Over the course of the fall semester, several Friday nights saw the Memorial Hall field being paid visits by unusual characters — people dressed as witches handing out candy, spooky red balloons hovering in the wind, and a dancing killer clown. But it wasn’t Halloween — it was Movie in the Green.
The Campus Housing and Community Living Office started its series of movie showings at the beginning of the semester as an opportunity for students to socialize and relax on Friday nights. It wasn’t the first event of its kind, however. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Housing office used to take students to the Cumberland 12 Cinema and offer free admission to watch a movie with friends. However, given social distancing guidelines during the pandemic, the cinema was not open and taking students to watch films together was not a realistic option.
Thomas Landon, the first-year residential program coordinator, said that the Housing office began planning strategically to bring back the moviegoing experience during the Fall 2021 semester.
“We realized we could implement that idea on our own campus,” Landon said. “We could rent a movie screen from a company that we already have a working relationship with, and we can provide that cinematic experience right here for students to enjoy.”
So Friday, Aug. 27, the first Movie in the Green took place on Memorial Hall field at 8:30 p.m. Students flocked to the field, bringing blankets and snacks to eat while watching the classic film “Jurassic Park.”
“We chose Jurassic Park because that had been a theme for Community Living this semester,” Landon said. Various pictures in many dorms on campus show community advisors and community directors posing with photoshopped dinosaurs.
The “Jurassic Park” showing was a “huge success” according to Landon, with anywhere from 50 to 70 people gathering in the field to watch the film. Many students arrived in large groups and shared snacks and refreshments while enjoying the movie. The field was also lit up with large glow-in-the-dark rings and glowsticks that had been passed out by Housing staff members before the film. Purple, white, yellow, red and orange lights cast a dim glow across the field with students wearing the rings around their necks and wrists.
“The movie was an amazing chance for me to make new friends and meet new people, since the semester had just started,” Junior Rubaa Khan said. “I had just arrived and moved into my dorm, and my new friends and I got to go watch the film together and have fun.”
The Movie in the Green series continued with other classic films. Among them were “Hocus Pocus,” “It: Part One,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.” During the screening of “Hocus Pocus”, staff members dressed as witches handed out candy, and the decorations were set up around the screen to match the movie’s theme as well. During “It: Part One,” red balloons were distributed, and staff member David Mcdonough dressed up as Pennywise the demonic clown.
“Being able to dress up as Pennywise was really unfortunate for some of our guests. Turns out they don’t like clowns as much as I do,” Mcdonough said. “I personally hate being scared, but this time the tables had turned, and I found myself chasing some very frightened students that ran away. I had an absolute blast, and was very appreciative of the opportunity given to me.”
Landon said Mcdonough’s portrayal of Pennywise was one of the highlights and most popular aspects of the whole Movie in the Green series.
“We discovered quite randomly that David can do the Pennywise laugh and dance really well,” Landon said. “So we decided to put him in the costume and set up a photo-op session during the movie. A lot of people stopped watching the film to come take pictures with him. They were really excited.”
Students also noticed the interesting marketing for “It: Part One.” Posters were hung up around campus with an announcement about a missing child, fitting the movie’s theme of abducted children.
“I really thought it was a real missing child poster,” Khan said, laughing. “It looked very real, and I thought UP hung it up. Then I realized it’s just an ad.”
For the final film, the Housing office collaborated with the Office of Alumni Relations to show “A Quiet Place: Part 2” Oct. 15. This screening was a drive-in showing and took place in the lot behind Sibley Hall.
Landon said one key challenge to screening the films was the weather.
“We were blessed by the rain gods with clear skies on the nights we showed the films,” he said. “But even then, it got really cold sometimes. That’s one of the reasons we gave blankets to students at the beginning of the semester. Despite that, it would get so cold near the end of the showings that I saw people run off freezing.”
Regardless, Landon described the event series as “100% a success.”
“It did exactly what we hoped it would do,” he said. “It brought students together and gave them a chance to hang out, have fun, and get to meet new people. It worked out great.”
Looking to the future, Landon said the Housing office is considering similar movie events, such as exploring the possibility of transporting students to the Cumberland 12 Cinema again.