Free admission for summer movies on Quad

Students, Champaign-Urbana residents, children and even dogs sprawled out on blankets and reclined in lawn chairs at 9 p.m. Thursday on the Quad to watch a free screening of “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

The screening was this summer’s first of three film showings that comprise the Summer Quad Cinema Series, a summer tradition presented by the Illini Union Board. In addition to Thursday’s screening of “Oz the Great and Powerful,” “42” will be shown on July 18, and “The Great Gatsby” will be shown on Aug. 15.

Tearria Beck-Scott, program adviser for Student Programs and Activities at the Illini Union, helps organize the series. Beck-Scott said the series has been a yearly fixture since at least the summer of 2009, in part because it appeals to both students and Champaign-Urbana residents. 

“It started because it’s a nice program to do in the summer for the people that are here and also people from the community,” Beck-Scott said. “We specifically try to pick movies that we think students would like and people from the community would want to go see.”

Beck-Scott said the films chosen for the series are typically both family friendly and recently released. “Oz the Great and Powerful,” for instance, was released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday. Beck-Scott said a film-distributing company, Swank Motion Pictures, acquires the rights to screen the films publicly for the University.

“We try to pick movies that are out of movie theaters but haven’t been released yet, in that window where people may still not have seen them. Those are the movies I want to see,” she said with a laugh.

“Oz the Great and Powerful” is based on L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” novels and the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” The film stars James Franco and Mila Kunis and was met with box office success upon its March release, grossing more than $490 million worldwide. The screening of the movie on the Quad was preceded by music videos from artists like Daft Punk and Phantogram, played on YouTube and projected onto the film screen.

Melanie Studzinski, who graduated in May, said Thursday’s screening of “Oz the Great and Powerful” was her second time attending the Summer Quad Cinema Series, having attended the screening of “The Lorax” last summer. 

“It’s fun,” Studzinski said. “I had a good group of friends who stayed down here last summer, so we all came out and watched it. It was just something fun to do because sometimes it can get kind of boring over the summer.”

Jamie Stadnik, junior in Engineering, also attended Thursday’s screening and said he was drawn to the event because of its free admission.

“Free is a nice price to see a movie at,” he said.

Beck-Scott said the Summer Quad Cinema Series is “a pretty inexpensive program” at less than $1,000, in part because the University has its own screen to show the films on.

Turnout for the screenings depends on the film and the date of the screening, she said, but the average is a few hundred people. Over 300 people came to the Quad to see Thursday’s screening.

“The Quad Day movie is typically huge, like a couple thousand people are out there,” Beck-Scott said. “When they showed ‘Bridesmaids’ a couple of years ago, there was a ton of people out there, like 2,000 people were out there.”

For the first time, the series may continue into the fall this year, depending on the turnout for the summer screenings, Beck-Scott said.

The Rec Room in the Union runs a special from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. for each screening, selling a bag of popcorn and small soft drink together for $1.

“It’s a cosponsorship we do with the Rec Room because it brings people to them, and it’s a nice way to promote us too,” Beck-Scott said.

Lauren can be reached at