Screening films in community cinemas

06 Funding sources

Looking for funding? Here are some ideas for potential sources.

Running a community cinema can be costly, especially if you are starting from scratch. Here is our round-up of the current main sources of funding, plus other ways to generate revenue for your cinema.

BFI Film Audience Network

The BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN) is a major initiative developed by the BFI to enable film and events experts to work in partnership to boost film audiences across the UK, particularly in the areas of specialised and independent British film. The Network is currently made up of eight Hubs which offer support including funding schemes available to film exhibitors in their designated regions.

Filmbankmedia Innovation Fund

Filmbankmedia is the UK’s main provider of film copyright licensing to non-theatrical exhibitors, and its Innovation Fund aims to encourage film societies and community cinemas to deliver initiatives to secure the growth of their organisation and to make a real impact within their community through the medium of film. The first fund is for £3,000, the second for £2,000 and any film society or community cinema registered in the UK can apply.  Applications run from January to 31st July annually with the recipients announced at the Cinema For All Conference in September.

Cinema For All Launchpad

Cinema For All’s BFI funded coaching programme Launchpad offers four focused coaching sessions with the Cinema For All team plus a £300 bursary to help you launch your community cinema. The coaching sessions offer both motivational and practical support while the £300 bursary (£150 per screening) gives you the freedom to run two test screenings and learn from them without financial risk.

Local authorities

Your local authority may have funds available to organisations or projects delivering community engagement and/or cultural benefits. Enter your postcode on this search page on GOV.UK or contact your local authority directly to find out more. Your local authority may also be able to advise you on other sources of funding in your area.

The National Lottery

The National Lottery Community Fund distributes over £600m a year to communities across the UK, raised by players of The National Lottery. Organisations can apply to two separate funds, for amounts of £300 to £10,000 (National Lottery Awards for All) and over £10,000.

The National Lottery also runs the Heritage Fund to support projects seeking to highlight UK heritage, such as those involving screenings of regional or national archive film.

Arts Councils

Arts Councils across the UK and Ireland invest National Lottery money in the arts and culture of Great Britain. Their awards are usually between £5,000 and £25,000. See the Arts Council website for your region for more details:

In Ireland, Arts Council Ireland is the equivalent funder, awarding funds made available by the Irish government.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is one of the largest independent foundations providing grants in the UK, with approximately 75% of its Arts & Heritage grants budget going to the arts and 25% to heritage projects.

Garfield Weston Foundation

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, charitable grant-making foundation. It supports a wide range of causes across the UK, including arts and community projects, by donating over £70 million annually.


Use a free online service like SpaceHive (a funding platform for ideas that bring local places to life), Crowdfunder, GoFundMe or Kickstarter to raise funds for your cinema by collecting donations directly from the people it will benefit. Crowdfunding can be a great way to involve your audience from the beginning of your venture.

Local sponsors, partnerships and further advice

Consider the possibilities of working with local partners. Local businesses might be willing to sponsor your cinema or donate goods in-kind that you can sell at your events (e.g. cakes, drinks or other refreshments) in exchange for free advertising in your programme or free tickets to your screenings.

Local civic organisations (e.g. a local Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce in your area) might be happy to contribute to your costs in return for free or discounted tickets, or for your cinema running a special screening for them. Think about who might be interested in an association with your cinema and approach them about potential funding opportunities.

In general, try to think creatively about all the possibilities local to you. For example, working with your local community to put on a fundraising event in aid of your cinema will not only generate funds but also greater awareness of your venue, which may lead to increased audiences and willing volunteers.

  • Locality is a national network supporting community organisations to be strong and successful and may be able to offer you helpful advice.
  • Cinema For All – the national support organisation for film societies in the UK – has a number of resources on their website that may be helpful, including advice on modes of financial operation.

Subscribe to our mailing list

What would you like to receive emails about?
* indicates required