College towns aren’t always sleepy places where folks prefer Shakespeare to Soundgarden and football to foreign films. Even if their ivory towers don’t happen to sit among skyscrapers, many universities offer big-name concerts, sophisticated films, and cutting-edge radio. The schools below are at the top of their class in showing students a good time.
Univeristy of Chicago An astounding 600 films per year are presented by Documentary Films, the nation’s oldest continuously run (since 1932) student-operated film society. Despite its name, the society also shows art flicks, foreign films, and classics, along with the occasional blockbuster or original student film, in the university’s state-of-the-art 35-mm, Dolby SR Surround theater. Students pay, at most, $3 a film. A+
UCLA Close relationships with Hollywood film studios help bring 10 free sneak previews a year to this Westwood campus. In addition to the film school’s free nightly art/indie films, blockbusters appear two or three times a week, often in conjunction with such speakers as Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Mercedes Ruehl (The Fisher King). A
Vanderbilt This Nashville university says it spends more than most other schools in the country — $70,000 a year — to bring its students 60 films per semester. Last year this translated to four or five different films a week (some of which will be repeated this year), the only art films in town, plus classics, independents (during the annual weeklong Thinking Creek Film and Video Festival in June), and first-run films (last year: Terminator 2 and Thelma & Louise). Students pay $3, or 10 tickets for $25. A-
University of Texas Two on-campus theaters show films — mainstream and art flicks — four to six times almost every day during the school year. Films are shown in 16- and 35-mm format, and students at this Austin school pay a mere $1 to $3.50 per movie. A-
Cornell The renowned, ambitious film society at this Ithaca, N.Y., school shows two different rare, foreign, art, or commercial movies per day — usually in 16- or 35-mm format, with Dolby sound.
Dartmouth Another committed, ambitious film society at a school in the middle of nowhere (in this case, Hanover, N.H.) shows its students arty, funky films they might not get to see otherwise, in series with blockbusters like JFK and A League of Their Own, for $15 a term. Bill Pintz, director of the film center, also oversees the annual Telluride (Colo.) Film Festival.
Duke Students on this Durham, N.C., campus are admitted free to art films (Naked Lunch, High Heels) and vintage film series (Cukor, Fellini) three nights a week; weekend blockbusters (such as Batman Returns) cost only $3.
East Carolina University At another North Carolina school (this one in Greenville), an annual film budget of $50,000 enables students to see 74 films a year free of charge.
Upsala College (WFMU) Proximity to New York City (East Orange, N.J.) allows the aggressively progressive WFMU staff — mostly working professionals, not college students — to uncover such cutting-edge acts as Bongwater and John Zorn. New York bands (including God Is My Co-Pilot, the William Hooker Sextet, and Missing Foundation) frequently come into the studio to play live on the air. A+
University of California at Berkeley (KALX) KALX is considered by many in the field to be the Bay Area’s most well-rounded alternative station; the station’s adventurous staff resists record company hype and plays little major-label music. A+
University of Washington, Seattle (KCMU) Right place, right time — but KCMU’s contribution to the Seattle scene goes beyond just playing records by local acts: Years ago, members of Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and Mudhoney were DJs at the station. Local groups like Squirt occasionally come into the studio to play live on the air, but KCMU is also committed to reggae, rap, blues, and Third World music. A+
University of North Carolina (WXYC) This station’s strong influence on the community and firm support of on-the-verge local bands (Polvo, Superchunk) make it central to the burgeoning music scene in Chapel Hill, which industry sources say may well be the next Seattle. A
Georgia State University (WRAS) This radio station is powerful, both in wattage (100,000 watts, on a par with commercial FM stations in Atlanta) and in audience impact (15,000 listeners turned out for the station’s recent Sonic Sunday concert). Its rigid, comparatively conservative playlist (including Sinéad O’Connor, the B-52’s, Tori Amos, and Morrissey) doesn’t appear to discourage WRAS’ loyal following. B+