How to Start a Comunity Cinema

How to Start a Film Group

During 2009-10 Scrooby had some vey enjoyable occasional film screenings in the Village Hall - Laurel & Hardy and the Titfield Rocket, and Val Maxwell's film nights for her Breast Cancer charity.

In view of this, the Scrooby Show committee decided to spend some of the funds raised over recent years, on projection equipment. This would enable film and visual presentations to be shown in Scrooby Village Hall. Very quickly, Scrooby Parish Council offered to match the Show's contribution.

James Arrowsmith, Graham Robbins and Ed Marshall researched the project. There were a couple of very helpful sources of information. Firstly, a visit to Bawtry Film Society at the Pheonix Theatre was illuminating, and Rupert Atkinson was very helpful. Secondly, a visit to the British Federation of Film Societies was reassuring; this is a national society, but happens to be based in Sheffield at The Workstation next to the Showroom Cinema.

With the help of Nick Arrowsmith, who is very knowledgeable about audio-visual equipment, we specified, bought and fitted the following kit:

  • Cambridge S50 Centre speaker (99.95)
  • Onkyo TXSR308 Amplifier (199.95)
  • Tanoy Front Speakers (99.95)
  • Wharfedale 9.0 Rear speakers (49.95)
  • Wharfedale sub woofer (99.95)
  • LG Blue Ray player (119.95)
  • Speaker cable (39.60)
  • 5m HDMI cable (34.95)
  • Discount from LINK:Richer Sounds (-40.00)
  • Projector Mount Kit (29.31)
  • Projector (454.73)
  • 6x speaker brackets (71.93)
  • Total: 1260.22

Scrooby Community Cinema: James and Nick Arrowsmith Install Projection Equipment
Scrooby Community Cinema: James and Nick Arrowsmith Install Projection Equipment

The other hurdle which needed to be cleared before showing films was the issue of licensing. There were two requirements: a premise license for the Village Hall, including film projection, and paying film distributors' fees for each film shown. We contacted Bassetlaw District Council, where Nina Robinson in the licensing department was very helpful. The premises licence was received on 29 January 2011.

We then set about researching film distribution and screening rights; a complex area, but one which boils down to a decision whether to operate as a closed club, or do public screenings. We chose the latter, and will pay a minimum licence fee to the film distributor, and a percentage of any greater takings on the door, and in return are allowed to screen the film, charge on the door, and advertise the film being shown. The British Federation of Film Societies is the key source of information and support in making these licensing decisions, as well as contact with the various film distributors.

How to Book a Film

To show a film at a community cinema, the film must be licensed. A license is granted by the film's distributor. Amazingly, there is no centralised system for applying for a film screening licence. Instead, the film distributor has to be identified and contacted. Most will then send a booking form and details of their fees and paperwork requirements. A list of some of the UK's film distributors is given below.

UK Film Distributors Contact List

Momentum Pictures

ContactTara Barnett
Address20 Soho Square, London W1D 3QW
Tel020 7534 0450

Artificial Eye Film Company

Address20-22 Stukeley Street, London WC2B 5LR
Tel020 7438 9525

Paramount Pictures UK

Address12 Golden Square, London W1A 2JL

Optimum Releasing

Address50 Marshall Street, London W1F 9BQ
Tel020 7534 2700

Universal Pictures International

AddressProspect House, 80-110 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB

Motion Picture Licensing Company

To make things slightly easier, some distributors make licences available through the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC). This organisation handles the licensing process in a uniform way across the distributors, and offers standard fees.

The following distributors are know to operate under the MPLC:

Buena Vista
Dimension Films
Hollywood Pictures
Miramax Films
United Artists
Orion Pictures
Cannon Pictures
Walt Disney
Twentieth Century Fox Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox 2000 Films
Fox - Walden


Filmbank also offer a licensing service. There is an account application process including a 150 refundable deposit returned on closure of the account. See Filmbank. There is a minimum charge of 83 per screening, plus you pay a percentage of any takings over 83.

In practice we book almost all our films via Filmbank, and would recommend this as the easiest way to approach film licensing. Filmbank don't offer all films, but the only major disappointment we have had is that Filmbank do not license any of the Studio Ghibli animations.