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Involving local book clubs with your community cinema

Approaching book clubs or a library about working together with your community cinema is a great way of expanding both of your audiences. Find out how to go about it.

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The worlds of cinema and literature have always sat alongside each other – and collaborating with a book club, library or literary society can be a really effective way for community cinemas to share audience members. It’s also ideal for starting some lively conversations around the themes of the books and films you read and screen.

A good first step is to search for book clubs in your area using event websites like MeetUp or find your local library.

Once you know which book-based activities are happening in your area, find out where there’s potential to collaborate with your local literary organisations. This could mean something as simple as distributing flyers on behalf of each other, right through to planning the launch of a joint local literary and film festival.

You could ask members of both groups to vote on a book and its literary adaption, allowing everyone to read the book then watch the film. Running seasons with matching themes is also a good way to interest both groups.

Top tips for working with libraries and book clubs

Andrew Mohammed is the Senior Library Assistant at Deptford Lounge, part of the Lewisham Library Service in South London. Deptford Lounge is a community and library space, which regularly screens films as part of its activity programme. 

Andrew has coordinated joint events between the library’s book club and cinema audience over the years with lots of success. His top tips for community cinemas to successful work with book clubs include:

Start simply
“We’ve had external community cinemas approach us with the idea of cross-publicity several times. We’ve always been more than willing to work together, and all it's taken is a simple request.”

Share a theme
“Month-long events provide a wide blanket theme for both groups, such as Black History and LGBT month. In April 2014, ‘Banned’ was the theme of both the book club and our film screenings. Even though we didn’t only screen adaptations of the book club’s titles, both groups were able to discuss the topic of censorship, which started lots of conversations.”

Ask your library to set up a display
“Setting up a themed book display including material related to community cinema screenings – such as posters or memorabilia – is a big advantage of working with a library. For our Banned Books season, our display included original material from of the films that were shown including The Exorcist, A Clockwork Orange and The Island Of Lost Souls. This really increased interest in both the film screening and the library stock, and helped promote the film screenings to the library users.” 

Run a themed competition
“Aim to get a prize donated that ties in with the film and the book. For example, a colleague asked a local Odeon cinema to donate a pair of tickets to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and they obliged without any persuasion. Books are also of course a good competition prize!”

Cast a wide net
“I know that there are a lot of library users who don't have the chance to go to the cinema due to one issue or another. They love the idea of a low cost community cinema, but it's usually the case that they don't know where there is one. Get the word out and you might be surprised how far people travel from – for example, one of our regular viewers travels for miles across London on the bus just to catch the films we show.”

Literary adaptations for your cinema

There are countless films that have been adapted from some our favourite books, bringing timeless stories and characters off of the pages and onto the Silver Screen. To share the love of a great story with more members of your community, why not plan a screening in partnership with a local book club to showcase their latest read? Make an event of it with some of our novel ideas!

Set the mood
Are you screening Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Try serving up some “Butterbeer” or “Gillywater” before the screening to get your audience in a magical mood.  Providing refreshments and an atmosphere inspired by the film can add a bit of fun to the event and make it a memorable occasion. 

Spot the difference
Enhance the screening by providing an opportunity for a post-film discussion about how the book and film differ from each other. Some topics for discussion could be:

  • Is there a difference between the character development in the novel and the film? Are the characters on screen a good representation of the characters in the novel?
  • Is there symbolism in the novel that is lost in the film? Or, are there parts of the film that were enhanced because of the use of multimedia or special effects?
  • How faithful was the film to the book? If there were significant differences, did they work?

Invite a guest speaker
Do you know someone who worked on the film, the screenwriter or the author of the original novel? Inviting a guest speaker to talk about their contribution to the film is a great way to highlight the film and maybe find out some behind the scenes details!

Need some inspiration?

Here are just a few of some fantastic adaptations that would be great for a book club screening:

  • Brighton Rock

    Brighton Rock, Graham Green

    Film: 1947 | Dir. John Boulting | 1h 32m.

    Available from Park Circus

  • Doctor Zhivago

    Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pastemak

    Film: 1965 | Dir. David Lean | 3h 20m.

    Available from Park Circus

  • Fight Club

    Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

    Film: 1999 | Dir. David Fincher | 2h 31m.

    Available from Park Circus 

  • Kes

    Kes, Barry Hines

    Film: 1969 | Dir. Ken Loach | 1h 53m.

    Available from Filmbankmedia

  • The BFG

    The BFG, Roald Dahl

    Film: 2016 | Dir. Steven Spielberg | 1h 57m.

    Available from Filmbankmedia

  • Lolita

    Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

    Film: 1962 | Dir. Stanley Kubrick | 2h 32m.

    Available from Park Circus

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

    To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

    Film: 1962 | Dir. Robert Mulligan | 2h 10m.

    Available from Park Circus

  • Trainspotting

    Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh

    Film: 1996 | Dir. Danny Boyle | 1h 35m.

    Available from Park Circus

  • The 39 Steps

    The 39 Steps, John Buchan

    Film | 1935 | Dir. Alfred Hitchcock | 1h 26m.

    Available from Park Circus

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

    Film: 2011 | Dir. Lynne Ramsay | 1h 52m.

    Available from BFI Distribution