Moviola's 45 Ideas To Improve You Community Cinema

Moviola's 45 Ideas To Improve You Community Cinema


1. The Cinema Experience

Make your cinema screening THE monthly event in your village.


2. Contribute to the Community

Assuming you make a surplus each year on your shows, decide what to do with it. You'll want to keep some in reserve, but you might also want to make a donation. You could give to the village hall so that facilities can be upgraded, which will in turn benefit your audience. Or  you could give to local good causes. 


3. Self-Promotion

Make sure people know what you do and how you contribute to the community. Send out press releasese to the local press. 


4. Make sure key people know what you do. 

Make sure all the key people in your area such as county and district councillors, parish councillors, the Vicar, other church ministers, all know how much your cinema service puts into the community. You could create an annual report to send to them. 


5. Welcome newcomers to the village.

We found at the Sustainability Seminars, several examples of newcomers saying how much they appreciated the community cinema as a way of getting to know the village, first by attending, and then by volunteering. Make a bee-line for newcomers.


6. Improving Facilities

Many Moviola network members have ploughed surplus into improving the Village Hall (screen, loudspeakers, chairs etc) to the benefit of everyone. Again you send out a press release or included this in your annual report.  


7. Event Cinema

Expand your film programme by offering special events such as live relays or different events using the Moviola-Cinegi service. This can attract new audience which may not automatically come to films. You can use this as an opportunity to trailer forthcoming screenings. Special events can also be priced higher and may well generate surplus which can help float your cinema service. 


8. Getting Films Early (pre-DVD/BR)

This is often possible through the Moviola menu.  We can always get you foreign language and independent films long before DVD sale. 


9. Enhancing The Show

This can inlcude programme notes, live introductions, refreshments, a warm welcome, mood music before the show, nice warm temperature, dimmed lights. 


10. Introduce An Interval

The jury is divided on whether feature films should be broken for an interval. Actually film distributors do not allow you to do this. Many people argue that the discomfort of the seats makes an interval necessary especially for older people. Others that the flow of the film is ruined and people are put off coming by what becomes a TV experience. For many years in our own shows Moviola has had a policy of not breaking ‘standard’ length films of two hours or under. The short film service was designed to provide a 20 minute or so programme in advance of the unbroken main film which would then allow an interval for socialising and to sell refreshments. The short programme also of course helps the audience get used to sight lines, sound etc before the main film and allows latecomers not to miss the start of the feature.


11. Themed Shows

Themed shows could include food served to match the film, mini film festivals, groups of films such as the best of the 'Carry On…', Granny & Grandaughter shows idea where local Grannies decide on the film that most changed their lives as teenagers and then bringing along their grandaughters to see it and then of course the grandaughters choose a film for their Grannies to see. These sort of ideas can in the future be shared across the network through our chat-room and that may allow us to get some funding for such seasons if sufficient venues want to take part.


12. Local Interest 

If their are any film industry people living in your area you could get them to do a pre-film presentation or QnA. If a local college does a film course they might have students that would want to screen their short films before the main movie. If a movie was filmed in your area you could do a themed show. 


13. Classic Films

Titles such as 'Casblanca', 'The Third Man' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' always do well. You could do a themed show or look out for anniversaries of release or a actors birthday.


14. Extra Entertainment

Do you have local musicians or a drama group that might like to perform before a film e.g. Casablanca with a pianist like Sam playing 40s songs? A silent film with live music.


15. Food Tie-ins

Period food to match the subject of the film for example Woolton Pie served with any of this autumn’s wartime films or food to match the time when the film was made.


16. Advertising In Local Stores

Look for an opportunity for you to advertise your show, ideally on a ‘quid pro quo’ basis without any cost. Space on tickets and posters could be ‘sold’ to local businesses.


17. On screen Advertising

One venue at the Seminars makes £1,500 a year from selling on-screen advertising on a self-made Pearl & Dean like showreel which is run before each show. Others have on-screen Powerpoint slides promoting local businesses and service for a fee or other local events and societies on a ‘like by like’ basis by which they in turn advertise shows.


18. Links to Local Businesses

This can be by sponsorship or advertising or by some means of mutual promotion. Businesses may be more likely to sponsor specific shows for example a children’s show or a Christmas show, than a whole season. Ask the supermarkets, especially those who are pushing ‘Local’ – like Tesco or the Co-op, if they would support a show with donations of produce if not money and if they would allow in-store advertising or leaflet distribution e.g. in the shop foyer with a display at the beginning of a season. But of course promise them something in return….


18. Seeking financial support from County & District councils

Clearly some parts of the country are better for this than others. If your local representatives know what you are doing and its value, you may be more likely to get financial support. Is there an officer charged with the Arts or the Community? Have you briefed that officer about what you do?


19. Local Charitable Bodies

Are there any local charities to which you could apply for funding to help with special shows (for example for the disabled or children) or for equipment to make your shows better or for a recruitment drive to increase audiences or for a special film season of foreign language or special interest films (preserving nature, the environment)?


20. Identifying The Audience

Find out where the gaps are in your current audience and identify possible new audiences.


21. Links To Other Village Societies & Organisations

Know what the other organisations are and who runs them. Are there ways in which you can co-operate and run a show together. For example a show on gardening or golf or cricket? Book reading circles are an excellent way to identify the ‘hot’novels and the films that may be made of them.


22. Links To Schools/PTA/Young Volunteers

There is a lot of varied experience working with schools.  Schools are often preoccupied with a lot of other activities and teachers with administration. School transport is also an issue in rural areas. It may always be worth some enquiries though. For older students, involvement in running the film show (and helping with technical matters like projection) may be attractive and could form part of a community education scheme, Duke of Edinburgh’s, Baccalaureate.


23. Lack of Transport

This is here as an opportunity in that you may be located in a place where you provide simply the only viable and cost effective way to see a film. Thus a community ‘lack’ could be turned into a promotional opportunity if you are “the area’s only cinema experience”. (And this too may qualify you for consideration for funding support by your local authority if only for the ‘special event’ cinema using theatre and opera and ballet.)


24.Outsource Transport

Can you offer transport to your shows for those who otherwise cannot come? And can you get sponsorship or funding for this?


25. Scheduling

Do some research or some reviewing as to whether you are screening on the best day of the week. Clearly availability of your village hall is an issue. Weekends are not necessarily the best time. Equally Mondays and Tuesdays may be ‘dead days’ so far as other activities are concerned. Do you ever screen on more than one night in the month? If twice, do you vary the day? Do you screen after December 15th – i.e. is Christmas and New Year a dead zone for audiences? Do you screen in July and August? Some places give up showing films after March/early April – which in the opinion of most of our network is a missed opportunity.


26. Isolated People

This is a complex and sensitive issue but one of the strengths of community cinema is to reach out to such individuals and sectors. There is experience of one venue offering a service on a Sunday afternoon, identified by many members of that audience as the most ‘difficult’ time of the week for them to get through.


27. Matinees

Matinees, showing the same film twice in a day, may attract a different audience, one that is reluctant to go out after dark, especially in winter months. If you book a film through Moviola, you can show the film more than once in any booked day for no extra admin charge. You simply add together total box offices (you must however tell us when you book the film that you plan to do this). Once you have set up the show and put out the seats, it is relatively little extra effort to repeat. Matinees after lunch at about 2 or at teatime 4pm (running into the evening show time) are equally successful.


28. Meal Tie-in

As we have seen above, themed meals to suit films are successful. Several venues also offer a supper pre-show (say at 6pm for a 7.30 film) and also have arrangements for show/meal tickets with nearby pubs or cafes.


29. Membership systems

Some venues offer a membership system which does not exclude the general public (so avoid the use of the word ‘CLUB’ because it tends to reinforce ideas of exclusivity). For a small annual subscription, ‘members’ may get a small discount off ticket price, or one free show in the year or a free glass of wine at a show or special emails or special chances to choose films.


30. Special offers (loyalty cards)

One venue at least offers a loyalty card which is stamped each time a film is attended with a free admission for the sixth or seventh film. Please talk to Moviola about how you might account for this but in principle we are happy to help with special offers and promotions if they result in a bigger audience. Two for one offers etc etc. Of course this has to be handled carefully so that overall your sales are not affected.


31. Gift vouchers

Some venues have printed up attractive Gift Vouchers for Christmas, Birthdays and Anniversaries which can contain one or more tickets to any film.


32. Singalongs

Some films have the possibility of sing-a-long subtitles which could be worked up into special events. ‘The Sound of Music’ (the most famous of these) is however too expensive to be within the reach of most community cinemas. However 'Mamma Mia', 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' and a number of Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals are available.


33. Raffles

Many venues hold a raffle during the evening using donated prizes (again supermarkets good here – maybe a voucher which will get the person into the supermarket and thus buy more!). Some venues mark one ticket in each batch (could be more of course) as The Golden Ticket, which gets you into the next film free. Bring along a new person next time and you get in free. Of course this presupposes you know your regular audience and also can identify new faces. Perhaps you could give a number of your regulars a free pair of tickets for them to bring along two new people - and try to give the new people a special welcome or at least find out from them what they thought of the experience and how you can tell them about future shows.


34. Subtitled Shows

This has two meanings. You could run an alternative film night, a special season or a tie-in with a local travel agent to screen foreign language films or provide screenings with subtitles for the hard of hearing.


35. Catering and Bar

Think about the quality and the price. You could provide ice cream, homemade cake, nibbles or a licenced bar. It is now much easier to get a licence to sell alcohol and this will make you a great deal of money.


36. Working With Nearby Community Cinemas

If you have a nearby community cinema do not compete but co-operate. Joint programming will only increase the chance for local people to see good films and where big name films are shown twice, this will not necessarily reduce the audience, rather it might give people a chance to see a film if they were busy the first time. Also some films will benefit from word of mouth. Clusters of venues (perhaps four or five in an area) could work out a joint programme and a way of promoting all their film together.


37. Relaxed showings

A few venues are experimenting with shows for people with learning difficulties


38. Baby and Toddler Screenings

Many mothers with young children are among the most isolated members of the community. Babies and toddlers are different of course and the latter may require a special film whereas for babies, it is the mothers who form the target group.


39. Dementia Friendly Events

Shows or special events around cinema reminiscence have been found to be very valuable to those suffering from dementia. 


40. Mailing Lists

Knowing how to contact your audience is very important. Send out a monthly email with reminders of upcoming shows, information and articles about the films, and special offers and events. People can be reluctant to part with personal information. You will need to make it clear that you are collecting and keeping such information only for use by the cinema and that it will not be shared with anybody else. 


41. Young Peoples Programming Network

In the near future, Moviola will be looking at possibilities for forming a Young Person’s Programming Group. We are aware that many communities are too small to support a viable audience cohort for special young people’s programmes but together the network or ‘clusters’ of venues within it may support such. Make an estimate of the young people in your immediate and intermediate area and the age categories into which they fall. This will be very useful for planning activities to attract young people (or to explain why such activities are a non starter!).


42. Partners’ Network/Chatroom

Moviola plans to launch in the near future a ‘closed’ section of its website for members to exchange ideas and good practice. In particular this will allow us to canvass support for projects and ideas and also to disseminate new ideas from the Hubs and BFI. More information on films, sound quality, subtitle options, interval points etc. The Seminars identified a need for more information from Moviola to members both on the menu and on an ongoing basis. The ‘Members Chatroom’ outlined above will be an opportunity for this,  together with an enhanced menu. Material for posters Moviola’s in house posters will be posted on website (and maybe Chatroom) for adaptation and wider use. The straplines used on the posters will also be made available together with clearer links to trailers and other information on films.


43. Communities and Venue Capacity

Moviola will survey the network and identify the capacity of venues and the size of the communities they serve. This will allow Moviola (and potential funders) better information by which to measure the headline success of the venue. This has arisen out of the wide variance identified at the Seminars in size of venues, in some places as small as 30 people.


44. Annual report sharing statistics and trends

Seminars welcomed the possibility of more statistical information both on an annual basis and ongoing on how films were being received. The headline statistics of Moviola 2016 were received with interest and some pride but clearly needed a great deal more analysis.


45. More meetings like this one

The great majority of comments received in the Evaluation exercise welcomed the possibility of future meetings to share ideas and to receive information. At least an annual series of meetings should be agenda-ed and marketed well in advance to network members.

For more information, please visit Moviola's website.