The Varsity Theatre is a student-run movie theater located in the Wilkinson Student Center known for showing family-friendly features for only $1. Recent features include “A Quiet Place,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
BYUSA coordinator Logan Mann said not many people realize the theater is student-run.
“A lot of people have a misconception that (the Varsity Theater) is a fully functioning theater in the building, like how the bowling alley is downstairs,” Mann said. “Instead, it’s a program that student leadership chooses to support.”
Event specialist and public relations major Carson Hardy said BYUSA goes through a process to select titles that are deemed appropriate.
BYUSA students use filtering and parental rating systems — like Common Sense Media — to see what exactly is in the movie pertaining to language, violence and otherwise questionable content, according to Hardy.
“If it’s close (to not passing the BYUSA rubric) and we don’t rule it out completely, we go preview (the movie) to see if it really is bad enough to not show to a BYU audience,” Hardy said. “Then we have to determine if the students really want to see this or not.”
BYUSA and the event coordinators said in conjunction with deciding if a film appeals to the BYU audience, they want to also show movies that have a purpose.
“One of the important things (we have) been discussing is that we don’t want to show a movie just to show it,” Hardy said. “Even if it meets our standards, if we don’t think the student body will like it, we won’t show it.”
Hardy said some recent releases didn’t have much appeal to the BYU audience because of violent content.
Mann said there was a time early in the theater’s history when its niche was editing the movies to fit a BYU audience.
“With the evolution of copyright and how Hollywood has progressed, (editing) became a no-no. There are a few movies OK to show here unedited, but not many,” Mann said. “When (the Varsity Theater) couldn’t edit things the way they used to, the business went from a standalone business to being student-run.”
Hardy affirmed Mann’s statement and added BYUSA doesn’t even request the made-for-television or edited versions of the films. Hardy said the Varsity Theater only shows the theater and commercially released versions of movies.
There are a few different ways BYUSA funds the Varsity Theater. BYUSA is allotted certain funds right off the bat as a subsidized student organization.
“The tickets go to cover the cost of the movie. We have to license [the movies], and to do so, they either charge us a flat rate or 50 percent of ticket sales, whichever is greater,” Hardy said.
Hardy mentioned the difficulty of licensing these movies depends on the studio. He said the larger studios tend to be easier to deal with, as they have departments dedicated to licensing the films out to places like the Varsity Theater.
“Certain companies like Disney are easier to get than smaller ones,” Hardy said. “They go through different service providers who do the licensing for them. With the smaller studios, we have to either go through the studio themselves or the licensing office here at BYU.”
The Varsity Theater holds up to 350 occupants and can be reserved by students and faculty for a variety of events.
Upcoming events include:
- “Spiderman into the Spiderverse” (Feb. 29 – March 2)
- “Mary Poppins Returns” (March 7-9)
- Special Event (March 21-23): LDS throwback-flick marathon the weekend of March 21-23. 50 cents per movie. The films will include “The Best Two Years,” “Singles Ward” and “Pride & Prejudice.” Instead of one movie per night, the three movies will be mixed up throughout the three days.
- Special Event (March 29): There will be a free showing for students on March 29 for the documentary, “Liyana.” The film is only showing in places that are specifically booking it, such as the Varsity Theater. It is not currently showing in other local theaters.