We were inspired to start our own cinema by our love of film and found that we were taking regular informal trips with some of our community to the cinema but it was costing people a fortune and excluding others from the activity. We found that film gives even the most unlikely bunch of people something in common to talk about, it breaks the ice, it provides food for thought and everyone has a differing opinion. Perhaps more than that, it allows people to just “be” together in companionable solitude, which we are big on at our chapel. We see that people need connection and that cinema provides that opportunity to gently come together. In fact, that is why we called our community cinema “The Cinematic Communion”, because we recognise the need for meaningful connection. Cinema For All had supported us through a really friendly encouraging programme of workshops which were filled with inspiration and useful information about programming films, pricing and marketing.

We want to screen “bold films for big thinkers” so we align our films choices with that idea. We have a huge mix of people in our community so we don’t want to alienate anyone with being too niche with our film picks. We also have some practical considerations however. For example, our audiences sit in pews in our main chapel, so the film really needs to be under 2 hrs otherwise people will get a numb bum and too cold! Our first screening was Aftersun (2022) which was a perfect choice.

We have only done our test screening so far, but it has really brought people together in such an energising way. People were proud to support the community cinema in whatever way they could, either through buying a ticket or through volunteering and getting stuck in.

The advice I would give someone who is thinking about starting their own cinema is to think forward and make sure they cover costs of the second screening with the tickets from the first, with either ‘pay it forward’ tickets or a season ticket. Get Cinema For All involved because they are great for being informative and supportive. I’d also say, it is all worth it in the end when it all comes together. I would definitely encourage anyone to apply for the Launch. Explain why a community cinema is important to you and you can’t go far wrong. The Launch team really were so great, I don’t think we could have done it without them.

To me, community cinema is about providing social opportunities to people who may struggle to connect with one another ordinarily because of being priced out or not have anyone to go along with. It is about creating something by the people, for the people, with those at the heart of your community in mind.