the cost effectivness isn't enough to convince you, Abramson said A&O chooses "movies that have just gone out of theaters but haven't come out on DVD," so you aren't likely to find them on Netflix.

    For anyone looking for a free movie and want to engage with important issues at the same time, some social justice organizations host events and open discussions of relevance to the film’s themes afterwards. Upcoming showings include an April 24 showing of “Precious,” hosted by Take Back the Night, a sexual assault awareness group – popcorn provided. 

    If you can’t leave your room:

    Of course, for the laziest viewer, there is always on campus Xfinity, or access to library film archives through certain classes. After all, everyone knows the biggest tuition discount is dropping every class but a cinema discussion section for the free movies.


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