How to start a community cinema

Last updated: 24 May, 2021

Community cinemas are brilliant because they are: 

  • run by audiences, for audiences – the community chooses the films  

  • an informal way for people to get together  

  • for everyone and help connect people who otherwise would not meet  

What you need

  • Space or venue to show your film 

  • Projector, screen, computer or DVD player, speakers, sound system, cables 

  • A selection of films 

  • Tickets 

  • A torch 

  • Blackout blinds or sheets if you’re using an indoor venue

  • Food and drink 

  • Marketing materials: posters, invites

We used a local guide hut as a venue which we got for free.

EllieOrganiser of Women in Sport film night

Before the film screening 

1Find a few people to help

You’re only one person and can’t do this on your own. Share the experience, and the work, with a few like-minded people. 

2Ask your community

Find out what films they’d like to see. Use a survey or poll on social media.  

3Find a venue

Depending on the time of year, decide whether you want to use an indoor or outdoor venue. Get some more tips from our How to find a venue guide.

4Decide how much to charge

Set up a membership where people pay an annual fee. Or if you’re doing this as a one-off, think about charging between £3 and £5.  

5Plan what film to show

Use the survey results from your community to make your decision.  

6Consider having a theme

Ask people to dress up as their favourite character for a bit of fun. 

7Get permission to screen your film

See the Gov.uk website for more information on the licences you need. 

8Get insurance

Consider becoming a member of Cinema for All. It will give you access to a competitive insurance package through WR Insurance

9Decide on a name

Think of a name that feels right for your local area.  

10Do a test screening with a group of friends or family

By doing this you can check that your projector, screen and sound system are working properly. 

11Tell everyone about it

Spread the word on social media and put up posters in your community. Make sure you put the film’s classification on any marketing materials. You can find a film’s classification on the British Board of Film’s website. Get some more tips from our How to promote your activity guide.

A plain white sheet (make sure it’s ironed!) is a cheap way of creating a screen for an indoor cinema.

EllieOrganiser of Women in Sport film night

After the film screening 

1Let everyone know how your film screening went

Celebrate your success with others in the community. Share your story and we’ll include it on our website. 

2Ask the community for feedback

Do another survey or poll on social media so you can make your film screening even better next time. 

Make it for everyone

  • Find a venue that everyone can use (one that has disabled facilities) 

  • Use British Sign Language interpreters  

  • Use subtitles even if it’s an English film

  • Use induction loops and infrared systems. Speak to organisations like Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) for advice 

  • Create safe areas where people can relax and have quiet time 

  • Have seating options available for people who are partially sighted 

  • Make sure there are no flashing lights in the film 

Useful websites

Share your story

Do you have a story about how your community has come together to support each other?

We'd love to share your story on our website to encourage other people to get or offer support.

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