Thank you for your interest in the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England, which will be administered by the BFI for the Government. This fund is part of the UK Government’s cultural recovery package providing £1.57 billion to support Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions.
£30m has been allocated to the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England which will be open for applications from Monday 10 August – Friday 30 October 2020.
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About the Culture Recovery Fund
The global shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK cultural sector including the closure of cinemas across the UK. We believe that, in order to help secure and maintain a healthy, resilient and world-class film exhibition sector for the future, we need to support independent cinemas through this unprecedented and challenging time. We also believe this is an important opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to a diverse and inclusive film culture – one which offers all audiences the opportunity to experience the full riches of on-screen storytelling. We want cinema to reflect our experiences and our lives as well as offering us different perspectives and opening up a world beyond our own. This is at its most powerful in the collective setting of a big screen cinema venue.
The Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England is intended for independent cinemas across England whose businesses have been unavoidably interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to be disrupted upon re-opening. The Fund will have two components – one off Safety grants to help cinemas make their venues safe for staff and audiences and Business Sustainability grants to underpin ongoing organisational viability. We expect the Fund to be heavily over-subscribed and that not everyone will be successful. Please make sure to read the Guidelines carefully and respond as fully as you can in your application.
Please read the funding guidelines before you complete the application form. The guidelines may be amended before the fund opening date so please ensure you have read the most up to date version.
For venues in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, please contact your Screen Agencies for further information: Ffilm Cyrmu Wales, NI Screen and Screen Scotland.
We can provide assistance to applicants who have a disability, are D/deaf, have a visual or hearing impairment or are neurodiverse, where this support is needed in order for someone to make an application to the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas. Visit Access support for BFI Film Fund and Film Audience Network applicants for information.
What is the Fund for?
The global shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK cultural and creative sector including the closure of all cinemas across the UK. The BFI believes that, in order to help secure and maintain a healthy, resilient and world-class film exhibition sector for the future, we need to support independent cinemas through this unprecedented and challenging time. The Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England is intended for independent cinemas across England whose businesses have been unavoidably interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to be disrupted upon re-opening.
How much funding is available?
There is a total of £30m available in the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England to be directed towards Safety Grants and Business Sustainability Grants.
What are these two strands ‘Safety’ and ‘Business Sustainability’ at a glance?
We will be offering ‘Safety Grants’, to enable cinemas to put the necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of their workforce and the public, and ‘Business Sustainability Grants’ to support independent cinemas to operate viably under the restricted conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund will be open until 30 October 2020 and cinemas can apply for either or both grants.
Please note you do not need to provide as much information for Safety Grants as you do for Business Sustainability Grants.
What support is there for cinemas that are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
The Devolved Administrations have been allocated a total of £189m from central Government towards cultural and heritage support. Each nation is taking its own approach to allocating these funds and cinemas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should contact their screen agencies for further information.
Who Can Apply?
Can commercial cinemas apply for the Fund?
Yes, provided your organisation meets the eligibility criteria of the Fund.
Can volunteer-run cinemas apply?
Yes, provided your organisation meets the eligibility criteria of the Fund.
Can mixed art-form venues apply?
Yes, provided your organisation meets the eligibility criteria of the Fund.
Can film festivals apply?
Film festivals are not eligible for this Fund.
Can touring cinemas or pop-ups apply?
Touring cinemas and pop-up cinemas are not eligible for this Fund.
Why are touring/pop-up cinemas and film festivals not eligible for support?
The Government’s investment in cultural and heritage is the largest ever package of support for this sector and is extremely welcome. However it will not be able to help everyone and difficult decisions will need to be made. The priority for these funds is supporting those organisations that play a key role in levelling up the regions of England and are able to demonstrate their cultural significance. As such, the focus is on maintaining the fabric of our cultural organisations and helping to ensure these organisations are able to remain viable for the future. In order to operate safely, venues have significant year round running costs such as rent, utilities, heating/air conditioning/lighting, maintenance and safe levels of staffing. Under social distancing, most cinemas will be unable to sell enough tickets to meet these costs and will therefore be at risk of insolvency. Touring cinemas and film festivals are more agile and less encumbered by substantial overheads so given the pressure on resources, they will not be eligible for this Fund.
The BFI Film Audience Network’s Film Exhibition Fund will be opening in early August for audience development proposals for the period mid-October 2020 — March 2021. This fund will be open to a wide range of FAN members (including film festivals, touring operators and cinemas) who are looking to restart their cultural programming offer and re-engage with diverse audiences. Head to your local Film Hub webpage (which you can find here) to find out more.
Why do I need to be a member of the BFI Film Audience Network to apply?
Membership of the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) is free and gives access to great opportunities for information, training and networking – as well as project funding. FAN can also offer support in achieving your goals around diversity and inclusion, environment and educational engagement.
In order to support the independent exhibition sector at this time of extreme challenge and in the future, we wish to strengthen FAN and to ensure it reflects the diversity of operators across the UK. If you are not already a member, joining is quick and easy and you can either become one before you apply for funds or just show in your application that an application to FAN is underway. Please contact your regional Film Hub or look at their website on how to apply for membership. Find your local Film Hub here.
Writing my application
Note that you do not need to provide as much information for Safety Grants as you do for Business Sustainability Grants.
Please do read the Guidelines and this FAQ document carefully before you start your application.
How much can I apply for?
For Safety Grants you can apply for up to £10,000 per site. For Business Sustainability Grants we envisage making awards in the range of £30k to £200k (in total) per cinema site though we may make larger awards at our discretion if there is strong reason for doing so.
What if I want to apply to the two strands of funding at different times?
This is fine – when you submit your first application you will create an online profile for your organisation and this will be saved on the system for when you submit your second application. Your details will then automatically populate any new applications you make. You may want to save your responses to your first application in a separate document so that you can cut and paste them into your new application form as some of the questions are the same.
Can I get reimbursed for any money I have spent to far on COVID-19 health and safety measures at my cinema?
No, you cannot be reimbursed for any historic expenditure; however you can apply for further items that you may need for the coming months. If you are also applying for a Business Sustainability Grant and you have previously used your reserves to buy health and safety supplies, you can include some allowance for costs incurred in stabilising your reserves up to the equivalent of 8 weeks of reserves, where it can be demonstrated that this is the best route to long term financial viability.
Can I apply to Arts Council England as well?
If your organisation is a mixed art form venue, you may be eligible to apply to ACE but you should check their guidelines carefully first; applications to this Fund should relate solely to your cinema operation.
I have several cinema sites in my organisation, do I need to apply several times?
No – if you have up to 15 sites in your organisation – and as long each individual cinema meets the eligibility criteria of the Fund – you can apply once on behalf of several sites. You will however need to present financial information for each site and set out how they meet the fund priorities around levelling up.
If you have multiple sites and are applying for Business Sustainability grants, we would expect criteria around diversity and inclusion, environment and educational engagement to be addressed on an organisation-wide basis.
I have several sites in my organisation, are safety grants capped at £10k per site or for my organisation overall?
Safety grants will be made per site. However if you have multiple sites, we would expect to see evidence of bulk buying in order to achieve economies of scale.
What if I don’t have all the documents required e.g. an environmental policy?
If you do not have a particular policy in place, this is a good moment to start working on one. Please refer to the resources in the guidelines and also contact your local FAN Film Hub for assistance. We will be able to receive a work in progress with a set of milestones for taking the policy forward and a demonstrable commitment to this area.
Our re-opening date is dependent on finances, so we don’t have this confirmed yet – can we apply with an estimated re-opening date?
We ask for a re-opening date as confirmed by your Board or the Directors of your Company. Please be as specific as you can be about your thinking here and if a re-opening date can only be an estimate, you should apply anyway as long as you meet the eligibility criteria. We will follow up with you as part of the assessment process to establish a confirmed opening date.
Does the weekly screening number include ‘event’ cinema screenings?
We recognise that screenings of other artforms such as opera and theatre provide a welcome cultural service to audiences as well as supporting the financial position of venues. Whilst we would expect the significant majority of screenings to be of film, your weekly screening figure can include a small number of ‘event cinema’ screenings.
Do I need match funding?
No, you do not need third party match funding. Do bear in mind however that the aim of this Fund is to support your financial viability going forward and as such we will wish to see best endeavours being made to diversify your income streams and build your organisational resilience through maximising income.
Can I speak to someone about my application?
Once you have submitted your application, please only contact us if you have not heard back within the timeframes outlined in the guidelines and below. If you wish to speak to someone before you submit you application, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to assist. Please note however that due to the urgency of this funding and the likely volume of requests, we cannot guarantee a response time. You should read the guidelines carefully and these FAQs before contacting us.
Where else can I go for help and advice?
I am having issues with a template – what should I do?
Please contact email@example.com.
When will I hear back on my application?
We aim to acknowledge your application within 5 working days of submission and to let you know the outcome of your application (to progress or to decline) within 20 working days of submission.
We will endeavour to meet, or improve on, the above timeline but due to the number of applications expected, there may be delays to response times. To ensure a fair geographic spread of awards, we may have to defer a decision on your application by a number of weeks.
If this is the case, we will advise you of this.
Please note if you are applying on behalf of multiple sites, your application is likely to take longer to assess and process.
The Assessment Process
Who decides how much money our organisation can receive?
Your application will be assessed by finance specialists who will evaluate your application against the eligibility and assessment criteria detailed in the guidelines. Other assessors will look at your application to determine how closely your organisation meets the funding priorities and criteria around diversity, environmental impact and education. We will also expect to see clear evidence of how you are controlling/reducing costs and any approach you are taking to boosting income. Finally we will need to balance between the demands on the Fund and available resources.
All these factors will be taken into account when determining how much money your organisation will receive. However, due to the purpose of this funding, we hope to be in a position to offer most organisations the funding they need in order to remain viable cultural businesses.
What do you mean by levelling up? How much information do you expect applicants to submit for this criterion?
The Government has made levelling up a priority and wishes to see opportunities for cultural engagement spread fairly across the UK. In asking these questions we wish to understand the positive impact your organisation has on cultural opportunities in your area and also what the impact would be on these opportunities if your organisation were to close.
You should consider how your organisation contributes to the local community, how you are valued by your users, what services you provide that are different to others in your area and whether you have a unique cultural offer in your place. When thinking about what is meant by ‘local’ you could consider a 20-30 minute drive time as a reasonable catchment area depending on your population density.
We do not expect all applicants to be able to address Fund criteria equally and will take context into account when assessing submissions.
For the Cultural Policy Goals, how much detail do you expect from applicants?
For Business Sustainability applications only, we will expect you to respond to questions on Diversity & Inclusion, Environmental Impact and Education Engagement. Although not all are a requirement for funding, the larger your award, the more ambitious we expect your proposals to be. Please note that we are not looking for such proposals to be implemented immediately but you should set out your ambitions.
We do not expect all applicants to address these areas to the same degree and will take context into account when assessing submissions. Please read the guidelines carefully for further information and seek advice if you need it.
Definitions and background to the Guidelines
What is your definition of an independent cinema?
We’ve tried not to be too prescriptive as we recognise there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ for indie cinemas. As outlined in the guidelines, to qualify as an independent cinema you need to meet at least three of the following characteristics:
- Your organisation is not a subsidiary of affiliate of a larger organisation
- You have control over your own decisions, for example capital developments, operations and programming – there is not a separate ‘head office’ controlling such matters
- Your organisation is privately owned and may have a small number of shareholders who are family members or close to the business – there are no corporate shareholders and you are not listed on any stock exchange
- Your organisation is a charity run by a Board of Trustees
- Your venue is part of a Local Authority or a Higher Education provider
The guidelines refer to ‘young people’ – what age group is this?
The BFI’s current strategy BFI 2022 prioritises audiences in the age range 16-30 when talking about young audiences. For the purposes of this funding – which is partly about engaging the cinema audiences of the future, you should use the same age range.
I am not familiar with the BFI Diversity Standards – what are these?
The BFI Diversity Standards encourage equality of opportunity and address under-representation in the screen industries. For example, they seek to encourage equality in creative leadership; in training, opportunities and career progression and in audience outreach and development. They are a flexible framework which can be used for a range of audience-facing activities such as film festivals, distribution releases, multiplatform distribution proposals and ambitious film programmes. You can read more about them here.
What happens if I get funding?
When do I need to report on any funding received?
The timing of any reporting will depend on when you received the award and when you re-open. For Safety Grants, we will ask for a cost report to set out how you have used the grant. For Business Sustainability Grants we will ask you for regular cost reports in order to release funding. The DCMS will be leading a full evaluation of the entire Culture Recovery Fund and you will be asked to contribute to this, for example through the submission of further data, participation in interviews or focus groups etc.
Do I have to repay any grant funding I receive?
You do not need to repay grant funding unless your financial circumstances change and you do not need the full grant, you do not open your cinema or if you have received a Business Sustainability Grant against forecast figures and actual figures are higher than anticipated in the opening months of your cinema. In these cases, we may look at reducing the grant.
We will ask for full repayment of the grant if it has been secured fraudulently.