Discover answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about community cinema.
About community cinema
What is a community cinema?
A community cinema is an organisation that screens films in community venues to local people. Community cinemas can operate anywhere from social clubs, youth centres and village halls to outdoor spaces and large auditoriums.
Why do people start community cinemas?
There are lots of reasons why people decide to set up and run a community cinema. It might be that they live in a remote place without a nearby cinema, want to share their love of film or would like to offer a new service to their local community. It can be a very rewarding and fun experience!
Who gets involved in community cinemas?
Absolutely anyone could be involved. There are lots of roles to play, from running the entire cinema to putting up posters in advance or serving drinks on the night.
Most people involved in running a community cinema do so as part of a team of three or four volunteers. It’s an activity that is very social, and a way for people of all ages and backgrounds to work together to experience the thrill of hosting successful film events.
What sort of films do community cinemas show?
Community cinemas can show films from a broad range of genres, from mainstream blockbusters to art-house movies. They might also screen films made by members of the local community, short films or films for special events or times of year.
Can anyone set up a community cinema?
Yes. If you have a passion for film and a desire to share it with your local community, then you can absolutely set up a community cinema. Bringing people together to watch great films and discuss them in a friendly, sociable environment can be extremely rewarding. Read about the seven steps to starting a community cinema.
Getting set up
How have other people set up their community cinemas?
There are hundreds of community cinemas all over the UK, each with their own story. Have a look at our case studies to get inspired by the ways other community cinemas operate. And if you have any specific questions, contact us to see how we can help.
Where can I screen films?
Community cinemas have been set up in many different venues, from village halls and social clubs to pubs and even outdoor auditoriums. The best way to find out whether you can screen films in your chosen venue is to ask your local council. You will need to get the right premises licence in place before you set everything up, but in theory, any suitable building or outdoor space could be used to screen a film.
What equipment do I need to get started?
The essential equipment you’ll need is a DVD or Blu Ray player, a projector, a screen to project onto and a sound system. The types of equipment you could use depends on how sophisticated you’d like your set up to be. To start off with, you could borrow kit from other community cinemas near you to keep costs down – find out if there’s any equipment available in your local area.
How do I book a film?
There are lots of distributors that you can hire films from in the UK. Most have online catalogues so you can book online and plan your screenings well in advance. If you’re having trouble finding a more specialist film, contact us and we’ll help to point you in the right direction.
Funds and finances
How much does it cost to watch a film at a community cinema?
Community cinemas usually charge a lot less for tickets than commercial cinemas do, making them much more accessible to everybody. Some community cinemas offer membership options, reducing ticket prices even further, and sometimes entry is even free. The average ticket price to watch a film in a community cinema is usually around £5, though this varies.
How much does it cost to set up a community cinema?
The biggest costs involved in setting up a community cinema are usually venue hire, equipment and licences. So, depending on where you want to screen your films and how big your audience is, your costs will vary. Take a look at our guide to licences to get an idea of what your costs might be.
Where can I get funding for my community cinema?
There are several ways you can get funding. There are many national organisations that might be able to offer financial help. Local charities and private funding might also be an option. Find out how other people got funding to launch their cinemas.
Once you’ve been up and running for six months, you may also be able to apply for funding from the BFI Neighbourhood Cinema Equipment Fund.
Do I need a licence to show films in my community?
Yes, you’ll need to make sure you have the right licences in place before you can start screening films.
Generally speaking, you’ll need two licences. This may sound daunting, but once you’ve decided which venue you’re using and where you’re booking your film from, it should be very straightforward:
1. The first licence relates to the venue you’re using – you need to make sure that the building/area has the correct licence to provide entertainment, in particular, the right to screen a film.
2. The second licence is for the film itself, which you’ll need to buy from the film distributor, or whoever owns the rights. In most cases, you can buy this licence when you book your film, or sometimes you’ll need to apply for a licence directly from the producer or film studio.
You might also need to get an extra licence for the music that features on your films’ soundtracks, and also if you want to sell food or drink.
What should I do if someone who is underage comes to a screening?
By obtaining a licence to screen a particular film, you are required to adhere to its BFFC classification. If you suspect that someone is underage, you should politely ask to see proof of age and explain the terms of your licence. Your community cinema is at risk otherwise, so it’s worth being vigilant.
Up and running
How can I make sure people find out about my screenings?
Once your film and venue are booked and you have your licences in place, there are several ways you can promote your screening. From creating a small website to printing out flyers, we have plenty of marketing advice to get you started.
How can I keep people coming back to my screenings?
A good way to keep people coming back is to sell membership to your community cinema. That way, your audience feels as though they are part of something special and you can raise the funds to book films and arrange licences in advance.
How can I develop my community cinema once it’s up and running?
From working with local businesses to increasing your number of screenings, we’ll be adding lots of ideas around how to develop and sustain your community cinema soon. Don’t forget that you can contact us for advice at any time, even if you’ve been running your cinema for years.
Support and advice
Can I talk to the BFI Neighbourhood Cinema team about setting up my community cinema?
Of course. We’re here to help you make your community cinema a success to make screening films to your local community fun for you as well as for your audience. Get in touch to speak to us directly for advice or ideas.
Where else could I get support?
There are lots of other organisations that offer various kinds of support for community cinema in the UK, from Cinema For All to touring cinemas that could bring equipment and films to your venue.