What cinemas can do right now (again)

Posted on November 12, 2020 by Sami Abdul-Razzak

Categories: General, News Round-up

Back in March, just as the country was about to enter its first national lockdown, we published a blog with some ideas for what cinemas could do while their doors were closed. With many cinemas across the UK shut once more we wanted to do something similar, using what we’ve learnt in the time since then to provide some more advice, now with the added benefit of having done all this before.

Eight months on since cinemas were first shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic and these continue to be extremely challenging times for exhibitors across the UK. At the time of writing, cinemas in England are required to close until at least 2 December, venues in Wales reopened on Monday following a two-week ‘firebreak’ period, new local restrictions have forced many venues in Scotland to close once again and cinemas in Northern Ireland remain shut following new restrictions introduced on 16 October.

We’ve been here before, so what have we learnt? In this blog we point to some of the useful resources which have emerged during this time and provide suggestions for things cinemas can do while their doors are closed once again. These are only a few topline ideas and we know it can feel like there’s pressure to be productive when you have more time to hand, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If that’s how you’re feeling, feel free to save this for another day.

As ever, the ICO is here to help and support you. If there’s something you’d like to discuss, or if you have any further suggestions for this list, you can contact us at info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk, or via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Support yourself and your staff

Whether working from home or furloughed, this can be an extremely isolating and stressful time for many. Make sure you and your staff know how to access the mental wellbeing support that’s there for those working in the film sector.

  • Earlier this year, the Film & TV Charity set up a mental health support platform. Free for anyone working in the industry to access, it’s a safe space where you can express your thoughts and concerns openly and anonymously.
  • This is in addition to their 24-hour support line, which offers free, confidential advice over the phone, email or chat. You can see a summary of all the support the Film & TV Charity offer to those working in film exhibition here.
  • Mental Health First Aid England has collated some guidance on ways to support your mental wellbeing while working from home here.
  • The Blurt Foundation has created the Coronavirus Helpful Hub, which includes advice on how to look after your mental health during Covid-19.
  • Back in April we published a blog by Hannah McHaffie, where she reflected on her experiences of working and living with Borderline Personality Disorder and offered guidance on how to manage your own symptoms.

Review existing practices and plan for the future

Where we are now calls for a radical reinvention of the ways we approach cinemas as a business and as a community asset, and this may be an opportune moment to assess your current practices and think about what you could change when you reopen.

Consider how you can best connect with your audience online

When cinemas closed for the first time this year, the digital space suddenly became the only way that exhibitors could continue to engage their audiences. Eight months on and most of us will have attended our fair share of webinars, watch-parties and Zoom quizzes by now, and it’s perhaps worth considering the level of fatigue audiences may have for these type of events by this point. As Matchbox Cineclub suggest, take your time and figure out what would be worthwhile and would separate your activity from everything else which is going on, if you decide to do anything at all. If you do want to run online events or screenings, then below are some useful resources to help you do so.

  • One of the more involved initiatives you might want to try is to set up your own streaming platform, as venues such as Queen’s Film Theatre, the Barbican and the Rio have done. You can read about how QFT developed their platform (QFT Player) here, and watch a tutorial video by QFT’s Aaron Guthrie on how cinemas can set up their own platform using Vimeo OTT.
  • The Bigger Picture has compiled a list of How-To guides to help cinemas engage audiences online.
  • Together Films has been running a series of webinars to help organisations transition to digital offerings. Topics covered so far include crowdfunding options, delivering online Q&As, and creating virtual cinema platforms.
  • As always, we encourage you to try to ensure any content you put out online is accessible. If you’re running a webinar, consider whether you could have it live-captioned. If you’re publishing video content, could you add subtitles? Here’s a quick, handy guide to making your social media more accessible. And here’s a more in-depth one!
  • If you are planning on running a crowdfunder campaign to raise some cash during this time, our blog with the Lexi’s Rosie Greatorex includes lots of nuggets of crowdfunding best practice.

Expand your film knowledge

In times of trouble, there are worse things to do than decide to watch more films. Here are some suggestions of titles to see outside of the traditional film canon.

Listen to others across the UK and internationally

This is new ground for everyone, and we’re undoubtedly stronger together. Below are some ways to connect with exhibitors and other industry professionals in the UK and beyond.

  • In December we’re taking our regular Screening Days event online for the first time ever. This’ll be a chance to come together with other cinema professionals and discuss new reality we find ourselves in.
  • Registration is also open for This Way Up, the film exhibition innovation conference. Passes are free for UK exhibitors, with the event running online from 1-3 December.
  • The UK Film Festivals Federation is a place for UK Film Festivals to collaborate, campaign, share expertise, ask for help, cross-promote one another and more.
  • Freelancers should check out the newly launched Dial F for Freelancer, a platform dedicated to freelancers working in UK and Irish film exhibition and distribution. It’s a place to connect with new creative partners, a hub of resources and advice and an ace directory of the best in the business.
  • ExcludedUK is a grassroots organisation supporting those excluded from government Covid-19 support. You can learn more about the work they’re doing and join their community of over 50,000 here.
  • Planning your reopening for the first time? Take a look at our blogs where CICAE spoke to cinemas across Europe about their reopening experiences.
  • Subscribe to the Art House Convergence newsletter to keep up to date with goings on across the pond, CICAE for European cinemas, and the Film Festival Alliance for festivals.

We recommend trying to keep up to date with the available business support from the government as the COVID situation develops. There is different support available for businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you have any additional suggestions, let us know by emailing us at info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Subscribe to our mailing list

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