No one who has lived in the city of Madison would deny that we reside in a vibrant place, brimming with activities for students. Madison is home to restaurants featuring food from more countries than the average American is probably aware of, scenic lakes and parks, a state of the art arts center, a thriving farmer’s market and more indie bookstores and coffee shops than you can shake a scarf at.
Yet, upon arriving on campus, the observant movie lover might notice that something is missing. Downtown Madison lacks the gargantuan movie multiplex that is standard in most cities and suburbs. This might leave new students wondering “Where do I go to get my ‘Hunger Games’ or ‘Hobbit’ fix? And what kind of films are available on campus anyway?”
Well, never fear my friends, because there are plenty of spectacular film options both on and off campus that can suit the most varied of tastes. From classics to recent Hollywood hits, from foreign films to the latest indie darlings, I’ll give you the low down and the fantastic film locales in Madison and where to find them.
The most obvious and convenient choice for students, The Marquee theater is a free, student-run theater located on the second floor of Union South. It features a vast array of programming including recent Hollywood blockbusters, independent films and documentaries fresh off the festival circuit, and even cult classics (The glorious disaster that is “The Room” plays every year).
The Marquee also collaborates with local film festivals, including the Wisconsin Film Festival (which every student should check out at least once), and programs it’s own festival each year, REEL Love, focusing on LGBT relationships and issues. WUDFilm, the student organization in charge of the theater is open for any student to join.
The Marquee is an exemplary and impressively active student theater, averaging one film nearly every weeknight and two or three per night on weekends. It is an incredible resource that should be taken advantage by all students.
This university-affiliated theater is what you’d probably call our resident artsy-fartsy cinema. Committed to bringing rare and under the radar films to the community, the Cinematheque is perfect for anyone looking to expand their filmic horizons with foreign classics, experimental masterpieces, up and coming indie selections, and even the occasional Hollywood classic. But don’t let the obscure selection turn you off, the Cinematheque offers a variety of series that appeal even to more mainstream tastes.
For instance, last year their run of acclaimed Studio Ghibli classics often packed the house with popular films such as “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” And this year their program includes series exploring everything from international horror classics and Werner Herzog masterworks to new indie releases. Based in Vilas Hall and with some films playing at the Chazen Museum and the Marquee, the Cinematheque is a great option for students and residents, especially those looking to explore film history, international film and experimental film.
Sundance Cinemas at Hilldale
Though it’s only a 15 minute bus ride away, most students don’t realize what an exceptional movie theater we have near our campus. Sundance Cinemas is a theater affiliated with the renowned Sundance Film Festival and brings outstanding independent films and documentaries to Madison.
It is one of only six of its kind in the country and it often features selections from Sundance and other festivals that do not receive widespread theatrical release elsewhere. Though it is on the pricey side, the quality of the films it screens often makes it worth the high cos of admission. Also, Sundance balances out its independent programming with Hollywood blockbusters, making it the most convenient off-campus theater destination for students looking to see new independent and Hollywood releases but relying on public transportation.
But, If you’re really looking to replicate the typical megaplex experience or see the latest hit during its theatrical release, you’ll have to head off-campus to either a Marcus Theater, the AMC Star or Market Square. The newly refurbished Marcus Point Cinemas is the closest to campus, averaging about a 40 minute bus ride, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a suburban theater, playing all the big hits with ticket prices averaging around $10. AMC is similar and Market Square is the local discount theater.
On the whole, though the absence of a typical movie theater on campus may seem unfortunate, there are plenty of venues that more than fill that gap, making Madison a fine place to be a film geek.