From the latest Hollywood blockbusters to foreign arthouse movies, here’s how to book the films to screen at your community cinema.
Step 1: Choose which format you need
Before booking a title, decide which format you will need.
For a smaller screen in a non-cinema setting where your audience will be closer to the screen (a school or village hall for example), you can use DVDs and Blu-ray. Most community cinemas use DVDs or Blu-ray discs, as they’re easier to find and the quality is fine for most small venues.
If you're screening in an auditorium, an outdoor location or on a traditional cinema screen, you may need to order your movie on 35mm film or DCP (Digital Cinema Packages). These higher quality formats tend to be used for theatrical (commercial) screenings.
Step 2: Book your film
There are several easy ways you can book your films, and usually you can pay for your film’s licence at the same time. Here are the options:
Option A – Book your film licence through the Cinema For All, ICO or Moviola booking services
A good starting point when booking your film is the Cinema for All Booking Scheme.
It’s a distribution scheme created especially for community cinemas and film societies and is available to Cinema For All Members and Associates. It offers over 800 films from a huge range of genres, and it’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to book both commercial and non-commercial licences.
If you’re a member of the Independent Cinema Office (ICO), you can also ask them for help with booking your films through their programming and booking service.
Moviola is a touring cinema service operating in the South West of England, that also offers a UK wide booking service.
Option B – Book through a local touring cinema network
You could also book your film through a touring cinema. These are cinema groups that travel around the UK and can help with everything from booking your film right through to lending you their equipment or even managing the whole screening setup. You might even be able to get some advice and tips as well. Find a touring cinema near you.
Option C – Book directly with the distributor
You can also always get in touch directly with distributors to book your film itself along with its screening licence.
There are two major distributors that might be your best first port of call: Filmbank and Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC). Between them, they hold rights to movies from a huge range of production companies.
If you’re searching for critically acclaimed independent films, gritty British drama, provocative art-house movies, world cinema or classic Hollywood titles, the British Film Institute catalogue is a good place to look. You can also request marketing materials, like posters and trailers.
Cinegi Arts&Film is a digital distribution platform that makes filmed theatre, music, dance, ballet and opera performances available to audiences through public screenings in all kinds of venues across the UK. Cinegi Arts&Film offers titles from major arts organisations such as the Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre Live, Shakespeare’s Globe and also smaller companies like Miracle Theatre from Cornwall.
Most distributors require you to open an account with them before you can book your first movie, so try to plan your screenings with plenty of time to spare.
You can usually buy the license for each film when you order it from the distributor too – find out all you need to know about licences. You’ll probably need to know the date you would like to show your film before you can order it, so make sure you’ve already booked your venue before booking your film!
List of distributors
When you’re getting started, it might be easier to think of a few films that you’d like to show and then contact the distributor to find out about getting hold of them.
Alternatively, you could browse each distributor’s catalogue individually – but it might take some time, as there are a lot of them out there!
Are we missing any distributors? Please let us know if you have one to add to our list.