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October 14, 2015

EDITORIAL: Don’t Betray Cornell Cinema, Again

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Last week, Cornell Cinema was unable to secure the number of votes needed from the Student Assembly to raise the amount of byline funding the organizations receives each year. The vote follows a recommendation from the Student Assembly Appropriations Committee that urged the S.A. not increase the Cinema’s funding. While the committee suggested that Cornell Cinema further reduce its costs, additional cuts adversely affect the programming and benefits the organization provides for the campus community. We urge the members of the S.A. to reconsider their decisions to ensure the vitality of Cornell Cinema for future Cornellians.

In its recommendation, the Appropriations Committee argued that Cornell Cinema should not be granted an additional $1.40 per student increase, raising its byline funding amount from its current $10.60 to $12 per student. Yet while Cornell Cinema has continuously reduced its costs since having its budget cut in 2009, the costs of running a theater have increased. As movie studios across the country also face higher costs and lower revenues, they are seeking new ways to increase revenue through film rental costs, as outlined in Cornell Cinema’s funding proposal. Additionally, the minimum wage in New York State will rise to $9.00 per hour in 2016, which will provide an extra cost for the already cash-strapped theater. These increased costs, in addition to fewer grants and reduced contributions from the College of Arts and Sciences, will force Cornell Cinema to make additional cuts that would prove detrimental to its programming and the cultural benefit the theater brings to Cornellians and Ithacans alike.

Cornell Cinema, which is experiencing increased undergraduate attendance, also provides additional late-night opportunities for students seeking alcohol-free alternatives. Keeping the current level of funding will likely result in fewer showtimes throughout the academic year (Cornell Cinema already reduced its Summer Sessions showings), providing Cornellians with fewer options for inexpensive stress relief. With the S.A.-sponsored Mental Health Awareness Week beginning later this week, we find it hypocritical for representatives to vote against supporting an entertainment venue that can help to reduce stress among Cornellians across campus.

After the Student Assembly voted to slash Cornell Cinema’s budget in 2009, a full page of The Sun’s Arts and Entertainment section read “S.A. BETRAYS CULTURE. LONG LIVE CORNELL CINEMA!” We continue to stand behind the Cinema for all it provides the Cornell community. To maintain the diversity of programming and the benefits that additional late night programming provides for students’ well-being, the S.A. must vote on Thursday to support Cornell Cinema through increased byline funding.

  • Bean Counter

    The $10.60 per undergrad student now provided to Cornell Cinema represents about $155K annually. How many undergrad tickets to Cornell Cinema are used? Earlier Sun reporting mentioned 10,700 undergraduates; is that tickets or different people? If it’s tickets, that means Cinema is getting a subsidy of more than $14 per undergrad use. This funding issue should have a few more acts on the table.

    • George Valtom

      “per undergrad use” I beg you to reconsider your mathematics. If a person actually uses the cinema more than once, then the “per use” cost decreases.

      Plus, we are all already paying for things we don’t use. I don’t attend athletic events, I couldn’t go to convocation this year, and I didn’t go to Slope Day last year (and hearing the noise pollution from it, I don’t intend to). So the argument that “everyone shouldn’t pay for it if not everyone uses it” is moot.

      In addition, the idea that the majority of people have to attend to get funding doesn’t hold up. Let’s say that your argument, that most of the tickets sold are repeat customers, is true. Well, one can look at groups that receive funding from the SA, but only benefit a certain minority. The benefit they provide is very great, so of course I support them. In the same way, even if the cinema only serves a minority of students, the fact that nearly 11,000 tickets were sold should be proof that it has a very wide benefit.

      Of course, while the cinema can’t prove that those 11,000 tickets are all unique consumers, neither can the Student Assembly prove that only 2,000 people are buying those tickets. It is a point they try to press when they have no more evidence when we do.

      And honestly, I just ask you to consider this: $1.40 more per student. That’s all we’re asking for the year. Over the whole funding cycle, that’s $2.80. It will keep the cinema solvent and allow us to maintain our funding. Without an increase, our reserve account will be zero by the end of the year, and our future is very uncertain.

      When it comes down to it, the cinema can advocate for itself all it wants, but the Student Assembly is the organization voting. If they want to roll the dice and deliver this blow to the cinema, then the consequences are their own responsibility.

  • brother dan

    F*** Stefanko! He’s a Fake-o! – been hearing this chant a lot on campus lately

  • I loved Cornell Cinema when i studied for my dissertation on essay film. What can alumni do to help?