The novelty factor of showing interesting works that aren’t just new release features is something to shout about, so make sure people know about the screening. Tell the press, consider producing a dedicated flyer, contact community groups, and start a social media campaign.
Think about the wording that you use in your marketing copy. The terms “archive” or “heritage” may not be the most appealing to particular audiences, so try rephrasing it to evoke the notion of time travel, the appeal of vintage, or the opportunity to see their town in their grandparents’ time.
If you’re showing a compilation programme, include details of the individual films in your listings as you never know which ones will draw a crowd. For example, Sue Porter, programmer of Midland Journeys, was overwhelmed by the audience who turned out for an unassuming film about Stanton and Staveley ironworks. They turned out to be descendants of the company’s workforce who enjoyed a lively discussion after the screening.
Build links with special interest groups, such as film studies students, local history and community groups. Have a think about which kinds of people may have a particular interest in the theme of the programme.
While the cliché of the 65 year old railway enthusiast audience for archive film may be partially true, there is a huge potential audience for older films beyond this demographic. The quirky, unusual and anachronistic angle of archive film can be extremely appealing to younger audiences, particularly the growing number of vintage enthusiasts, for example.
While some archive screenings can be instant sell-outs, others may take time to attract an audience. Be prepared to think outside the box for how to promote it and consider making it part of your regular programme to build an audience over time.