Being a film fanatic and living in Preston has always been a struggle. During my time at University I was spoilt for three years by The Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds and then by both Filmhouse and Cameo in Edinburgh for one year. When I moved back home to Preston a year ago, the absence of an independent picture house felt greater than ever – after spending four years with exhilarating, new world cinema right on my doorstep. I moved back to Preston for my first graduate position. They Eat Culture, a Lancashire based arts and cultural arts organisation took me on as their programme assistant. After six months with the company and following an intense two weeks on the Independent Cinema Office’s Cultural Cinema Exhibition Conference 2015, I began to take control of coordinating, programming and starting a fortnightly film club from scratch. At its heart my film club is designed to bring great cinema to local film lovers who currently have to travel to either Manchester or Liverpool to get their fix. As well as providing great cinema, Cinema Around the Corner Film Club is all about involving the audience in what we screen. After just a couple of months the film club has built up a loyal and consistent following, evidence that there are local audience out there wanting to see great cinema in their city. Still, setting up a film club is a real struggle, particularly on a shoestring budget. It’s difficult for a variety of reasons.
Although I’m delighted with the growth and popularity of the club it is all the result of compromise. The first thing we found ourselves having to compromise on was the licensing. We didn’t have the funds or audience numbers to buy single title licenses for each screening. As a result I’ve gone with the umbrella license. Although the umbrella license is great value for money it does mean we have to think outside of the box when it comes to our marketing and promotion. The biggest obstacle to be overcome was the inability to advertise the film titles. Through creative uses of social media and the involvement of the core audience in our programming I was able to maintain decent audience figures without advertising the films on posters and social media. The key was to embrace the secrecy of the screenings – creating hype around the mystery and engage with the audience through clues and questions on social media. It seems clear that once you’re audience understand that you are able to provide a constant high-standard and engaging film-going experience they’re more open to trying new films and, most of all, unknown films. Audiences also seem most keen when they have a hand in the selecting of what is being screened. So far I’ve found success with screenings of award nominees from 2014 that barely made it to Preston the first time; these included Mr Turner, Frank and Selma. We also had a very busy screening of The Third Man, proving that cinema, old and new, still thrives on the big screen and is still in demand even in the streets and communities of Preston. As my film club continues to grow I’ll continue to entertain and challenge, but, most importantly, continue to develop an understanding of my audiences and what they want from their local cinema.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.