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How much does it cost to set up a community cinema?

Before you choose which films to screen to your community, spend some time going through the costs involved in setting up your cinema. It’s probably less than you thought!

  • A community cinema screening of 2 Days 1 Night

Start up and annual costs

Licensing your venue

First of all, it’s essential to licence your venue so that it’s legally allowed to screen films to the public. There are two main types of premises licence available:

• If you are in England or Wales, the cheapest one is a Temporary Events Notice (TEN) and costs £21. The equivalent of this in Scotland or Northern Ireland is called an Occasional Licence and costs £10 in Scotland but is dependent on the size of your audience if you are in Northern Ireland. These licences are for a single event and might be the easiest way to test the water for your first screening and it allows you to sell alcohol and hot food, too.

• The other type of licence is an annual Premises Licence, and prices for this vary depending on your location and type of venue. Do check first whether your venue already has a Premises Licence in place – if it does, you can amend it to include ‘film exhibition’ at a reasonable cost from your local council, or if you are a not-for-profit community cinema in England or Wales, you might find that you are exempt and do not need a Premises Licence.

Our advice: Budget £150 per year to licence your venue for screenings.

Insurance

Insuring your projector, screen and any other valuable equipment against loss or damage should cost around £100 a year, depending on your policy and the value of your equipment. As a rule of thumb, insurance usually costs around 2% of the value of your equipment per year (so kit worth £5,000 would cost £100 a year to insure against loss or damage). You’ll need to pay an excess of around £75 if ever you make a claim.

Before you invite members of the public to your screening, make sure you arrange Public Liability Insurance (PLI) as well. This will cover any unforeseen accidents and avoid any legal fees if anything does happen. For audiences of up to 250 people, PLI costs around £130 a year.

Our advice: £230 a year should keep your community cinema fully insured.

Equipment

HD Projector

For your cinema’s first projector, consider buying a second-hand one online or borrowing one from another community cinema or film club or from Cinema for All. However, if you’re looking to buy a new HD projector, consider the size of your screen and the resolution you are looking for. You can pay anything from £1,000-£5,000 for a quality HD projector.

Our advice: You should be able to buy a good quality new HD projector for around £1,400.

Screen

Depending on the size and type of your venue, you can buy a basic tripod screen for around £100, a more robust portable screen for approximately £400, or a permanent, high-resolution screen, which will cost around £500-£1,200.

Our advice: For £100, you can get started with a portable tripod screen.

Blu-ray and DVD player

You don’t need to spend a lot on a DVD player. As long as it works well and you can connect it to your projector using a HDMI cable, you’re good to go.

Our advice: You can pick up a quality Blu-ray and DVD player for around £50.

Sound system

You’ll need an amp and a couple of speakers for good sound quality and to make sure your audience gets a genuine cinematic experience. You can pick up a good quality amplifier for around £450, and a set of two 2-way speakers for about £300 – but don’t forget to look online for a second-hand sound system first, which could save you money.

Our advice: Leave £800 in the budget for a good sound system.

Cables

Your equipment should already come with the relevant cables and connections, but just in case you aren’t sure, here’s what you’ll probably need:

• HDMI cable: £8-£30 depending on model and length needed

• Phono leads/RCA cables: £2-£10 depending on model and length

• 3.5mm stereo jack: £2-£10 depending on model and length

• Speaker connector cables: £2-£20 depending on type and length

• Power cables: £2-£5

• Speaker stands: around £70 for a pair, including a carry case

Items for your venue

It’s the little things that really make a difference to your screenings, so consider investing in the following accessories to offer a more comfortable, professional experience:

• Blackout blinds: £15-£100 each, depending on size needed

• Comfortable folding chairs: £10-15 each

• Cushions for your chairs: £1-5 each (or make your own)

• Portable lights: £10-50 each

Take a look at our article about equipment options for community cinemas of all levels for more detail about the kit you might need.

Costs per screening

Film licence

Every time you screen a film, you’ll need to buy a licence that gives your community cinema the right to screen it.

The exact cost of your licence depends on a few factors, including whether you’ll be selling tickets to your screening. You can buy your licence in a few different ways. Find out more about which licence you’ll need and how to get it in our detailed article about licensing for community cinemas.

The average cost of a licence to screen one film is between £70 and £140, including VAT.

Our advice: Budget around £100 per screening for your licences.

Performing Right Society (PRS) licence

The PRS licence covers the royalties for all of the music that features in the films you screen. This small fee is payable every time you screen your film, and is around £8 for 100 audience members.

Our advice: £8 per screening is the average price.

Venue hire

If you don’t already have a venue in mind for your community cinema, speak to your local school, church or community centre about hiring their premises. And don’t forget that often you can hire the back room of a pub for free on the basis that you’re bringing customers in. Check out 3space.org or ask your local council about cheap local space.

If you live near a National Trust or English Heritage property, you may be able to hire one of their function rooms for around £250 for a really special screening.

Our advice: Venue prices vary depending on location and demand, but you should be able to hire a local hall or community centre for around £50 per screening.

Team expenses

Most community cinemas are run by a team of local volunteers. It’s worth getting your group together to work out travel costs and other expenses, so that everyone can be reimbursed fairly.

If you run a large community cinema, you may want to look at employing casual staff to check tickets and operate equipment as and when you need them.

Our advice: To make sure your team’s expenses are covered, budget for £10 per person per screening.

Marketing

Whether through flyers and a couple of posters or a professional brochure, getting the word out about your screenings is essential to bring in the crowds. You don’t need to spend a lot, especially with social media at your disposal, but set aside some money in your budget so you can keep your options open.

Our advice: Leave £25 per screening in your budget for printing posters and flyers.

A summary of our estimated costs for running community cinema

The below costs are approximate averages only to give an indication of the costs involved. They’ll vary depending on what type of cinema you want to run (have a look at our more detailed equipment costs for more information), but they should give you a good starting point to work out how much you’ll need to get started.

• Venue licence: £150 per year

• Insurances: £230 per year

• Screening equipment: £2,350 + any extra cables (one-off)

• Items for your venue: £300 (one-off)

• Film licence: £100 per screening

• PRS licence: £8 per screening

• Venue hire: £50 per screening

• Team expenses: £30 per screening

• Marketing: £25 per screening

Ready to start working out your cinema’s costs? Download our easy-to-use Excel budget template.

  • So, how can you raise funds to set up your cinema?

    There are so many ways to generate funds – and in fact, lots of community cinemas are able to make extra money to invest back into their community cinema once initial costs are covered! Here are some fundraising ideas:

    • Apply to funding schemes and local initiatives that could support the launch of your community cinema
    • Sell annual membership fees in advance of your first screening
    • Raise money by taking part in sponsored events, like a 5k run or a 24 hour movie marathon
    • Run special film-themed events – such as a movie-themed fancy dress party with a small cover charge, or a community second-hand DVD sale where 50% of the takings go towards the cinema
    • Organise car boot sales, coffee mornings, jumble sales or cake sales
  • Need some more help in working out how much it would cost to set up and run a community cinema? We can help – get in touch with any questions.