Student organization reemerges with in-person movie screenings, reviving student life

Sydney Rent, Life & Arts General Reporter

As students reacquaint themselves with the ordinary sights and sounds of the Forty Acres, they run into old friends, navigate fallen electric scooters and possibly even encounter blind, super hearing aliens chasing Emily Blunt. 

“I was so excited to see they were showing ‘A Quiet Place’ at the Tower,” psychology junior Mary Lastra said. “It was the first time I had actually been on campus in over a year, and it was cool to see that some things were back to normal.”

Showtime, the student organization responsible for the outdoor showing of “A Quiet Place II” at the beginning of the semester, offers students free weekly screenings of blockbusters and hosts the late-night film series at the Union. Opening up for the first time since March 2020, the reappearance of Showtime’s screenings spotlights the ongoing revival of student culture at UT.

“My friends and I went to so many of those movies when I was a freshman,” Lastra said. “It’s really fun to be able to do that again this semester.”

Like many student organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Showtime to make some major adjustments. Showtime’s publicity officer Frida Lopez-Stern said Showtime temporarily embraced an online format during the pandemic.

“We didn’t completely go away, we found some innovative ways to keep the organization going,” said Lopez-Stern, a public relations and radio-television-film sophomore. “We partnered with Alamo Drafthouse to have a virtual series that we could distribute to students for free.”

Now, with the return to in-person activities on campus, Showtime’s movie screenings can once again call the Texas Union Theatre home. Felipe Rocha, Showtime chair, said these screenings look almost identical to those before COVID-19, with the exception of certain precautions.

“We’re trying to make them as safe as we can with the limitations we have,” said Rocha, a computational engineering junior. “We are encouraging everyone to wear a mask and we are doing contact tracing for everyone who comes.”

As the semester progresses, Showtime continues to host successful screenings and garner larger audiences.

“We’re getting the word out that we’re back and in the beginning, attendance was a little (lower),” Rocha said. “But we got 300 for just one screening of ‘In the Heights’ last week, so we’re getting back to normal as fast as we can.”

As students discover, or rediscover, Showtime and other reemerging in-person events, they revitalize a once dormant component of campus culture. Lopez-Stern said these screenings do not just mark a return to old practices but also a reunion of the student body. 

“People appreciate the experience of watching a film in a theater, surrounded by people there’s just something about watching a movie in a theater that can’t be replicated,” Lopez-Stern said. “A lot of people missed these experiences during the pandemic, and getting to have that experience again has been super meaningful and a great way to build community.”