Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

5 reasons why you should go to an independent cinema right now!

Posted Thursday 18 August 2016 by Julia Marchese in General

Out of Print
The Crest in Westwood, Los Angeles - showing Julia Marchese's documentary on rep cinema, Out of Print

Filmmaker Julia Marchese (@juliacmarchese) is about to tour European cinemas with Out of Print, her documentary on the importance of 35mm and revival cinema as explored via the patrons of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, where Marchese worked from 2006 to 2014 (read her take on the reasons for her departure here). Out of Print will screen in UK venues in the autumn; meanwhile Julia is also planning a series of mini-documentaries on selected UK independent cinemas, telling stories about individual venues and how they've established their base. To read more about Julia's UK tour and help make it happen, click here, and read on for her take on why local indie cinemas are such a crucial part of our artistic and social communities, and why maintaining access to repertory cinema should be a priority for us all.

1. Support your community

All you have to do is buy a ticket from your local cinema and - voila! - you just became an important part in keeping that theatre alive and kicking. Every independent cinema has its own community. There is a reason that cinemas have groups of hardcore regulars - because these (rad) people have found the environment they like, and want to support that environment. Every cinema has a different feeling about it. Explore until you find the one you like.  And when you do find that cinema that you love, bring your friends. 

San Marco Theatre, Florida
Seeing films in theatres like the historic San Marco in Jacksonville, Florida is an unforgettable, unique experience

2. Make your opinion count

Sick of all the sequels and remakes? You have the power to change and shape the future of cinema! Every person who buys a ticket for an indie or repertory title paves the road for that cinema to play more of that kind of film in the future. You have a direct say. When people stop going to see remakes, they'll stop being made. When people start to support indie cinema, more indie cinema will be made. 

3. Make a friend

If you went to your local multiplex and started chatting to the concessions girl or the bloke sitting next to you about film, it might seem a little... awkward... right? The wonderful thing about independent cinemas is that the crowd is made up of hardcore film buffs like you, and would love to talk to you about film, any time, any day. Hey, if they're one of the people watching a midnight screening of The Holy Mountain with you, they must be cool! Give it a go. 

Riviera Theatre, Michigan
The Riviera Theatre in Three Rivers, Michigan, which first opened its doors in 1925

4. Try something different

Everyone has their film gaps - and you know what's cool about that? Someday, one of those movies you missed will play at an repertory cinema near you. That means that you will have the enviable opportunity to see that movie on a big screen, with an audience, for the first time -  which is so incredible and the way all movies should be seen for the first time, in my opinion. It's SO much better than seeing it alone, at home. Trust me. 

5. Open your mind to cinema

You will never be able to watch every movie ever made. That's how many there are, and more are being added to that number every day. My point is, there is so much cinema to explore out there, and so many cinemas. The UK has an astounding amount of incredible repertory & independent cinemas, and each one is programmed with the utmost care by people who believe in every film that has been chosen. 

The Capitol Theatre, New York
The Capitol, a beautiful theatre opened in 1926 and still operating in Port Chester, New York state

Explore film!

Worst case scenario, you see a film you don't like. Best case, you see a film that engages your mind and causes you to delve even further. But don't worry, no matter what cinema you attend, you'll be exploring along film lovers just like you, who are always happy to lend assistance. 

Find out more about Julia's UK tour and show your support here!

How cinema can help people with dementia live a life more ordinary: the Dukes Lancaster

Posted Thursday 11 August 2016 by Johnathan Ilott

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
Audience members enjoying dementia-friendly screenings at The Dukes, Lancaster

In recent years, more and more cinemas UK-wide have been holding regular screenings for sufferers of dementia, their carers and family members. As we are living longer, the number of people suffering from dementia in later life is constantly increasing; by 2025, the Alzheimer's Society estimates one million people will be living with the condition in the UK, despite inroads made by ongoing research. The emotional and physical toll of dementia is often devastating and very isolating, both for those with the condition and their loved ones, and so activities such as cinema-going that offer a change of scene, the chance to elicit and revisit memories, restful entertainment, and an opportunity to bond with others, are invaluable. Johnathan Ilott, Film Programme Manager at The Dukes in Lancaster, tells us about the pioneering initiative they undertook at their cinema and the impact it's had on local audiences.

“Singing along in the film interval brings back the woman we used to know.”

On Valentine’s Day 2013, The Dukes held a screening of Singin’ In The Rain for people living with dementia and their families. It was a pilot screening for what become a new project on-going called A Life More Ordinary.

The idea came out of a three-year study undertaken by Age UK Lancashire that investigated the needs of older people in the county. One of the major findings of the report was the increasing sense of isolation experienced by older people. This issue was further compounded for people living with dementia, due to a loss of confidence and fear of going out in public. This had an impact on family relationships, too, with partners feeling less able to go out and socialise, leaving both feeling isolated.

These findings led to a partnership between us at The Dukes and Age UK Lancashire in a bid to explore the potential role of cinema and the arts in enabling people with dementia and their partners or family members to enjoy ‘ordinary’ activities in everyday public spaces.

One of the ideas developed by the partnership was a tailored programme of cinema screenings which aimed to:

  • Increase feelings of involvement and reduce feelings of isolation for people attending.
  • Provide appropriate transport to support attendance at events.
  • Provide a dementia-friendly environment for patrons and their partners or family members.

Above all we wanted to offer an everyday activity in an everyday setting. Our first screening was of Singin’ in the Rain - we’d picked the Gene Kelly favourite as our consultation showed a strong preference for Golden Age musicals. As well as being our audience's clear preference, musicals were considered a good choice because the narrative is carried along by the songs - many of which audiences would be familiar with whether or not they had previously seen the film.

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
The Dukes' initial consultation showed that musicals were a firm audience favourite

The initial success of this screening saw the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation agree to fund an expanded six-month programme, which allowed us to reach out to a larger audience and introduce workshops. This in turn led to a longer, three-year project.

The screenings

At every dementia-friendly screening we try to strike a balance between keeping the environment as much like a regular screening as possible while also ensuring that everyone is comfortable. Before beginning the pilot we held a walkthrough of the building, with the help of Age UK Lancashire staff, to uncover any access issues. As a listed building, The Dukes unfortunately has numerous such issues, but the walkthrough highlighted several small but significant changes we could easily make. For example, we changed the signage on our toilet doors, which had previously relied on illustrations that weren't really clear enough, and the layout for our menus was simplified to make them more readable.

Our staff all received dementia training as well. This was not only Front of House staff but across the board, from projectionists to finance and marketing to stage management. Before each screening we have lunch offers and Age UK staff on hand to provide support. We encourage audiences to arrive early, giving them the opportunity to socialise and for new attendees, the chance to acclimatise to the venue. During the film, the lights are on slightly and the volume is slightly reduced. For all screenings, we have an interval to break up the runtime. These intervals include entertainment - for example a sing-a-long, or for a screening of a George Formby film we had a ukulele player.

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
All dementia-friendly screenings at The Dukes include an interval with added entertainment for audience members

Programming & marketing

There’s always a lot of discussion when programming the films, as we have to consider several factors. Firstly, the length of some films is simply prohibitive, and we couldn't include several lengthy titles like The Sound of Music. One of the key aspects of the project was the setting up of a Task Group to ensure that the programme was developed in line with the needs of the audience.

This group consisted of patrons (those living with dementia), family members, general audience members as well as staff representatives. The group helped to inform our programming choices as well as giving insights into how we could further improve the audience experience.

In our marketing we state that the screenings are dementia-friendly but have always specified that the films are open to the wider cinema-going public as well, and the films are all included in our general cinema listings. This feeds back into keeping the screenings as ordinary as possible - and we’ve had audience members who don't suffer from dementia coming just because they like the set-up and the chance to see some classics on the big screen.

On top of this, we do more targeted work with specific flyers distributed extensively across the district to older people’s groups, libraries, leisure centres, GP surgeries, care agencies, and key stakeholder groups, including Lancaster and Morecambe Alzheimer’s Society. We also received a lot of press attention, with local press and BBC Lancashire running stories. It’s rare for a one-screen cinema in the North to get national press attention, but the project has also featured in The Guardian and on BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour.

“So often people don’t know what to say to you, so to just sit there and let yourself go and have a laugh was lovely.”


We were lucky to receive significant funding to support A Life More Ordinary from various organisations. Three things in particular have made this possible. Firstly, The Dukes is a mixed-arts organisation - a producing theatre as well as a cinema - and this blend of expertise and interests means we are able to develop a programme across art forms. As well as film screenings, we hold arts workshops and have produced plays that explore the themes of ageing.

Secondly, we have a strong relationship with Lancaster University which has a Centre of Ageing Research. This meant we can combine our programme of work and their research - significantly improving the evaluation of the impact of the project.

Lastly, a few years ago The Dukes invested in creating a new Business Development Role. Rather than being an added luxury this has proved crucial, because it takes time and resources to develop relationships with trusts, foundations and other funding bodies. Having someone focused on this has significantly improved our ability to write bids.

One of the organisations funding the project is Film Hub North West Central who have supported The Dukes in expanding A Life More Ordinary to five more venues in our region (Chorley Little Theatre, Wem Town Hall, Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool, The Light Cinema in New Brighton and Ludlow Assembly Rooms).

Dementia friendly screenings at The Dukes
The screenings offer a chance for dementia sufferers to socialise, with Age UK staff on hand to support

Impact and audience feedback

The audience response to the screenings has been overwhelming positive, with many participants focusing on the relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity once again to enjoy an everyday activity without the feeling of being judged.

They’ve also had a profound effect on our staff, and many will tell you that the project is one of the most rewarding aspects of their job. The screenings have really highlighted the joys that a trip to the cinema can have, and the significance of when something we take for granted is lost.

It has been really good for us. It’s mainly from my point of view …it’s just that I feel comfortable with people who have got the same sort of needs as J [her husband] because sometimes in public it can be quite hard because J can’t follow a conversation and people don’t understand and so… here, I’ve got people to talk to that understand – you can bounce ideas off one another and you don’t feel as isolated, you can relax.

If you're interested to find out more about The Dukes' project A Life More Ordinary, contact Project Manager Gil Graystone at or find Johnathan on Twitter at @thedukescinema.

News round up... August 2016

Posted Thursday 4 August 2016 by Mike Tang in News Round-up

DYFF 2016 group photo

ICO news

  • This Friday sees the return of Sid and Nancy to cinemas, a brilliantly restored re-release in partnership with Studiocanal for the film's 30th anniversary.  If you want a taste of what the definitive punk is like, check out the trailer!
  • Another year, another Developing Your Film Festival course finished.  A massive thanks to all the delegates and speakers who came to our training course in beautiful Motovun. We put together this round up of some of the top teachings from the course over here. We wish all of our new friends every success as they take our training back to their film festivals across the world!
  • We're hiring!  We're looking for an enthusiastic and capable Administration Assistant, but you have to be quick - the deadline's 5pm tomorrow!  This is the ideal job for anyone looking for a start in the exhibition or film industries.
  • Another deadline for tomorrow!  If you're a manager working in exhibition and you want a training course that helps you fulfil your potential, sign up for Elevate. Our course offers key skills training to strengthen and propel your abilities, helping you to maximise your current role and prepare for leadership.
  • We had a great time at Archive Screening Days at Watershed in Bristol. We brought together some of the world's top film archives to show the power and audience-appeal of showing archive film. Couldn't make it along? Don't worry: we've put together this round up of what went on here.
  • Remember when we assaulted cinemas earlier this year with The Artists Cinema? If you didn't get the chance to be surprised by our commissions in the wild, our partner on the project LUX Moving Image are now sharing the films online for free, starting with Naeem Mohaiemen's Abu Ammar is Coming. New films will be released each month.  

Opportunities and calls for submissions

  • BFI NET.WORK, in conjunction with the London Film Festival, provides a unique opportunity for up to 15 UK writers and directors to participate in masterclasses, screenings, events and one to one meetings with industry professionals. This year the initiative will align with the BFI’s Black Star Blockbuster, and in celebration of that will have a BAME focus. Head to the BFI's site for more details on this brilliant initiative.
  • Get your submission in for the Academy Award® and BAFTA-qualifying Leeds International Film Festival 2016 - the deadline's 12 August 2016.  LIFF welcomes submissions of features and shorts, narrative or documentary and ‘live action’ or animation.
  • On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the London Filmmakers’ Cooperative and the fortieth anniversary of London Video Arts (now LUX), Moving Image Review & Art Journal are inviting articles that reflect upon the histories, contexts and legacies of artists’ film and video practices in Britain since 1966.  The deadline's 15 August 2016 and more details are on Lux's website.
  • Voted one of the top 100 film festivals in the world by filmmakers on FilmFreeway, Discover Film Festival is currently open for submissions. Get your submission in by 15 August 2016.
  • And if that wasn't enough top UK film festival deadlines for you, Glasgow Film Festival early bird deadline is at the end of the month!
  • Wotever Film Festival - the UK's premiere DIY LGBTQI+ focused fest - are running a Kickstarter campaign to keep their festival as accessible to all and free. Some of their rewards are really wild, but sadly you're too late to get the strip tease lesson.
  • Aya Distribution are celebrating the work of the father of African cinema Ousmane Sembène by releasing the new documentary about his work Sembene! as well as world cinema classics Xala, Moolaade and Black Girl. The doc's co-director will be available for Q&As during the release in November. If you're interested in finding out more (and you really should as these are brilliant films that deserve to be seen more widely), get in touch with Justine Atkinson:

Read more

My first job in cinema: Rebekah's FEDS experience

Posted Thursday 28 July 2016 by Duncan Carson in FEDS scheme, Training & Conferences

FEDS Rebekah

This year we're once again running our FEDS scheme (funded by Creative Skillset), aimed at giving young trainees an opportunity to learn on the job in film distribution, exhibition and international sales. Here, one of our trainees, Rebekah Taylor, working at Errol Flynn Filmhouse in Northampton, gives her impressions of the experience and why she wanted to join the scheme.

My love of independent cinema was developed late due to being raised in a small town in Hertfordshire where the nearest cinema was a multiplex 30 minutes car drive away. Family members who were also raised in my town commented that there used to be a lovely art deco cinema but unfortunately it closed down eleven years before my birth. Therefore my love of independent cinema didn’t come until I started my A-level film studies course with a combination of discovering and studying independent cinema and becoming the age that my friends and I could drive further afield. 

I remember in my first year of my degree an alumni from my university gave a presentation on film exhibition, at the time I was very intrigued as, being in my first year of my studies, I had little knowledge or experience of film in further education. She talked about working in independent cinemas and film festivals.  I remember bombarding her with questions as I loved attending the local independent cinema that she worked at, regularly attending late night screenings. I loved the films that were programmed there and couldn’t believe that there was a job where I could watch films and, to a certain extent, have a choice of what is shown to a local audience. Following the talk I was interested about getting into film exhibition particularly programming and that is when I discovered the ICO scheme on social media, I saw that the trainee scheme was being advertised especially for exhibition and distribution. Importantly I didn’t require any past experience in the industry, which the majority of the trainee schemes I applied for did require this. I love that the scheme has given me the opportunity to gain experience in exhibition.

Errol Flynn Filmhouse

My trainee placement is based at the Errol Flynn Filmhouse, part of a mixed arts venue in Northampton called the Royal and Derngate. The venue has two theatres: the Royal Theatre built in 1884, the Derngate theatre built in 1983 and the Filmhouse which opened in 2013.  There is a small programming team at the Royal and Derngate comprising of a Programming Manager and Programming Assistant that work on both the theatre and film. There is also an external film programmer.  Working in a small team has meant that it has been easier to settle in. I’ve also found that working with Theatre Programmers has given me the insight into the theatre industry as well, which is my second love. Working with a small venue has also meant that I have been able to get to know other departments such as Finance, Operations and Marketing. My placement is very different from my fellow trainees as I am working in a venue that is predominantly a theatre, therefore the focus is not just on the medium of film. This has allowed me to look at cinema programming from a different perspective than I expected as our in-house statistics show that majority of the regular customers that attend the Errol Flynn are also regular visitors to our theatres.

The Harder They Come
The Harder They Come, part of Errol Flynn's Black Star celebration

I therefore work closely with the Theatre Programmer as productions shown at the theatres do have an influence on the films that are chosen for the Filmhouse. In the coming months we have two collaborative projects. The first is a season of dance films curated and introduced by chorographer Richard Alston. Richard Alston is bringing this new show An Italian in Madrid to the Royal and Derngate and the Errol Flynn Filmhouse has been able to take advantage of this by programming three films curated by Richard himself that inspired him to be a choreographer. Our second project is a reggae night that I have coordinated to coincide with the launch of our BFI Black Star season at the filmhouse, celebrating black musicians on film. Being part of a mixed arts venue I took advantage of the space and decided to host a reggae night in the underground space of the theatre that will feature local musicians that will play music from the first film shown in our season, The Harder They Come (1972).

Erroll Flynn 2

The biggest thing I didn’t realise about independent exhibition

The biggest thing I didn’t realise about independent exhibition as a customer was the struggle that they have with multiplexes. I was not fully aware of the hard work that goes into film exhibition particularly independent community cinemas. I assumed that they would get the entire current releases offered to them for as little or as many showings as they wanted and that they were guaranteed all films. I remember as an audience member criticising my local independent cinema for not programming my favourite independent film. I remember asking box office the questions like, “It’s a good movie. Why aren’t you showing it?” and moaning about the showing times and lack thereof. I was completely unaware of the film schedule, that early evening is more profitable and depending on the amount of screens they may have, that they have to compromise on what they show. However, even though we occasionally have to programme a commercial film we still have the opportunity to programme films that we care about and feel requires the exposure, this gives the community of Northampton the opportunity to see films that wouldn’t necessarily be on their radar to view.  

The biggest opportunity I have had is the opportunity to network with some great people in order to collaborate. When I was at University we studied the aesthetics and the theory but I am so happy that my training opportunity has given me the chance to see the industry first hand and given me the practical experiences that have been so precious.


This is the official blog for the Independent Cinema Office, the national organisation for the development and support of independent film exhibition in the UK.


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