Saving an American Treasure: All Businesses Are NOT Bad!


Last year, around this time, I woke up to the news that Bucknell University was buying the Campus Theater. Now I must explain to you that I have been going to the campus theater since my freshman year. I have seen countless movies there, organized an a cappella concert to fundraise for the Dominican Republic there, worked with the directors to help market the Theater to Bucknell students, and I put together and worked at a beekeeping workshop held there. It is probably my favorite place in Lewisburg, PA. And Breakfast at Tiffany’s (along with almost every other Audrey Hepburn movie) is one that I watch often, because unlike Rick and Mackenzie I have a passion for old movies. I have this strange love for old places, people, and ideas too, for that matter. I have often thought that I was born in the wrong time period; that I was supposed to be living in the 50’s or 60’s instead. But I digress.

The news about Bucknell buying the Theater hit me hard. I thought about the couple I had met that used to live on the second floor of what is now the bookstore; how heartbroken she was that Bucknell had bought her home and put in an escalator. I imagined the “old charm” of the interior being replaced by chairs similar to those in Bucknell’s student center. I imagined the movie selection going from classics to modern busts. I felt for the directors, Ellen and her assistant that I knew from working closely with, as they wouldn’t have the same authority over the Theater’s operations anymore. But, fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Although I’m not a fan of the new leather couches (the old ones were bigger and softer), the remodeling of the Campus Theater was done beautifully. The orange and blue seats are subtle, as they should be, and the “feel” of the Theater has been preserved. The staff, directors, and owners still possess control over the day-to-day operations of the Theater so the movie selections have not gone downhill. Actually, the Campus Theater is able to show more movies and receive grants from the State to fund these expenses. On top of this all, Bucknell has successfully utilized the space for learning experiences, with documentaries, workshops and for film design classes. The Campus Theater would have absolutely not been able to stay open had it not been for Bucknell, and as one of the 5 oldest Theaters in the United States that would have been a tragedy. That Bucknell saved the Campus Theater in its mission to make profit, gives me hope that not all big businesses are bad (after sitting in class reading otherwise every week, I was starting to wonder…).

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12 Responses to Saving an American Treasure: All Businesses Are NOT Bad!

  1. ChrisB says:

    I would agree that I thought that Bucknell would not do a good job of keeping the “old charm” and I am very happy to be wrong. I find it interesting that you count Bucknell as a big business as it is a university and not a Fortune 500 company. However, it seems to me and other students I have talked to that Bucknell is slowly increasing its power and presence in the Lewisburg area. Perhaps all colleges and universities are like this, but I feel that at times Bucknell oversteps its bounds as an institution of learning.

    • I agree with Bucknell crossing its lines as a learning institution, Chris…that’s what I am getting at when I say it is a big business. I know its not a major coorporation, but I would say that its primary purpose is to make money and not necessarily to educate. I am not saying Bucknell doesn’t educate us, because it does (we are smart, now!) but the University is first and foremost a business. It is big in comparison to the majority of the area’s businesses, in terms of shear size and financials.

    • Jordi says:

      Non profit does not mean weak or poor. Bucknell being a clear case. The NYSE is another. It is only a tax status. In fact, BU pays no property tax, which is a HUGE subsidy. Hence giving back has a political advantage. But I can tell you that a big part of BU downtown is strategic. People love the vibrant small town. The trustees and past President decided to make a vibrant downtown part of our competitive advantage.

  2. meganm423 says:

    I have not yet been down to the campus theatre, but by the way you described it I defintiely need to take a look. I think that by Bucknell having more of a presence at the Campus Theatre will only be more positive due to more students knowing about it. I’m sure there will be better advertising about the movies that are playing, which will then bring in more trafic and profits for those who work there. I also think that increasing traffic downtown, which the bookstore has done as well, is only positive for Market Street and the surrounding Lewisburg area. It’s bringing more revenue to small businesses that I think were worried that too many students were staying on campus.

    • I agree! Bringing more students to the Theater is definetely another plus of Bucknell buying it. With that said, I believe that Campus Theater does a better job than the book store with helping the Lewisburg community.

  3. Jordi says:

    Sorry, Eli. The Campus is now a non-profit. Of course, it has to raise enough revenue to cover costs. Part of the transition as a function of its size and capital costs relative to the changing demand for films over the last 60 years.

    On the other hand, who said all businesses are bad? They are what they are. Many can do harm due to the environment they operate in and the way it shapes decision-makers. Many are full of people who try to be ethical. I avoid portraying them as the perfect engines of all things good in an unending march of progress. I also avoid portraying them as the spiteful embodiments of the devil. There is still plenty of room between the poles to talk about the good, bad, and ugly of reality.

    • Hi Jordi, I don’t really understand what you are explaining in your first three sentences. I know that the Camupus Theater was a not-for-profit organization previously, is it still? Even after Bucknell bought it? That hasn’t been clear in my research, but that would be even better for my faith in the world.

      And I know that all businesses are not bad and that you are not trying to teach us that, but that is how I sometimes how I leave feeling from our class discussions. Some people say that no business is ethical just to be ethical. I am trying to disagree. Hence my post from two weeks ago…this is sort of the second in the series.

      • Jordi says:

        I love the idea of a series of posts.
        Forget my first three. Maybe I misunderstood what Chris was saying.
        Campus was an independent 501(c)3, a non-profit with its own legal liability. It sold the building to Bucknell who turned around and entered into an essentially permanent lease with the 501(c)3; Bucknell owns the building in the public good, like its collection of art, archives, and even smart folks (faculty). Being a public institute itself, in the sense of serving a mission, buying the Campus made sense. And they were able to leverage their status for state historical renovation funds. The Campus Theatre non-profit runs programming.

  4. cornerback5 says:

    I liked the campus theater before it was remodeled, so I definitely like it now. Seems like Bucknell is trying to do something positive with our tuition dollars. I wonder what’s next?

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  6. mcrawford says:

    I am glad to hear that you are happy with the renovations made on the campus theatre. I can see how it may be nerve racking to see something so historic and close to you potentially change for the worse. On the bright side, with bucknell owning the Camus Theatre it may begin to get more traffic from students, the town of Lewisburg, and surrounding areas.

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