Advice & Support

The financial health of the independent cinema sector

The results of our independent cinema sector survey

In 2023, the film industry remains in a state of flux following the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant reverberations. Cinemas have had to cope with changes to operating models, shifts in audience behaviour and the rise of online streaming, with all these factors liable to future fluctuations. There are also obvious economic challenges, with reduced availability of public funding, a cost-of-living crisis, and a rise in energy prices, all of which have impacted the sector and seen the recent closures of key independent cinemas.

In September 2023 we undertook a survey of theatrical exhibitors to try and gather evidence on the current financial health of the sector. We received 157 responses from independent cinemas, small chains, multiplexes and mixed arts venues, 93% of which were from people in a leadership position in their organisation.

We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who took the time to complete the survey. These findings will help shape our suggestions for how support could be provided when making our submission of evidence to the UK Parliament Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s Inquiry on British Film and High-End Television in October 2023.

Please note, this report is a top-line summary of our survey. If you’d like to discuss these results further, please contact us at:

Key findings

  • 45% of respondents forecast that they would be operating with a loss at the end of this financial year. 29% forecast a balance, 20% forecast a profit, and 6% were unsure.
  • 61% of respondents said they were not meeting their income targets for this financial year. 28% were meeting their income targets, 8% were unsure and 3% had not set targets. On average respondents were 10% under their income targets.
  • When asked how long the venue could continue to operate within the current climate, 42% answered between three months to a year.
  • 76% of respondents project a loss in admissions this financial year in relation to ‘normal’ operating years. 11% project a growth in admissions. (Admission figures across UK cinemas in 2023 are 25% lower than in 2019 [the last pre-pandemic year], to the period to the end of August [source UKCA]).
  • 50% of respondents said they need further public/government financial support to remain operational. 21% do not require further support and 29% were unsure. The most useful support was via organisational grants (65%) and a reduction in Sales VAT (61%).
  • 53% of respondents receive public funding. 43% did not and 4% did occasionally. The largest proportion of respondents receive funding from their local authority (47%), the BFI (37%) and their local Film Hub (30%).
  • 31% of respondents had made redundancies in the past three years. 56% had not made redundancies. 5% were unsure, and 8% replied ‘other’ – as staff left their roles they had not been replaced, they rely on volunteers.
  • The top priorities for venues over the next one to three years are increasing audiences (87%), increasing revenue (70%) and engaging new audiences (64%).

This survey was undertaken by the ICO with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery.

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