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Jam Jar Cinema, Whitley Bay, Northumberland

42 independent cinemas from across England have received a cash boost from the UK government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, in the first awards made by the BFI to support England’s screen sector, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced today. 

The first tranche of money from the £30m pot is being allocated by the BFI on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It will support cinemas across England from the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, down to Devon’s Totnes Cinema.  

This important cash boost of more than £650k will help independent cinemas – the cultural organisation closest to home for so many people – weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We all enjoyed the escapism of a good film during lockdown,” said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, “but nothing beats the experience of the big screen. This first wave of emergency funding will help dozens of independent cinemas around the country, preserving their unique character and history for future generations. 

“Our Film and TV Restart Scheme will keep cameras rolling on British-made film and TV – protecting jobs, boosting this hugely important industry and giving us more great content to enjoy. 

“But now we need the public to pay their part too. So I urge everyone to get booking your seats and support your local cinema.”

The support for independent cinemas has been welcomed by Luther co-stars Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson.

“In a time with so much change and uncertainty around us,” says Elba, the actor, director and BFI Governor, “there is comfort in the familiarity of a comfy pair of seats and some popcorn at your local cinema. It’s a simple and effective way of bonding with our cities and culture. We depend on the independent cinema and they depend on us to support them, now more than ever.”

Wilson says: “What lockdown has made very clear is how vital local communities are. I am thrilled independent cinemas will be able to access the Culture Recovery Fund. They, alongside all local arts organisations are lifelines for their communities and for the people that work in them. It was in my local cinema in Walton-on-Thames where I saw films for the first time that moved me, that made me understand the power of storytelling, the power of communal watching and made me want to be part of that world.”

Cinemas are able to apply for Safety Grants, to help independent venues meet the additional costs of creating a safe and COVID-secure environment for staff and audiences, and Business Sustainability grants of up to £200k to help stabilise venues as they reopen. 

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI, says: “The government’s support for independent cinemas through the Culture Recovery Fund is having a positive impact for venues and local communities in cities, towns and villages across the country as they reopen with new COVID-safe measures in place and new releases including current hits Rocks, After We Collided, Tenet and Monsoon, re-releases of classics such as La Haine and Star Wars, and the forthcoming Saint Maud and Eternal Beauty, all from great talent. Thanks to the Culture Recovery Fund we look forward to more cinemas gearing up to reopen in the coming weeks.”

Saffron Screen received £46,096 to help the venue restart its screenings including its pop-up screenings in local villages providing the only opportunity in the area to see a range of films from mainstream to foreign language and archive as well as streaming performances like Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes.

Kinema in the Woods, in Woodhall Spa, received a Safety Grant of £4,002 so that the site can welcome back its diverse audiences that attend its wide range of screenings including baby-friendly film showings and regular accessible screenings for local people with autism and dementia. 

“We are very grateful to the Culture Recovery Fund for supporting the costs of putting into place safety measures and providing PPE, which meant we could safely reopen our doors,” says Philip Jones, Cinema Manager of Kinema in the Woods.

The £30m fund will remain open for applications until 30 October and support for cinemas making an application is available on our website.

To support the UK’s film industry at every point of the screen supply chain the government has also opened the application process for the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme to help productions get the cameras rolling. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The UK’s cinemas and film & TV production industry are a key part of our culture – they provide thousands of jobs and help to entertain the nation. So I’m delighted that we can support independent cinemas through the Cultural Recovery Fund, and help to get productions up and running again through the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, protecting vital jobs across the industry.” 

The £500m scheme is designed to help TV and film productions across the country that have been halted or delayed by a lack of insurance to get back up and running. The scheme will give productions the confidence they need that they will be supported if future losses are incurred due to COVID-19. 

Detailed eligibility criteria for the scheme are available online so that productions can prepare applications ahead of the scheme formally opening in the coming weeks. 

Originally published: 2 October 2020