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The real best seat in town

Brian Doxtader | Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Many students may not realize that one of the best movie theaters in the state can be found right on campus.

The Debartolo Center for the Performing Arts houses the Browning Cinema, a venue with richly diverse screenings. An eclectic mix of films is played there each semester and Fall 2005 will continue that trend. Whether showing an early silent domestic picture or a first-run foreign film, The Browning combines all the best elements of arthouse and popular cinema in a single venue.

While the PAC is usually reserved for Film, Television and Theatre class screenings during the week, the venue opens to all students – as well as the general public – on weekends.

“The PAC can provide screening opportunities that rival most major cities,” said Jon Vickers, the Browning Cinema Manager. “Even a city with a good arthouse may not show as many classic films as we’re showing.”

The Browning screens a variety of film styles from many different countries, giving students the opportunity to be exposed to types of cinema they would not normally find in domestic theaters. This includes classic foreign and arthouse cinema as well as more recent films.

Everything from Fritz Lang’s silent classic “Metropolis” (1927) to Pedro Almodovar’s ultra-contemporary “Talk to Her” (2002) will be shown in a THX-certified setting.

THX certification is only given to theaters that meet the highest standards of picture and sound quality and the Browning Cinema is one of the only screens in Indiana that has been given that distinction.

Since the Browning’s screenings are open to the public, some studios will deal directly with the University. This allows the venue to receive special prints of films that are still in their major theatrical runs. Among the first-run films being screened this semester are David LaChapelle’s “Rize.” Paul Haggis’ “Crash,” Marilyn Agrelo’s “Mad Hot Ballroom” and Gus Van Sant’s “Last Days.”

Additionally, the use of The Browning as a public theater allows for a student discount. Each screening costs only $3 for students, $4 for seniors, $5 for faculty and staff and $6 for the general public.

“The charges for a non-theatrical venue, which is most universities, are typically much higher than for theatrical,” Vickers said. “Everyone thinks that studios give colleges a break, but it’s quite the opposite.”

The goal of the PAC is not to make money, but to give students the chance to attend cinema that might not normally catch their attention.

Aside from the contemporary films screened, the Browning plays host to the PAC Classic 100 Films, a list compiled by Jon Vickers and John Haynes, the director of the DPAC.

“It took us a number of months to compile the list,” Vickers said. “We merged together 10 outside lists, then would pick and choose substitutes to get a good balance.”

Every film shown in the PAC Classic 100 is projected in an authentic 35 or 70 millimeter print, which come straight from the studio. Using such a print ensures that each movie is screened in its original theatrical presentation. Among the films being shown this semester as representatives of the PAC Classic 100 are such classics as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” and Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” (crowned by the American Film Institute as the number one movie of all time).

The most important quality of The Browning may be the diversity of its content. Vickers emphasizes the importance of exposure to the less contemporary films that the PAC hosts.

“The Browning is giving the Notre Dame and South Bend community the chance to see great international art-house titles plus a wonderful supply of classic films,” he said. “There are probably some students who have never seen a foreign film. They should take this opportunity because half the cinema circulated worldwide is not from the United States.”

The Browning will host three very different films this weekend. Turkish writer/director Fatih Akin’s “Head-On” (Thursday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.), will be screened first. Akin’s forceful character study and psychological drama won the Golden Bear at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival. Later this weekend, the Browning will host “Murderball,” (Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.), a documentary about a violent sport played by quadriplegic athletes. “Murderball,” like many films shown at Performing Arts Center, is still in its first theatrical run.

Finally, the Browning will host Jean-Luc Godard’s groundbreaking 1959 film “Breathless,” (Saturday at 3 p.m.) the latest entry in the PAC Classic 100. “Breathless” was one of the first films in The French New Wave, a movement that revolutionized contemporary cinema.

The Browning Cinema is one of the many assets that can be found on campus, but its importance is not limited to the Notre Dame community alone. As one of the best movie theaters of any kind in the state, it is a valuable resource for movie-lovers and the general public alike.

For more information and a full list of scheduled screenings, visit the DPAC Web site at http://performingarts.nd.edu