Film venues put wellbeing at the forefront of their post-Covid-19 reopening programmes.
Film Hub Wales (FHW) has awarded £52,000 in National Lottery funding, through the BFI FAN Film Exhibition Fund, to 15 Welsh independent cinemas and film festivals as they plan for reopening.
Funds will be used to aid recovery, enabling venues to safely restart British and international film screenings, including through cabaret style seating and ‘big screen bubbles’, so that they can reconnect with the most isolated Welsh communities affected by lockdown.
Socially-distanced film activities will take place Wales-wide, creating safe spaces where people can still travel the world via the big screen, at affordable prices. Audiences will be at the heart of decision making, with their feedback valued by venues as they rebuild.
For example, TAPE in Old Colwyn is reinstating Sofa Cinema and will screen Sanctuary in partnership with a new local dating agency for people with learning disabilities. In Barry, the Memo Arts Centre will create ‘big screen Bub-L’ activities with digital and take-away crafts, and in Tywyn the Magic Lantern will ‘re-light the magic lantern’, positioning the cinema as a bold, brave beacon for the future.
Since the pandemic began, many sites have been unable to open their doors to the public. With an uncertain future still ahead, they have been working to diversify their business models, develop robust health and safety procedures and secure critical alternative sources of income.
Impact of cinemas
Hana Lewis, Strategic Manager of Film Hub Wales explains: “We need to recognise the impact of cinemas in our communities and the potential loss we will all face if they close as a result of the pandemic. From Neuadd Ogwen, which provided food to 600 people via its foodbank, to the Magic Lantern and Theatr Gwaun, which both delivered medical supplies and mental health support to vulnerable patrons, independent venues have gone above and beyond to help those in most need. They have done this whilst also planning for their own uncertain futures, interrogating their business plans, reviewing their approaches to access and equality and exploring environmental sustainability. These funds will help them to restart crucial social, economic and cultural provision through on-screen activity.”
Annie Grundy, Co-Director of The Magic Lantern: “Getting this funding enables us to wrap a big ball of cotton wool around the British, independent and foreign language films in our programme which in the old days before the corona-coaster we underwrote ourselves. It ensures that even with a much reduced capacity (we have gone from 280 to 36 available seats due to social distancing) our audience can rock up to see an eclectic mix of fantastic films on screen at the Magic Lantern.”
Sue Whitbread, CEO of Theatr Gwaun adds: “Film Hub Wales’ support means we can move ahead with our new film strategy. Theatr Gwaun will now focus on diverse, independent films refreshing interest and developing new audiences in our community. Funding is essential, but equally the expert advice, mentoring and enthusiasm of the Hub team has given us a tremendous boost.”
Blanche Giacci lives a few streets away from Theatr Gwaun and in normal times would attend screenings at least once a week: “Theatr Gwaun is an essential part of our community, providing cinema, culture and entertainment for all age groups and interests. It is a social hub which improves the community’s well-being.”
Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences at the BFI adds: “This year has shown the absolute importance and need of programming beyond the mainstream, and we’re pleased to be able to support exhibitors in Wales continue to do that.”
The BFI FAN Film Exhibition Fund is made possible thanks to National Lottery funding, repurposed by the British Film Institute (BFI) via its Film Audience Network (FAN). The fund offers critical relief and business continuity to exhibitors across the whole of the UK. Funds in Wales are administered by FHW via Chapter as the Film Hub Lead Organisation.