This petition was launched by fans and supporters of PULP Cinema and the PULP film society in order to provide a platform for students and townspeople alike to share their support for the cinema. Furthermore, it is an attempt to urge the University to reconsider its actions impacting the future of PULP on campus. Please share this petition if you support this cause!
For the complete story, be sure to consult the following articles:
Alternatively, read below for a summary of the current issue and why this petition was started.
On 4 November 2020, articles published by MatieMedia, Die Matie and Stellenboschnews reported how the rental contract between the PULP Film Society and Stellenbosch University will end on 31 December 2020. The owner of the cinema, Werner De Swardt, was informed on 7 September by Neelsie Management that the cinema's rental contract would not be renewed, which came as a shock, since the cinema has proven itself to be a commercially successful tenant.
The reason for the termination of the lease is SU’s intention to change the cinema into “a general venue to allow for many different usages and functions which will better service all students instead of the exclusive usage of the facility by one society” and which will generate more income for the SU(according to Martin Viljoen, SU Media Manager). Pulp Cinema currently pays R55 000 per month rent.
Although SU has offered the society the option to continue using the facilities after repurposing it, this would mean that screenings can only take place on two evenings per week, and that the space must be cleared out after each evening. De Swardt, and the current chair of PULP film society, Annika Hohbach, have expressed concern that the student society will not be able to survive on campus without the theatre and its usual daily screenings, which have become a popular student attraction in the Neelsie.
WHY PULP CINEMA SHOULD BE SAVED
Some of the most immediate repercussions of the closing of PULP Cinema include:
Negative impact on Neelsie business: The cinema attracts both students and townspeople to the Neelsie daily. The majority (if not all) fellow Neelsie tenants wants Pulp Cinema to continue in its current form, because they see Pulp Cinema as a key tenant; some have called PULP “the only benefit of the Neelsie, because it pulls people in” and have expressed their concern that without PULP, their businesses would also suffer. It would therefore be beneficial for all Neelsie tenants to extend the cinema’s rental contract.
Employment loss: PULP Cinema currently has 12 employees, all of which live in the Stellenbosch community and are the sole breadwinners in their households. Especially during these uncertain times, terminating the jobs of these employees on such short notice seems immoral.
A loss for the student community: Currently, PULP is SU’s largest student society (with between 2 000 – 3 000 members) and is still growing annually. It has become a quintessential part of the Stellenbosch student experience – just think how many famous PULP popcorn bags you see on campus every day! Furthermore, the cinema is one of the few places on campus where students can enjoy leisurely group activities to unwind from intense academic stress in a way that is flexible to their unique schedules. And at Pulp we daily experience real social integration happening - students from all backgrounds watch intelligent movies together and bond over these experiences. Therefore, losing PULP Cinema would change the Stellenbosch student experience.
Since the offer involving screenings on two evening per week is not a viable option for the film society, cinema owner Werner de Swardt has offered an alternative to SU: In exchange for continuing to have screenings every day, PULP Cinema will make its facilities available to SU to host conferences for free. Additionally, the cinema would also put its technical equipment, food and drink stalls and available staff at SU’s disposable for these events. Pulp already does between 3-5 conferences and events per week for the SU to the enormous satisfaction of the event organisers and attendees. Part of the offer was that Pulp Cinema only needs 7 days’ notice of the SU's intention to use the facility in order to schedule every forthcoming week's screenings around these events. We believe any reasonable person will say: "What and offer!".
SU has rejected this offer by serving Pulp Cinema with a lawyer’s letter ordering them to vacate the premises by 31 Dec 2020.
This petition urges the University to reconsider its decision to terminate PULP Cinema’s rental contract. Instead, it is suggested that De Swardt’s offer of hosting SU conferences for free in exchange for continuing the film society’s daily screenings should be accepted.
By extending the cinema’s lease and working with the film society to ensure the survival of PULP, the University would also be supporting the families of the employees, small Neelsie businesses and a positive student culture at SU, since collaboration in this regard would allow all parties involved to continue benefitting from the cinema and its initiatives.