Moviola's Issues Facing Community Cinemas

ISSUES FACING COMMUNITY CINEMA SUSTAINABILITY

Some of the issues facing community cinemas that the attendees of Moviola's Sustainability Seminar shared: 

 

SUSTAINABLE FINANCE

  • Community cinemas must sell enough tickets to cover their costs. Public funding or money gained from sponsorship can be used for those special events – the icing on the cake – which might be offered to the community,
     
  • Ticket income is key and an obvious first question is the ticket price. Arguably in 2017, £5 should be the minimum charged. Make sure you don't undercharge as this will not necessarily result in larger sales owing to scepticism from the public that what is offered cannot be of quality at that price,
     
  • It is important for venues to stress to audiences the value of the ticket price is not just to see a film but to see a film without need to travel far, in a secure and friendly environment, among friends and neighbours, with a friendly welcome, good refreshments, excellent technical standards and in support of the village hall which offers so much beyond cinema to the community,
     
  • Another aspect of finance is also other ways of earning money. Good quality refreshments, a bar, and raffles, remain a popular way to raise some cash. Some venues sell off unwanted DVDs (requested from regulars). A few venues do on-screen advertising, one earning as much as £1,500 a year from adverts for local business which are screened in a show-reel before each show,
     
  • Sponsorship is not uncommon and not just cash support but also support in kind, most obviously the loan of the village hall at low or no cost, or on the agreement that a proportion of the surplus at the end of the year goes into Hall funds,
     
  • Equally, some Moviola venues have to pay very high rentals indeed for their show venue: As much as £160 in at least two instances. This immediately produces a sustainability issue for such venues in having to have an audience of at least 70 to break even.

 

SUSTAINABLE AUDIENCES 

  • Our current audience is over 50. We provide a valuable service of ‘access’ for older people and we should not forget this in our own promotion,
     
  • While it is heartening to see people enjoying films who have not been to the cinema for many years, nevertheless it would be useful to attract more people in the younger age categories. Young people are accessing films in ways which we could not have dreamed only a few years ago and in ways which our current core audience does not. Here one thinks of large screen TVs and home sound systems which can beat anything we have in a village hall. Streaming into such devices has also improved, one need only think of Netflix and ‘The Crown’ series which is targeting our core audience too,
     
  • The ‘added value’ element of seeing a film in the village hall assumes even more importance if one seeks to lure people away from such easy and tempting fare. Those with families might find our cinema service of ‘good value’ compared with a trip to a multiplex, but these people also have many other activities and pressures on their time. The cost of babysitting might be a disincentive to come. One Moviola venue provides special matinee shows for mothers and babies and mothers and toddlers,
     
  • Communities have many events apart from the cinema. Weekends and especially Saturdays may not be the best time for a show because of all the other things that happen then, including weekend visitors and trips to see families,
     
  • All public events are affected by the weather, even multiplex cinemas which will run empty in extreme cold or wet. Selling tickets in advance or having some sort of loyalty scheme which will encourage people to turn up because they have paid for the ticket. If a show is less than monthly, then the task of publicity has to start all over again for each show. The evidence is firmly that a regular show on the same night of the month or the fortnight gets people used to the idea of ‘our local cinema’,
     
  • Our audience greatly dislikes bad language in films perhaps more than anything else. More information on films, comments, subject, warnings about language or violence or sex – show organisers may not have the time to look this up for themselves and this is a valued part of the Moviola system. Muzzy soundtracks and mumbling by actors sometimes makes enjoyment of films difficult,
     
  • Most people start their shows at 7.30 and end by 10 – but there appears to be a sensitivity here owing to the age of the audience. Older people may not wish to stay out late or be able to ‘endure’ a long evening. 

 

SUSTAINABLE VOLUNTEERING

  • Most of our community cinema organisers are older people who also give of their time to other community activities. The time helpers can devote and their ‘reliability’ may determine the number of shows that can be put on and also the time to ‘develop’ the service. The ability to take time away from running the shows to take ‘the long view’ of how the cinema could be developed and put on a long term stable basis is very important,
     
  • Tips on presenting films and advice on new equipment was identified as a problem. Perhaps this could be overcome by better contact between members of the network.

 

SUSTAINABLE VENUES

  • Clearly a good venue for the cinema is a critical factor. People who have never been may think the village hall ‘incapable’ of putting on a good show. Perhaps they have bad memories of a previous film night or films as they were when seen at school. The acoustics may be echoing (made worse by problematical film soundtracks) or the ceiling is too low to mount the screen high enough to see over people’s heads. Where the heating is ineffective, people will not want to sit for a long time to watch a film. Hard seats can be a problem,
     
  • Often of course people bring cushions and this can be part of the fun. With the right community spirit the effect of the seats can be overcome. Also the way seats are set out, for example curved and not in straight rows, can make it all more welcoming,
     
  • Village Halls are often booked up or where village halls have closed and the service has moved elsewhere, this can badly affect the audience. Other community cinemas operate too close and appear to have no contact/co-ordination with established venues.

 

SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY

  • The speed at which technology is changing and the need to upgrade equipment. For example people are generally not aware that BluRay players have to be upgraded at least twice a year to ensure that they can play the latest disks,
     
  • Projectors are out-dated after three or four years, lamps need replacing long before they ‘blow’ because their light output will decrease over time etc etc. One again, there is a need for exchange of information and ‘tips’. And new home technologies such as huge screen TV, excellent sound, and new ‘streaming’ possibilities such as Netflix and ‘The Crown’.

 

SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRY

  • We still suffer from long waiting periods before we can get hold of titles, though the joined up power of our 266 venues in the Moviola network and the large box offices we can return to London is gradually convincing film distributors that we are worth dealing with. However we are dependent on what the they release and when they do so. Even profitable commercial cinemas can go empty for months waiting for suitable films to come along,
     
  • We can of course find a partial solution to this in the way we vary our programme, for example using foreign language films and re-releases (classics), but those have their own problems. The weekly attendance figures available to Moviola show sometimes extraordinarily small attendances, literally only in the hundreds across the whole of the UK for independent and foreign language films.