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Screening films in your community

To put on public screenings of films which take place outside of traditional cinema parameters is called non-theatrical exhibition. Examples of this kind of exhibition includes film clubs, schools, bars, hotels, oil-rigs, retail outlets, holiday resorts, care homes and hospitals as well as community groups.

Any screenings of a film to a group of people requires licensing, regardless of whether they are a paying audience or not. It's a popular misconception that it is perfectly legal to screen films to a non-paying audience for free and this is simply not the case. There are clear legal channels for screening any film outside a home environment.


There are two areas of licensing to consider:

The two permissions (licensing the films and the Licensing Act 2003) are completely separate and the possession of one licence does not provide exemption from any requirements of the other.

Choosing and booking the films

Choosing and booking the films to show to an audience is called film programming.  See our guide to Programming for community cinemas, to discover how to book films, what different types of content is available and how to develop and grow your audience. 

Projecting the film

Once you've chosen the film, you'll need to think carefully about how the technical side of showing the film is delivered. Putting on an impressive show will make sure people want to leave their sofas, but there are a lot of options about how you do it. This simple guide gives you some starting points for how to project a film.

Film clubs and community cinemas

Film clubs and community cinemas have long provided one of the most vital forces in independent film exhibition in the UK. Ensuring that innovative, diverse film programming takes place in areas of the country where cinemas either don't exist or where there are few alternatives to the mainstream.

As well as the legal requirements for screening films, and programming choices, there are other considerations to take into account, such as how the film club or community cinema will be constituted, finding a venue, equipment, publicising and marketing. Cinema For All (formerly the British Federation of Film Societies) has put together a guide to a community cinema which covers these subjects and more. The guide can be found in the Advice section of their website:

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