|A BEMAD ad from the Indiana|
Daily Student newspaper.
When I was a junior at Indiana University in the late 1970s, four friends and I formed an organization that showed movies to raise money for our dorm floor. Using the first letter of each of our last names, we called our group BEMAD Productions. BEMAD showed 16mm films at various locations on the Bloomington campus, charging from $1 to $1.50 per student. Our eclectic choice of films included: The Pink Panther; Start the Revolution Without Me; Fellini’s Casanova; Enter the Dragon; Horror of Dracula; and several of the James Bond films. Our biggest hit—prior to 1980—was a Halloween night showing of Night of the Living Dead.
Most show biz stories center on a tenacious rivalry and this one is no exception. The largest film-showing organization on campus was called the Union Board. It received funds from each student as part of a required “activity fee.” As a result, Union Board was well funded and could afford to show the most current 16mm film releases, which sometimes cost as much as $425 for a one-day rental (vs. 50% of the gross profits). BEMAD, which covered its own expenses, couldn’t compete with those exorbitant prices. Furthermore, Union Board got first dibs on current releases because it booked so many films with the 16mm rental companies.
The temptation to “scoop” Union Board was great, but the cost seemed prohibitive. We were particularly concerned with showing Halloween in March instead of October—especially since it had played theatrically for a long time at the Princess Theatre, Bloomington’s $1 movie house. That’s when the film company’s rep suggested that we just put the rental on a credit card. We wouldn’t have to pay anything upfront—and surely we’d make more than $500 to cover the cost. The only problem was that, as poor college students, we didn’t have a credit card.
I did, however, have my father’s credit card…which he gave me for use in an emergency. Didn’t the chance to be the first campus organization to show Halloween qualify as “an emergency”? Besides, I wouldn’t even have to tell Dad because the credit card wouldn’t be charged unless we failed to make $500—and that would never happen!
Everything went smoothly prior to the big night. We booked an auditorium in the Business Building. Advertised in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. Put up 200 flyers all over campus. Procured two projectors. Got a roll of tickets and money for the till.
By 6:30 on Friday night, we were all set up and ready to reap in huge profits. Twenty minutes prior to the first show time—when patrons usually started to drift in—no one was there. At 6:50, I peered into the auditorium and counted about a dozen people. I sat down on the steps of the projection booth as a wave of nausea washed over me. I envisioned myself explaining to Dad how I had spent $500 on a movie rental using his credit card—and lost about $400! How could I have possibly placed myself in such a horrible, embarrassing situation?
And then…people started to arrive…in big bunches. By 7:05, the auditorium was full and John Carpenter’s eerie music was playing over the credits. We sold out almost every show at the 7, 9, and 11 PM showings on Friday and repeated the feat on Saturday. I don’t even remember how much we made, but it was more than enough to cover the full rental cost and allow for a generous donation to the Film Studies Office.
|My friend Terry (right) told our Halloween|
story to John Carpenter many years later.