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October 25, 2019

Local screens

Despite the dominance of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, it seems there’s still an appetite for the big screen. And within that segment of the entertainment market, there’s a healthy niche for community cinema. Perhaps because they pursue different outcomes to the commercial operators such as widening access to film or simply breathing new life into old buildings, this sector has real energy – as reflected by this audience reaction to hearing that the Grassmarket Community Project had won Community Cinema Award in the UK Film Society of the Year awards.


To read full briefing from Senscot on Cinema and Regeneration click here

Digital cinema has dramatically changed the cinema landscape, allowing communities to show a huge array of film, theatre, music and even sport.  Taking cinema directly into communities is a simple yet effective way to tackle cultural isolation.

By providing affordable access to film, and taking away costs and issues associated with travel, social enterprises can use cinema as a tool to improve the lives of the people they work with.

Community cinema is about bringing people together, sharing the experience and in many cases enjoying additional activities such as live music, discussion, speaking to the film makers and food.

Using film innovatively brings communities together and makes it easier for hard-to-reach audiences to be included in programming plans.  Cinemas within the social enterprise network endeavour to provide a raft of novel programming ideas to maximise their reach, including: • Singalongs • Community films, including shorts screened before the main feature • Autism-friendly screenings • Over-65s screenings • Dementia-friendly screenings • Food and drink themed nights

The Contribution of Social Enterprise

In 2016, Voluntary Arts Scotland and Cinema for All ran a pilot – Grow Your Own Cinema – that supported 20 community groups to pilot regular film screenings across Scotland.  With practical support from national agencies, groups came together to design and deliver cinema experiences in their own communities.

By virtue of being planned by local people for local people, these projects – and other social enterprises – are able to boost an area’s economy, create new learning experiences, promote regional heritage and involve hitherto excluded groups, making them a vital part of the screen industry in Scotland.

“Creating a local cinema is one of the ways that groups look to bring communities back to use the halls and recreate them as centres for the community.” – Matt Kitson, Driftwood Cinema.

“Something small-scale feels more personal and inclusive. Not just allowing people to come in, but actually making people feel part of the area that they live in. I think that that’s a really nice thing and I feel very lucky to be a part of that.” – Simon Lewis, The Birks Cinema.

  • Cinema can be used as a tool for rural, urban and community regeneration if the community is at the heart of the organisation.
  • Cinema is not necessarily about dedicated buildings but can be pop-up cinema events, taking screenings to a range of isolated locations.
  • Cinema needs to be recognised, at a national and local level, as a route to tackling cultural isolation, improving well-being and sustaining community cohesion. To be able to do this it must be resourced properly.
  • Existing rural models of touring cinema could also help more urban communities gain access to film.
  • Partnerships between social enterprises and cinema providers could help grow audiences, reach deprived areas and improve accessibility.