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How to involve more young people in your community cinema

Encouraging children and young people to come to your film screenings offers all kinds of benefits. Find out how your cinema can do more to include the younger members of your community.

  • An audience of children enjoying a community cinema screening

With children’s film clubs and screenings seeing a steady growth throughout the UK, it’s never been a better time to involve young people in your film activities – not least because they’re your volunteers of the future!

Film is also one of the most effective ways to blend entertainment with education, says Leigh Thomas, Director of Partnerships at Into Film, a charity that works to place film at the centre of 5-19 year olds’ learning and personal development. “Over 280,000 children and young people are involved in over 8,000 Into Film clubs already, and this number continues to grow,” she says. “They really enable young people to learn with their friends in a fun, inclusive environment.”

What can community cinemas do to involve children and families?

There are lots of ways that community cinemas can develop more activities for children. Take a look at some ideas:

  • 1. Screen films specifically for family or children’s audiences

    If you usually screen to adults, why not consider launching a children’s film matinee in the daytime before your evening screening? Showing a family film is a great way to bring your community together over the weekend, and a great activity for all members of the family, such as grandparents, to enjoy with children. It will also help to broaden your audience and spread the word about your main screenings.

  • 2. Set up a family-friendly competition

    Running a competition can be a very effective way to inspire young audiences. This could be anything from the best fancy-dress outfit at a themed screening to a special showing before the main film of short films that older children have produced themselves. You could offer prizes such as a free family membership to your cinema, or work with a local company with vouchers or even camera equipment to give away. It could also be a good way to attract some press coverage.

  • 3. Run a children’s film club alongside your cinema

    Setting up a children’s film club can be a fun and effective way to involve local young people.  As well as offering a great opportunity for children of all ages to socialise, they can be instrumental in increasing cultural awareness by introducing new ideas and concepts. “Discussing and reviewing films improves children’s abilities in analytics, literacy and communication,” says Leigh. “And including filmmaking activities too builds confidence, develops a range of skills and creates a sense of achievement.”

    It’s easy to set up and run an Into Film children’s film club, and booking films is totally free from the Into Film database. The national network of clubs share advice and tips with each other, so there’s always support on hand,

  • 4. Organise activity sessions based around the film

    Turn your family screenings into a real event by arranging some family activities before or after the showing that tie in with your film’s subject matter. Think themed art workshops to illustrate key scenes, simple cookery sessions to make snacks to eat during the film, and adventure walks or football matches after the film. Work with local experts who can bring some real know-how to specific activities.

  • 5. Team up with existing youth groups

    Connect with other local youth organisations such as schools, drama groups or youth centres to see how you could work together on combining film activities with their existing activity schedule. You might even be able to use their venue to screen in at no extra cost. Plus, you could arrange for film or media teachers from schools, colleges or universities near you to run a hands-on workshop with young audiences before a screening.

  • 6. Publish children’s reviews online

    Everyone loves to see their name published, so why not create a film reviews section on your community cinema’s website, where you post reviews from young audience members? You could also include children’s artwork inspired by the film, or photos of activities they took part in after the screening. If you don’t have a website, a blog can be easy to set up and update using a free platform such as Wordpress or Blogger.

  • 7. Run inclusive children’s screenings

    If there are any children in your community who would benefit from more inclusive screenings, such as children with disabilities or young people who are new to the UK and still learning English, cinema screenings could play an important role in involving them in the community. Work with teachers to make sure your film choices are appropriate, and ask them to help to share the screening responsibilities.

  • 8. Set up an all-ages community cinema

    You could even share your expertise to help local children set up their own community cinema. With the help of adults, there are lots of jobs that can involve young people of all ages – from updating the website or setting up the projector for older children, to being in charge of designing posters or decorating the cinema space for younger ones. You could also encourage the children to run the screenings as charity fundraisers.

    Organising a community cinema screening with lots of children in the audience of course requires a little adult supervision, so ask local parents and grandparents to get involved too. You can also work with them to host specific events, like mum and baby screenings.

    Bear in mind, if you’re running extra screenings or activities you’ll need to make sure you can cover any additional costs. Offering a discounted rate ticket for children can really help encourage more people to attend, and you can charge a little more for activities to cover the cost of materials or any extra venue hire costs.

  • The growth in film activities for children

    Children’s film activities in the UK are currently benefitting from the largest investment ever seen in the sector, with the BFI awarding £26 million of National Lottery funds to film education projects between 2013 and 2017. “The investment Into Film receives will enable us to increase the network, providing more opportunities for young people to access clubs within classrooms, libraries, after school clubs, cinemas, youth groups and more,” explains Leigh.

    Teachers, parents, community cinema organisers and leaders of youth groups such as Scouts can work with Into Film to benefit from a range of free services, from help with setting up film clubs to competitions, webcasts and even an annual film festival. Into Film also offers support with filmmaking and arranges visits from industry professionals.

    With the support of the local film community, involving children in cinema and film activities can be a really rewarding experience for everyone.