Seven independent cinemas across Wales will receive funding from Film Hub Wales to support their venues with rising costs this spring.
As venues balance significant financial pressures, funds will be used to ensure that the best UK independent and international films continue to reach communities at affordable prices.
At Cellb in Blaenau Ffestiniog, their energy bills have escalated by 700% in the last quarter. So this youth-led venue is getting creative to maintain the modern cinematic entertainment offer that the community knows and loves, at reasonable prices. They are redeveloping their Blaenau Vista Ffilm Club with specialist Q&A screenings such as Enys Men and Welsh made Y Sŵn, which will screen with a Director Q&A on March 10th in celebration of Cellb’s 16th birthday, at £5 per ticket. It will be followed by a Q&A for young audiences around the theme of protest with Lecturer Selwyn Williams and local renegade Ceri Cunnington.
At Theatr Gwaun in Pembrokeshire, the cinema is working with its Community Film Panel and Fishguard Film Society, to recover audiences post pandemic, while balancing the financial pressures resulting from inflation. They are leading the way with an exciting programme that puts audiences first. Funds will support their independent cinema screenings from January to April 2023 with films such as South Korean mystery Decision to Leave and West Walian Western The Toll, plus their affordable £3 Saturday Morning Kids Club and POINT Presents initiative in partnership with their local youth centre.
Paul Howe, Manager at Theatr Gwaun explains how the cost of living crisis is affecting cinemas: “These are very tough times for cinemas. Like many small, single screen, independent cinemas across Wales, Theatr Gwaun is grappling with the challenges of the cost of living crisis; determined to weather the storm. Our operating costs are under pressure from a combination of increasing fuel / trading costs and inflation / government policy driving an inevitable and much needed increase in staff wages. That is only one side of the story of course. Our audiences are also making tough decisions about their domestic budgets. A laser focus on costs, balanced with innovative, creative programming, engaging marketing and greater collaboration with supportive funding bodies such as Film Hub Wales are strategy threads that have never been so important as we navigate our way through these difficult times.”
The Magic Lantern Cinema in Tywyn faces the same steep rise in energy costs as the people in its community. Based in a rurally isolated area, where income is often connected to seasonal tourism, the cinema is a vital social space but audiences have confided that the cost of living crisis is impacting on their cinema-going.
Annie Grundy at The Magic Lantern explains: “Our audiences have told us that they can’t afford to see all the films they want to but it’s never been more important for us that they are able to attend. So we’re launching our ‘Wonderful Wednesdays’ £3 offer in March as well as partnering with Gwynedd Youth Services to offer free screenings for 11-25-year-olds. We’re also holding an open day to start a conversation about what we can do to help both young and older audiences who are feeling the pinch. Seeing a film on the big screen with surround sound is great value for a quality night out in Tywyn and we keep our prices as affordable as we can.”
Funding has also been confirmed at Wyeside Arts Centre (Builth Wells), The Torch (Milford Haven), The Dragon Theatre (Barmouth) and Pontardawe Arts Centre (Swansea Valley).
Hana Lewis, Film Hub Wales Manager explains why the fund was launched: “We’ve seen a number of much loved cinemas close across the UK in recent months, such as Kinokulture on the Welsh border and Cardiff’s Premiere Cinema. Cinemas are impacted by the cost of living crisis on many levels, from rising supply costs to standstill or reduced funding. We are also in a new normal, still rebuilding audiences post-Covid and evolving as organisations. We know that this funding can’t solve the crisis for these venues but as the heart of many Welsh communities, we’re delighted to support them in whatever way we can and give people a chance to escape to a new world on screen.”
Film Hub Wales is made possible thanks to funding from the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN), awarding funds from the National Lottery. BFI FAN offers support to exhibitors across the whole of the UK, to boost cultural programming and engage diverse audiences. In Wales, activity is led by Film Hub Wales, managed by Chapter.