According to a new article in Screen Daily, The British Film Institute (BFI)’s Film Audience Network (FAN) has seen a 20% membership increase across the past year, highlighting the network’s worth in the eyes of the sector throughout the turbulence of closures and reopenings.
BFI FAN, which aims to provide ‘wider and more diverse UK cinema audiences for British and international film’, now has 1,542 members, including cinemas, festivals, multi-arts venues, community cinemas and film archives.
“It’s been liberating for [FAN] to cement its place as really being able to offer support, guidance and community to exhibitors,” says BFI head of UK audiences Ben Luxford speaking to Screen Daily. “It’s been challenging, absolutely – flat-out, round-the-clock response all the time. But the strength in FAN and the membership has been that absolute sense of community, and the need to buddy up and share knowledge as well. That as a legacy of this whole period is fantastic and exactly what FAN has been trying to do in the first place. It’s a shame that it has taken a crisis to cement it, but there are such huge opportunities to build on from that.”
Last month, BFI FAN launched FAN Conversations, a series of discussions designed to create and respond to the need for exchange amongst UK film exhibitors. Taking place via Zoom initially, the first session at the beginning of June addressed ‘How are cinemas reconnecting with their communities as they reopen?’.
The FAN annual budget of £3.3m has been provided by National Lottery funding. The money has been repurposed across the past year in response to repeated cinema closures – first for the £1.3m BFI FAN Covid-19 Resilience Fund, launched in April 2020; and then for the £759,159 BFI FAN Film Exhibition Fund, which was established in August 2020 with the aim of boosting exhibition activities and outreach as lockdowns ended.
That took longer than envisaged, with cinemas required to close again from December 2020 to May 17, 2021. Adaptability has been built into the network’s ethos. “We are prepared for disappointments and delays, but we understand it as well,” said Luxford. “The good thing is that no-one’s being told they have to close – cinemas are absolutely able to open.”
National Lottery Cinema Weekend
To provide a further boost, National Lottery Cinema Weekend took place from 19-20 JUne in partnership with the BFI. It was organised with support from the UK Cinema Association, Film Distributors Association and BFI-coordinated Screen Sector Task Force. The event allows National Lottery ticket holders to apply for a free pair of adult cinema tickets, with over 200,000 tickets available across the two days at over 500 venues. Participating cinemas include members of the BFI Film Audience Network as well as Cineworld, Odeon, Vue and other chains and independent cinemas.
The BFI Audience Fund has published details of over £1.15m in awards given between January and May 2021, made from National Lottery funding.
The British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) received the largest amount, with £300,000 towards the UK-wide rollout of its ongoing This Is Our Cinema: Always-On campaign, promoting UK independent film to young audiences.