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How USG Movies secures early premieres

The facade of a movie theater with darker green accents surrounding the doors. A marquee displays coming attractions while the theater itself is flanked by a blue sky and green tree.
Front entrance of the Princeton Garden Theatre.
Jean Shin / The Daily Princetonian

As the Jan. 7 Golden Globes kicked off the 2024 awards season, the movie “Saltburn” seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Entertainment Weekly called the film a “perverse, psychosexual thriller of the highest order,” featuring startling scenes of bathtubs, graves, and a celebratory dance number (if you know, you know). From its prominence on TikTok to its trending soundtrack featuring MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” and Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder On The Dancefloor,” “Saltburn”’s popularity has persisted long after its Nov. 17 limited release in theaters. 

USG Movies, the Undergraduate Student Government committee that selects and screens free movies for the student body, showed “Saltburn” eight days before its limited theater release. USG Movies Committee Chair Tyler Wilson ’26 wrote to the Daily Princetonian that the “USG Movies Committee was contacted by the PR agency that represented Saltburn in the greater Philadelphia area.” The agency thought that “Saltburn,” a movie about young adults attending Oxford, would be fitting for college students and therefore reached out to Princeton for a screening. 

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“Saltburn” isn’t the only movie to which USG Movies has gained early access. Wilson said that the committee also had an early screening of the latest Studio Ghibli film, “The Boy and The Heron,” an anime title that just took the Best Motion Picture — Animated award at the Golden Globes. The same PR representative that pitched “Saltburn” had contacted the committee about “The Boy and the Heron.”

The committee also exclusively screened A24’s “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” which follows a Black woman’s life in Mississippi across several decades. The film uniquely cast four different actresses to portray the protagonist at four different ages in her life. Wilson told the ‘Prince’ that this screening didn’t come through the aforementioned PR representative, but rather the committee’s existing connections with A24 — a studio known for its original, genuine, and sometimes outlandish films. 

For last semester’s advanced screenings, students could register to attend through MyPrincetonU. Tickets were available on a first come, first serve basis, but those who missed the chance to register could join a waitlist. When students showed up to the screening, they would present their registration tickets, and those on the waitlist were encouraged to show up in the case of no-shows. Normally, students can simply show up to a USG Movies screening and find a seat without any pre-registration.

The advanced screenings also featured heightened security. During the screening of “Saltburn” at the Princeton Garden Theatre, Kiran Masood ’26 observed there were security guards that “wandered around during the movie to make sure [they] weren’t on [their] phones,” and recalled that audience members were told security was there because it was an advanced screening.

With winter break wrapping up in the coming weeks, the USG Movies Committee hopes to continue offering advanced screenings in the spring. Wilson told the ‘Prince’ that the committee is “already in contact with A24 about doing more screenings in the second semester,” and “hopeful” that they can continue to maintain the relationship that allowed them to screen “Saltburn” and “The Boy and The Heron” in advance. However, nothing is confirmed as of right now.

“I am passionate about the theater-going experience and the conversation it inspires,” Wilson said. “By hosting advanced screenings, USG is able to encourage students to engage with new, exciting films alongside their peers in their intended environment — the cinema.” 

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To stay updated on when the next advanced screening hits a campus screen, students can follow USG Movies on Instagram at @princetonusgmovie. Whether it is a shocking slow-burn like “Saltburn” or a moving drama like “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” stay tuned to see what is showcased next on the silver screen. 

Connor Romberg is an assistant editor for The Prospect from Winneconne, Wisconsin. He can be reached at cr6965[at]princeton.edu.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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