Celebrate 100 years of Union Board Films with showing of silent-era ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’

Inside IU Bloomington contributed to this post:

Union Board Films will celebrate its centennial with a special screening of the 1920 silent film “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” at 8 tonight in Alumni Hall. David Briggs will provide live accompaniment to the horror film on the Webb-Ehrlich Great Organ, which was installed during the hall’s 2012 renovation.


Organist David Briggs will play tonight at the screening of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’

At 100 years, the Union Board Film Series is the longest-running student-managed college series in the country.

The first “Campus Moving Picture Show” was presented Dec. 2, 1914. The day before the event, the Indiana Daily Student trumpeted it as “the first popular moving picture show to be installed on a college campus.”

In that year, the Great War erupted in Europe, the Panama Canal opened, Babe Ruth played his first Major League Baseball game and Charlie Chaplin made his first film. Woodrow Wilson was the president of the United States and William Bryan was the president of Indiana University.

“It’s pretty incredible to think that this student-run series began less than 10 years after the opening of what is considered the very first movie theater in the U.S., the Nickelodeon in Pittsburgh,” said Jon Vickers, director of the current IU Cinema. “Being able to boast having the longest-running student-managed film series in the country is a testament to the university’s commitment to the arts as well as student engagement and empowerment.”

Hole-in-the-wall theater

The university’s first theater was created in the Student Building by cutting a hole in the east wall of the auditorium and adding an “absolutely fireproof” projection booth in its Red Room.


IU Archives has articles on IU’s first movie show.

Students flocked to the event, paying 5 cents to see four reels, described as “3,000 feet of high class film.” Every seat was occupied and the student newspaper reported students standing three deep along the walls.

Music accompanied a first-night lineup of “The Telltale Knife,” “The Mill of Life,” “Wally Van” and “Thanks for the Lobster.”

To modern eyes, the summaries for these films are both amusing and quaint. In “The Telltale Knife,” a lovelorn cattle rustler and his criminal sidekick leap off a cliff when cornered by the county sheriff. Another film short, “Thanks for the Lobster” provided decidedly lighter fare. An ad from the period described how the star “does some queer dancing, up stairs, down stairs, upside down, on the ceiling and out a window. He wins the lobster, but others eat it.”

Today’s Union Board films

A century later, the Union Board Film Series is still going strong.

“Some schools show films from time to time, but not many have a regular program like ours that brings in 600 to 1,000 people each weekend,” said Rob Meyer, IMU assistant director for activities and events. “That’s pretty incredible.”

Union Board films are now shown in Whittenberger Auditorium, which has been updated with a digital projector, a new screen, improved acoustics and more than 400 new theater-style seats.

IU students can attend films free with a valid student ID. Admission is $2 per person for non-students.

The Indiana Memorial Union also will mark the milestone anniversary with free popcorn Dec. 2.

“For 100 years, the students have known they can come together to view top-notch films presented with the latest technology, made possible by the Union Board and its films committee,” IMU director Bruce Jacobs said. “I can only imagine what the next 100 years will bring, but I know it will be memorable.”

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