Licenses for USG movie nights come at a high price

Patrick Koster, News Editor

United Students Government movie nights may be popular events on campus, but the prices to screen a featured film may not be so familiar.

USG, along with other organizations and clubs at SUNY Buffalo State, must obtain a film license prior to the public showing of any movie. However, film licenses can be pretty pricey.

USG Program Coordinator Lynn Korn said license fees can range anywhere from about $650 to $1,500 for films that are just out of theaters, and $350 to $500 for films that have been out of theaters for over a year.

If any organization or club does not obtain a film license before publicly showing a film, they are in violation of federal copyright law and subject to a $250,000 fine.

Korn said USG must obtain licenses from film distributors such as Swank Motion Pictures or the Criterion Collection. If Swank and Criterion do not have the film, Korn said USG must go directly to the company who released the film to obtain a license.

“Pricing can also depend on the popularity of the film, as well as how many movies you show a semester,” Korn said. “Our most expense movies this semester from Swank were ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Sisters’ for $700 each. Last semester we licensed Rocky Horror Picture Show through Criterion for $650.”

Buffalo State organizations don’t have much of a choice when it comes to obtaining a film license.

“There are other similar websites, but we can’t just steam movies via Netflix or home use DVDs,” USG Executive Vice President Emily Leminger said.

“A license is required for all public performances regardless of whether admission is charged,” Swank’s website said.

Even smaller clubs, organizations, or groups at Buffalo State must obtain a film license.

“A license needs to be obtained regardless of the number of people attending the screening, if the movie is being shown outside your home,” Swank’s website said.

According to Swank’s website, the prices for film licenses are for a one-day rental. On top of this, an additional $100 fee is charged for each additional consecutive day a film is shown.

Charging for admission can lead to an even higher price for a particular film.

“If you charge admission, your movie rental rate is the flat rate versus 50 percent of your gate receipts, whichever is greater,” Swank’s website said.

The selection of a movie for USG movie nights is primarily based on student feedback.

“We generally have programming meetings when we decide how many movies and what kind of movies we want to show,” Leminger said. “The AVP for Student Life decides on collaborations and themes.”

Leminger said cost, availability, content, student interest, and collaborating groups all play a role in deciding what movies are screened and when.

“USG usually conducts surveys to see what movies students want to see,” Korn said. “This semester, we also put a proposal out to all USG organizations, asking if they wanted to collaborate on our movie nights and help choose the films shown.”

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