Students seek fun with fewer costs



The Dueling Pianos, which regularly entertain guests, sit silently at 88 Broadway in Lincoln Square Mall. The bar opened on July 5 of this year. Erica Magda

By Aaron Geiger

It has been a tough year. Entertainment is now a paradox – people want more, but can afford less, so how are they coping? There hasn’t been a particularly large deviation or change in the nature of C-U entertainment in the course of the semester. Instead, the lifestyles of those who want entertainment are altering where they go and what they want to see or listen to.

“Today people pay $25,000 to $35,000 for bands (to perform) that I haven’t heard of,” said Foellinger Auditorium Manager Phil Strang.

“About thirty years ago, bands like ‘The Who’ cost that much.”

Although inflation is a factor in the high cost of music entertainment, Strang indicates that fewer places of entertainment are going to want, or be able, to pay such high costs to have a group perform.

However, Foellinger Auditorium has been mostly immune to the failing economy. The venue maintains a ready host of free and inexpensive shows, and also concentrates on specific cultural themes that experience solid attendance numbers, such as the Chinese Moon Festival.

“The African American Homecoming fashion show and step show were very successful,” said Strang. “We also have the Insect Fear Film Festival every spring.”

Strang also noted the overall decrease in the desire of students to go see local and national bands that demand a sizeable cover charge, preferring instead to attend free or inexpensive shows. Others just visit the local bars for cheap drinks and socializing among peers.

Parkland student and local music aficianado Sean Hermann has observed a trend in the decline of University and Parkland students at Champaign-Urbana rock shows. He also just started attending shows at the Canopy, including a recent show featuring Morning Light, Brighton, and Fi, for a cover of $8.

“I thought there would be a ton of people, perhaps two hundred, but I only saw maybe fifty or sixty,” said Hermann. “I’m not sure if the show was worth it, because the atmosphere wasn’t as good without a full house – it can make or break a show.”

The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has increased their number of free shows, featuring U of I ensembles and many more, but has kept their repertoire consistent in terms of diversity and quality. The center is keeping the broad span of performer origins, featuring local music from the University, as well as national and global roots.

“We are always striving for richness in our blend of perspectives,” said Bridget Lee-Calfas, the public information director for Krannert.

Lee-Calfas and the Krannert team have been looking for more ways to reach out to the Champaign collective, including the area elementary schools.

“We like to take Krannert into the community,” Lee-Calfas said.

By merging their programs with the citizenry, Krannert has been able to keep its ship on an even keel. The center features a current Youth Series that reaches out to children from Kindergarten and up.

Sometimes being a new business can be a death knell in a strapped economy, but Eighty-eight Broadway is a new business that opened in Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall on July 5, and they’re doing just fine. The management attributes their success in a tough economy to the unique source of entertainment that they provide, namely dueling piano performers. Their goal is to simply stick with their current game plan.

Some patrons are beginning to frequent venues different from those they are used to, straying away from their local haunts to find bargains. Sheila Hamm, an Urbana native who just transplanted to the Chicago suburbs, is visiting her version of ‘alternative’ places for entertainment now that she’s back to see family and friends for the holidays.

“Lately, when I’ve been down to visit, I’ve been trying to hit up the movies at the Virginia [theatre] downtown in Champaign for really cheap movies in a beautiful setting,” said Hamm.

“They also serve inexpensive snacks.”

Hamm also plans to frequent Boardman’s Art Theater just a couple of blocks away; she wants to put her money into a small business that might need those extra dollars this winter.

Henry Del Rosario, sophomore in LAS, took his Registered Student Organization to Parkland’s Staerkel Planetarium for an inexpensive form of entertainment.

“It was different, but we had fun,” Del Rosario said.