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SMAC develops ideas for new student theater

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When USM students hear their school is screening a movie, the first thing that comes to mind is likely images of crowds stretched out on blankets and a giant screen hoisted high in the air above a green lawn. Students at Florida State University, however, enjoy movies in their own Student Life Theater.

Interim director of Union programs Sid Gonsoulin and members of SMAC took a trip Feb. 2 to FSU to tour their facility and learn how the theater operates in order to apply similar ideas at USM.

According to the FSU website, the university’s Student Life Cinema program is one of the leading campus movie programs in the nation. The program elects a committee composed entirely of students to vote on and choose movies to show. The committee screens the selections five to six nights a week. Occasionally they show newly released movies. However, they also feature indie films, foreign films, documentaries and classics.

“For students at FSU, admission is free,” Gonsoulin said. “Their admission is included in the cost of their student fees. They allow non-student members of the community to pay a small ticket price as well.”

SMAC aims to enact a similar program at USM in the school’s Joe Paul Student Theater, an unfurnished and unfinished theater space in the Thad Cochran Center. Due to a lack of funding, USM discontinued the theater’s construction after the union was built.

“Most people don’t know that we have the capability or space for a theater,” said Jeff Taylor, assistant director of technologies and facilities for the Union programs department. “The same thing happened with the post office on the bottom floor as well. For a while, the space was empty because we simply didn’t have the funding for it.”

The theater’s namesake, Joe Paul, is the former vice president for Student Affairs. Paul served USM in various capacities for over 35 years.

Jeffery George, SGA president, said the theater is specifically called a “student theater” because of the way it has gained the needed funding.

“Things like this are what the capital improvement fees are for,” George said. “We want people to know that we’re proud of the fact that this theater will have been funded by students.”

George said that things such as the chairs in the theater and the stage will be available for donors to “buy” a space for their name, and the donations will go to scholarships for students.

According to the FSU website for the theater, Student Life Cinema Program has hosted guests such as Nick Offerman, Kevin Hart, Ice Cube and director Edgar Wright.

“At FSU, they show movies, but they also have guest speakers, comedians and other small acts perform in their theater,” Gonsoulin said. “Our intention is to have the theater here be primarily for movies, but we also want to have the ability to host other small acts. There is no intention of ever using the space as a classroom.”

Sarah Newton, project architect, said their priority would be showing movies.

“While we may host other things, we primarily want to keep this as its intended purpose: a movie theater,” Newton said.

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SMAC develops ideas for new student theater