Three years ago, Shannon O’Connor wanted to see The Perks of Being A Wallflower for free—so she scoured the internet to find passes for advance film showings. As a freshman, she created a Facebook group, aptly named Emerson Students Love Free Movie Screenings, to help others solve the same problem.
“I spent a lot of time looking for [tickets], and I figured that kids would be doing the same thing,” the senior journalism major said. “I just kind of took out the middle man and went right to the source."
O’Connor said she began by inviting other Emerson freshmen. Now, the group has nearly 1,900 members. O’Connor said the page is not exclusive, as students from other local schools receive updates too.
“If you’re a student and you’re trying to see a free movie, it doesn’t really bother me. We’re all in the same boat,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the community continued to grow after her sophomore year.
“I wasn’t posting as much because other people were posting,” O’Connor said. “There were a lot more people that were in tune to what was going on.”
One of those people was Michelle Douvris, a senior marketing communication major who said she has been friends with O’Connor since they were freshmen. In the fall of her junior year, Douvris started interning in Boston with Allied Integrated Marketing, a company with 23 offices and entertainment clients like 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures.
To publicize a studio’s film, Allied hosts free screenings for the press. As an intern, Douvris said she had the responsibility of filling the rest of the theater’s seats. Douvris said O’Connor’s Facebook group was helpful in accomplishing that task.
“It was really great because I was able to directly talk to my bosses and say, ‘We have this group that’s really growing, it’s a big audience,’” Douvris said. “‘It’ll help you guys out, and, on the other hand, we’ll be providing cool opportunities for Emerson students who really want to see your movies.’”
Douvris said Allied was a crucial component to the success of O’Connor’s Facebook group.
“Without them, we would be looking all over trying to find links on the websites,” Douvris said. “But Allied is the company that even gives the websites those links, so everything starts from them.”
According to Douvris, when she first started at the marketing agency, there was only one other Emerson student working with her. But she said that after referring her classmates, they are now much more present in the company’s pool of interns.
“Now I think there’s a really heavy connection which I’m really proud of,” Douvris said. “It’s such a cool opportunity for students to get involved with this company. Everybody seems to really be benefitting from it.”
Douvris said she’s less active in the group now that she is at Emerson Los Angeles and interning at Open Road Films. Olivia Post, a senior visual and media arts major, is across the country with her and is currently an intern for Live Nation. She said she worked for Allied's Boston office last fall on Douvris’s recommendation.
“Both Michelle [Douvris] and I are passionate about films, and we always try and see what we can do to help out,” Post said. “I think that helps Emerson students who want to work there gain a reputation for being helpful interns who always want to do what needs to get done.”
O’Connor sees Allied’s involvement as something that will continue her group’s success.
“I think that since Allied knows about it now and knows it as a good resource that has filled up a lot of their screenings in the past, that it will stay on as something that will definitely continue to be updated,” O'Connor said.
Students and Studios
As a freshman, O’Connor also founded Emertainment Monthly, Emerson’s entertainment magazine, with Douvris as the executive film editor. According to O’Connor, the publication is on Allied’s press list, which gives Emertainment’s writers a direct line to screenings, interviews, and press junkets. Douvris said that this connection benefits everyone involved.
“At first I thought it would have been a little bit of a conflict of interest, when I started with Allied and I was part of Emertainment, but it’s actually been a really great thing,” Douvris said. “[Emertainment] is able to be a great bridge between the Emerson community and Allied and really offer lots of opportunities for students.”
Douvris said that filling the free showings is a win-win situation for both students and studios.
“I don’t feel like [students are] ‘taking advantage’ of it in any way, because they’re helping out Allied and the studios by coming to these screenings filling the seats,” Douvris said. “They’re sharing their opinions on social media and telling their friends, which is ultimately what the studios want everyone to do.”
Douvris said that Emerson’s close proximity to the AMC Loews Boston Common 19 movie theater is one reason that it’s a great market for advance screenings.
“I feel like Emerson students are so enraptured by media and by entertainment,” Douvris said. “It’s kind of in the fiber of the school and what we do. I feel like as consumers of pop culture, it’s only natural to have students who want to see all the latest and greatest movies coming out.”
O’Connor said that when she formed Emerson Students Love Free Movie Screenings, she never thought it would reach as many people as it has. She said she will leave the group up and running after she graduates in May, and that she thinks incoming students will continue to use it as a resource.
“I’m not too worried about it going away after I leave,” O’Connor said. “I haven’t been super involved in it for two years and it’s still running. People are still going to a lot of the screenings and I still get notifications about it every day on my Facebook.”
O’Connor said that Emerson students and her Facebook group work well together.
“It’s the perfect marriage between free movies,” O’Connor said, “and a culture that loves movies, wants to see them, and not have to pay a huge price for them.”
Correction, Feb. 29: A previous version of this article said that Olivia Post is currently an intern at Allied Integrated Marketing in Los Angeles.