Silent Movie Night: a good time for a few

The creative concept struggles for a successful attendance turnout.

The latest big idea from Student Life generated quite a buzz, drawing in a crowd of… about 25 students. The Silent Movie Night on Wednesday was an interesting concept that ultimately fell short of being able to be considered a successful event.

The premise was simple. Three different movies would be projected in different parts of the Great Hall. Participants would wear headphones that allowed them to connect to the audio stream of any of the three films. Everybody would come to the same place, share the same snacks, but have three options of what movie to watch.

Unfortunately, it seems the students of The University of Tulsa did not view three movies as three times the appeal. The event was posted as starting at 7 p.m. The movies did not begin until 7:30 p.m. At that time, there were a total of 15 students present. A few more came in later, but not in large numbers unless they snuck in while I was not looking. Not every event needs to have tons of people to be considered a success. Yet for something as simple as watching a movie (or three), attendance feels like an important metric. The event was prepared for many more people. There were huge supplies of headphones. There were nearly 200 chairs set out in huge rows. While it is better to be overprepared than underprepared, it felt like a lot of effort was wasted for such a meager turnout.

Beyond attendance, I would say the event was of decent quality. The snacks consisted of chips, soda and candy, a trio that is hard to say no to. I was worried about the headphone technology, but it worked smoothly. It was easy to set your channel. The audio quality was passable, though not top-notch. The convenience of personal volume control was pleasant; the typical worry of a movie screening being too loud or too quiet was gone.

The movie selection took advantage of the unique nature of the event. Usually, movie events are forced to pick a movie with a wide appeal that anyone would want to watch, but with three options, the movie choices could be more niche. You had the option to watch “Enter The Dragon,” the 1973 action classic martial arts spy thriller showcasing the legendary Bruce Lee in his final role. The second option for attendees to watch was “BlacKkKlansman,” the award-winning 2018 biography comedy commentary film about an African-American police officer and his partner infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. Finally, the third option attendees could watch was “Twilight.” Each movie had different appeals, drawing in different people.

But beyond allowing different movies to be shown, the gimmick of the separate films and the headphone audio ultimately did not do much for the event. The setup of the room kept each movie screening separate, with “BlacKkKlansman” and “Enter the Dragon” on opposite walls on one side of the hall and “Twilight” behind a divider. Once you went to your chosen film, the experience was just a movie screening with headphones (unless you wanted the experience of watching a martial arts action movie with the audio from “Twilight” and pretending that Bruce Lee was saying Bella’s lines, which is not the worst idea). Going into the event I was expecting all three films to be side by side. I wanted to watch some martial arts in the middle of my docudrama and get constantly distracted by the absurd blue filter on “Twilight.”

But no, it was just a normal movie-watching experience. That is not a bad thing, but it made the “silent movie night” gimmick a bit pointless. Maybe it would be preferable if there were multiple small-scale movie events with only a few people showing up rather than one large movie event with only a few people in attendance.

I am glad we experimented with this Silent Movie Night concept. It might have been better with more advertising and a larger turnout. It was a fun event, but not in any way an important event.

Post Author: Isaac McGill