The Phantom of the Opera
classic film with live organ accompaniment
October 27, 2012, 7:30 pm
This is a story about organist Dennis James, and how, as a lowly undergraduate, he got his hands on a new organ at the IU Auditorium and found a career.
Piano And Organ
“I had been happily playing piano in the Indiana Memorial Union’s Whittenberger Auditorium to accompany Professor Harry Geduld’s film series for his classes. But when the IU Auditorium got a magnificent concert instrument, I just had to get my hands on it.
“I knew that as an undergraduate, that wasn’t going to happen without a plan. As I was thinking about the organ, I remembered the stories my father told me about seeing The Phantom of the Opera when he was just six. My father even remembered the red tinted eyes of the phantom and the impact of the unmasking. He was a little embarrassed to say that he left a wet spot on his seat.”
An Ally And A Plan
James discovered that he could actually arrange to use the Auditorium if he were allied with a student organization. “It was part of my early business education. IU’s chapter of the American Guild of Organists agreed to sponsor a showing for half of the profits, and left it up to me to ensure a profit.”
At this point James began a very budget-conscious thirty day publicity campaign. “I put a single line ad in the Indiana Daily Student: ‘The Phantom is Coming.’ I made up stickers and put them on the underside of all the toilet seats in the men’s restrooms on campus. I stenciled the same message on sidewalks. And finally, just the day before, a friend at the Daily Student wrote a full page story that ran on the front page.”
James had printed up four hundred tickets. “Four thousand people showed up. The story ran on NPR: Here was a better fundraiser than bake sales. Schools and colleges began to get in touch with me. My weekends were booked, and I had a career. “