As the price of cinema tickets continues to skyrocket (not to mention the price of the popcorn), the Friday night film date is quickly becoming less frequent enter the community cinema.
The days of a trip to the local cinema being a cheap and cheerful night out are long gone, having been replaced by an experience that many people feel has become excessively expensive. According to a study by the BFI, the average price of a cinema ticket in the UK increased from £4.87 in 2006 to £7.17 in 2015 – and in major cities such as London, a single adult ticket can easily cost close to £20.
The cost of taking a family of four to see a film – which includes tickets, drinks and popcorn – can now break the £100 barrier, highlighting just how expensive the activity has become.
The issue is being compounded further by television packages such as those offered by Sky and online services like Netflix and Amazon. The cost of a monthly subscription can be cheaper than a single cinema ticket and thus offer much better value for money.
These factors are combining to relegate the cinema visit from being a fan favourite to an occasional treat. Instead, people are seeking an alternative cinema experience that provides the same quality viewing experience without the expensive price tag.
Rise of the pop-up cinema
This alternative is increasingly taking shape in the form of the community cinema, film clubs and societies running their own movie screenings.
We’ve all heard of (and may have seen) cinema screens popping up on rooftops and racecourses on fairly large scales, and as a by-product of that, groups have started dusting off their camping chairs and establishing cinemas of their own in whatever location takes their fancy.
From school and village halls to cricket clubs, parks and even back gardens, no space is exempt from being turned into a quirky home-grown cinema that local residents can enjoy at their leisure – especially when armed with a projector and a popcorn machine. Not only does it bring the community together in its shared cinema experience, but it can save it money too. A trip to the village hall is likely to be far cheaper than travelling into town to visit the closest multiplex. It’s also more convenient as the venues are usually local and just a walk away, meaning no reason to bundle everyone into the car for a matinee and you can happily have a drink with your evening film, as it’s just a short walk home.
What’s more, advances in technology mean that just because viewers are watching a film locally in an informal set-up the viewing quality doesn’t need to be compromised. In fact, modern projectors are now so advanced that communities can enjoy very similar image quality as they do in cinemas.
It is also an experience that can be shared and enjoyed by whole neighbourhoods. Community cinemas give villages the chance to get lots of people together for a casual, family-friendly event, whether that be a cosy indoor movie night during the winter or open-air screenings throughout the summer. Tring Cinema is one such perfect example; a pop-up community cinema for Tring and the surrounding villages, it is run and organised by local members of the community.
Tring Cinema received financial support from local businesses, which enabled it to build a 2.5m x 5m screen in a village hall in the centre of Tring. The group then selected a top-of-the-range Epson projector, offering high definition images that could be shown in a variety of light levels and connects to various high definition devices, to deliver a full cinematic experience.
Such initiatives are quickly becoming commonplace across the UK, with more and more people keen to take part in a shared movie experience that doesn’t disappoint.
Enjoy the show
So, how can you get your community get involved in this movement and create a mini-cinema of your own?
The first step is to put your crack team together. This should include a range of people with different skills that can cover tasks such as bookings, equipment, finance and marketing. When this team is in place, you can start working out the financials to consider whether a fundraiser or sponsored event is needed to raise some money.
Remember that, along with venue and equipment hire, license and insurance costs also need to be factored in – although these can be offset by ticket, food and drink sales once you’re up and running.
Of course, no community cinema will be able to function without the right equipment. Films can be screened using fairly basic kit, commonly comprising of a DVD or Blu-ray player, a projector, a screen and a sound system. Larger venues may require slightly higher quality equipment in order to achieve greater clarity of sound and vision, but today’s level of projector technology is more than capable of meeting these demands.
In some cases, new equipment can be sourced through local companies or large enterprises, and cinemas that have been running for six months can choose to apply to the BFI Neighbourhood Community cinema Equipment Fund.
Next comes the fun part: choosing your first film and promoting the screening throughout your local community. There are many ways you can market your screening and it doesn’t have to drain your budget. Social media, for example, is a free and effective way of getting your message out, as are local newsletters, notice boards and leaflets.
Whether it’s to watch an iconic cult classic, a modern blockbuster or even the next big sporting event, all that’s left then is to sit back, relax and enjoy the community cinema experience!