Screening films in community cinemas

01 Key challenges

Issues to consider when starting or developing your community cinema.

The desire to serve a local audience is at the heart of community film exhibition. At its best, it can promote cohesion and strong communication within rural and urban communities and boost audiences’ film choices; whilst increasing the reach of cinema, particularly in rural areas where there is often otherwise a lack of access.

Key challenges facing the growing community cinema sector are:

Venue facilities

Showing film in a non-traditional venue often means that the facilities aren’t as good as in traditional cinemas – in many cases, they will not have been designed specifically to show film. You will need to ensure you have adequate blackouts if required, that sight lines are unobstructed, that your venue has adequate heating and the comfiest seating you can afford or borrow.

Defining audiences

For community cinemas, audiences will always be broad and will differ depending on location.


Marketing your venue is more of a challenge in diffuse communities, particularly if you are using a non-traditional cinema building.


Many people involved in community exhibition don’t have a film background or a specialist knowledge of film culture or programming, so initially it can be hard to navigate the mechanics of film exhibition.

Timely access to content

It is rare to be able to show films on their release date in non-theatrical venues, and therefore harder for community cinemas to benefit from films’ national publicity campaigns.


Booking films for community screenings unfortunately isn’t a one-stop shop – where to find and book films, as well as how distribution operates in the UK, can be difficult to get to grips with.

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