FLiCKS, the Reboot

I’m not ready to leave campus without leaving my mark.

May 28, 2024

Reading time min

People onstage with a FLiCKS banner

ENTER STAGE RIGHT: Reller and team reintroduce FLiCKS. Photo: Nicole Domingo

My grandfather (Ronald Cameron, ’62, to others; Poppy to me) grew up in Palo Alto in the 1950s. His mother was the typist for a Stanford administrator. Campus was Poppy’s childhood playground. He has told me tales of exploring the steam tunnels, of helping construction workers rebuild Encina Hall, and of a friend throwing down his jacket over a puddle so that a famous visiting piano player’s shoes would stay dry.

His favorite story, however, is about the stunt he pulled with friends on Sunday nights. As kids, they somehow found a route into the rafters of Memorial Auditorium. They would snake their way up ladders and through dark hallways until they found themselves on the catwalks above some 900 students watching a film. With glee and suppressed giggles, the boys would launch raw eggs into the air. They were too high up to see the eggs smash on the heads of unsuspecting guests below them, but the anticipation itself was memorable enough for him to retell the story nearly 80 years later.

“Did you really throw them on their heads?” my grandmother asked.

“They landed wherever they landed,” Poppy replied.

It wasn’t until I chatted with alumni that I realized the movie event my grandfather regularly egged was a bygone Stanford tradition called FLiCKS. While visiting Stanford Sierra Camp last summer, I sat at the lakeside picnic tables and polled alums on their Stanford experience.

“You don’t do FLiCKS anymore?” squealed Sandy Chen, ’92, MS ’94. DJ Dull-Mackenzie, ’88, jumped in to tell me about the days of students driving motorcycles down the aisles, playing violins during sad scenes, and launching paper airplanes made from old course notes. An hourlong discussion followed, Stanford social life of the ’80s and ’90s coming alive for me through alumni stories of FLiCKS, the Game, and other zany activities that took place on the Farm.

Students came so they could hold their collective breath in anticipation, so they could put down their phones and their computers and be completely engaged for a couple of hours.

Then, during Reunion Homecoming Weekend this fall, alums’ long-standing love for FLiCKS was confirmed. Through my job as an editorial intern at Stanford, I flipped through hundreds of entries in Class Books from the 15th to the 55th reunions. Alum after alum listed “Sunday Night FLiCKS” as one of their favorite memories.

My mission became clear—I needed to bring back FLiCKS.

I’m a senior, so I’ve got a narrow window of time to revive this tradition and make it stick. But I’m not ready to say goodbye to Stanford before leaving some type of mark. FLiCKS dissolved in the early 2000s, falling victim to streaming media, and COVID-19 decimated traditions—and student institutional knowledge—further. But this place is too special to let these things melt away.

I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Daniel Rashes, ’26, wrote about FLiCKS in his Stanford application after learning about it from his father, only to be shocked when he inquired on campus and no one knew what he was talking about. Emily Deng, ’25, my ASSU co-social director, and Hanna Carlsson, an eager freshman, were also motivated to bring a vibrant part of student life back to campus. A smattering of other students got involved as word of mouth spread: freshmen with energy and enthusiasm, sophomores and juniors who cared about the cause, seniors who wanted to give back to Stanford before heading out. A cursory LinkedIn search brought us into contact with past FLiCKS directors, who told us what aspects they thought were most important to bring back. We had our marching orders.

It didn’t seem like it would be too hard: Reserve MemAud, reserve the film, do some advertising. Right?


The original location, MemAud, is the perfect venue on campus for something like FLiCKS. Velvet curtains, balcony seating, a massive stage, a historical ambience—all of which comes at a cost. Specifically, $15,000 for one evening, as quoted by Stanford Event Services. This was hard to fathom and harder to finance. In the old days, students paid a small admission fee to help defray costs ($0.40 in 1968, $1.50 in 1984, a whole $3 in 1993). But in the age of streaming, we knew we had to provide the event for free.

So we secured ASSU funding and turned to a more modern and slightly less charming but also much cheaper venue: CEMEX Auditorium at the Graduate School of Business.

For film choice, we felt there needed to be a separation from the type of movie nights already happening on campus—often sparsely attended reruns of Disney films, typically on big outdoor screens. To rebrand, we focused on a new movie with a shock factor; everyone on campus either had an opinion of it or had heard a friend’s opinion. Released last fall, Saltburn is an explicit, murderous thriller featuring Oxford students on a luxurious English estate. It has scenes that would make you squirm to watch with your parents.

We dove into an ad hoc marketing campaign, designing five different posters and flyering every dorm bathroom and dining hall. We tabled outside the ever-popular Sunday-night Indian dinner at FloMo and spoke at Greek chapters and frosh dorm meetings. Our goal was for every undergrad to know about FLiCKS—after all, we had a 587-seat auditorium to fill.

To further encourage students to show up, we partnered with the student caterers StreetMeat, who fried up fresh preshow beignets and served them with ice cream, Nutella, and berry preserves. Alumni donations allowed us to serve free beverages, and we gave away T-shirts with a vintage FLiCKS logo. We played student short films in lieu of trailers.

Portrait of Annie C. RellerPhoto: Nicole Domingo

People showed up. In droves. When the doors opened, the mingling mass outside poured in, quickly filling all 587 seats. There was a buzz in the room. The A/V technology was working. Only one question remained: Would the shenanigans that made FLiCKS so special decades ago land in 2024?

Historically, audience members semi-spontaneously performed the antics, but with a whole new generation, we had to help get things off the ground. As the lights dimmed and the film began, our student “plants” sent paper airplanes and rolls of toilet paper cascading from the balcony. Miniature squirt guns misted the audience during a bathtub scene. The big finale came during the film’s last scene, when a FLiCKS banner on stage was removed to reveal a six-piece student band playing the Saltburn soundtrack live to cheers. It was, if I do say so myself, a hit.

Students didn’t come because they wanted to see a movie. Saltburn had been streamable for months. Students came so they could hold their collective breath in anticipation, so they could sit in a room of tangible discomfort, so they could put down their phones and their computers and be completely engaged for a couple of hours.

But one Sunday night does not a revival make. We’ve held two additional FLiCKS screenings in CEMEX and have the auditorium reserved for two more. Spring quarter is ticking by, and with every FLiCKS we put on, I’m one event closer to graduation and to the end of my chance to leave a mark. I hope students continue to show up. I hope The Graduate will be our final film of the year, as it was decades ago. And I hope the younger students on the team carry the torch I’ve helped relight.

Annie C. Reller, ’24, is an editorial intern at Stanford. Email her at

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