Cinema Programming

Film programming is at the heart of what the Independent Cinema Office offers. Our goal is to provide your cinema with a distinctive programme of films that offers the best of world cinema, while ensuring that audiences grow and your site thrives financially.

Why ICO programming?

Helping independent venues thrive

Simply put, there’s no one in the business that knows more about growing audiences for a broader range of films. In 2022-2023 our network programmed 947 films for 814,678 people, generating £5.47 million in box office revenue. Our team draws on decades of experience to create bespoke programmes for cinemas encompassing the latest blockbusters, arthouse cinema, archive content and artists’ moving image work. We work closely with cinemas to help them scope out new audiences and satisfy existing ones.

Putting film culture first

The ICO’s goal is to support an open, thriving and challenging UK film exhibition culture. We want your cinema to be sustainable and to provide audiences with access to world cinema, documentaries and archive film from as broad a variety of voices as possible.

Low cost

The ICO is supported by the BFI to strengthen UK film culture. As a result, we’re able to offer subsidised rates to members of our programming network, making our expert advice highly affordable.

Stronger together

Because of the collective strength of our network, we are able to negotiate very competitive terms, helping your bottom lines. You’ll also benefit from our decades of experience, our industry insights and access to the best of our other services, including Screening Days and training courses.

Find out how our expert team of programmers can help your venue


How do we work with cinemas?

Finding what works for your audience

Our team of programmers work closely with our clients to understand their needs, goals and what people locally will respond to.

Working closely with distributors

The ICO has an excellent relationship with all distributors, large and small, as well as international sales agents. No one has better intelligence about upcoming releases or such encyclopaedic knowledge of back catalogue rights.

Programming relationship

Our goal is always to provide the films that will work best for your particular cinema. You are the expert on your audience, so the programming is always a conversation.

Marketing support

ICO can provide you with marketing copy and stills, helping lift this burden from your team.

The ICO provides an invaluable service for independent cinemas. They are a one-stop shop into the film world with great contacts in distribution, archives, festivals and film agencies. Most of all though their staff provide excellent, up-to-date, critically informed opinions which help inform your own decision making.

Mark Cosgrove

Cinema Curator, Watershed

Who do we work with?

Leading independent cinemas

We work with some of the largest independent cinemas in the UK, including Watershed in Bristol, Showroom Workstation in Sheffield, Broadway in Nottingham, QUAD in Derby and Phoenix in Leicester, helping make sure they get the best of world cinema.

Mixed arts venues

If film is only part of your cultural offer, we can help you complement your full artistic programme. We work with mixed arts venues as varied as Malvern Theatres, Kiln Theatre in London and Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry.

Film festivals

We programme the UK’s largest rural film festival, Borderlines, helping them to secure exclusive festival previews and connect with the international film festival circuit.

Our clients

About our clients

We work in partnership with clients across the UK to help them create unique, commercially viable film programmes that appeal to the widest possible range of local audiences.

Find out more

ICO programming has changed the nature of Borderlines, racking up the stakes for this rural film festival so that it can compete with metropolitan equivalents in terms of the freshness and variety of what it can offer its audiences. And those audiences, living in one of the most isolated and under-populated parts of the country, show their full appreciation.

Jo Comino

Marketing Manager, Borderlines Film Festival

Screening Days

About our Screening Days

We strongly believe that the most successful cinemas and film societies are those where staff have the opportunity to watch films and feel passionate about them. To this end, the ICO runs national Screening Days events, a staple in the independent cinema calendar giving exhibitors the chance to watch the best upcoming film releases from across the globe and discuss them with industry peers; enabling you to go away and create incredible programmes.

Find out more

Being able to see a film makes a huge difference when it comes to programming and for programmers, who work in the regions and who can never get to the regular distributor screenings in London, ICO Screening Days are the most invaluable connection with upcoming releases.

Screening Days delegate

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