Free Movies at Harvard Art Museums through Screens for Teens

Hannah Erickson, Contributing Writer

Have you been to a movie recently? According to recent studies, chances are that you haven’t. As Kevin Goetz, a leader in the movie research industry, told the Ankler Podcast in May, “12 to 17-year-olds 10 years ago saw 7.9 movies. Now: 5.1. In 10 years, 3.3.” With the pandemic fuelling the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, it’s easy to see where these numbers come from.

This fall, the Harvard Art Museums (HAM) launched a new free film series, Screens for Teens, to reconnect Cambridge teens with the big screen. Curated for high schoolers, these films are shown on selected Sunday afternoons in the Museum’s Menschel Hall, across from Harvard Yard. Kate Wheatley ’25, an attendee of the screening of the horror film Train to Busan, appreciated the show. “If you have the time and are interested in the movie, go for it! There’s plenty of space for a group, the chairs are comfy, and the screen is massive.”

My hope is that Screens for Teens will foster conversations among teens about compelling, current topics.

The Screens for Teens film repertoire features classic and contemporary films ranging from the 1995 teen classic Clueless to documentaries. The selection process included working with CRLS teachers, connecting newer releases with the holidays, identity appreciation/awareness, and surveying teens.

Karin Kolb, the film contractor in charge of selecting films, told the Register Forum, “My hope is that Screens for Teens will foster conversations among teens about compelling, current topics. I want to pass on my passion for the art of film, the unique way in which movies can engage audiences, and especially the beauty of the big screen.”

Screens for Teens comes at a critical time in the future of film, Kolb explains. “During the pandemic when everything was closed, I was really worried that this was the end of cinema … I knew I needed to change something, as I did not want teens to lose out on something so magical; seeing a film as it is supposed to be seen.”

The project’s director, David Odo, explained his focus on a teenage audience to the Register Forum. “[The film series] helps the museum to be in touch with all the exciting ideas and experiences that high schoolers bring to us—it’s a two-way street!”

Harvard Art Museums members named another incentive for the Screens for Teens project: strengthening the relationship between HAM and CRLS. “We haven’t yet maximized our engagement with pre-college audiences,” Tayana Fincher, a member of the team, told the Register Forum. “With CRLS just across the street, it’s a no-brainer to try and connect with high schoolers.”

The series’ next screening, on December 4th, is The Muppet Christmas Carol—perfect for getting your friends into the holiday spirit. The Screens for Teens film series will continue into 2023, although next year’s film selections have not yet been announced. Series leaders are looking into possible ways to get CRLS student input. “We would love to learn more about what CRLS students want from the museum and what they want to contribute to our work together,” Odo said. Kolb agreed, “Our films screen for them.”

This article also appears in our November 2022 print edition.