Article: Revisiting Your Cinema Business Model

A new business skills course to help cinemas survive, consolidate and thrive

A BFI FAN Training Course – Open to all FAN members across the UK

This new course offers practical and realistic strategies on how cinemas can adapt to financial challenges, profound changes in audience behaviour, and transformations in the film industry at large.

Designed for those in leadership or senior management roles at independent cinema organisations, Revisiting Your Cinema Business Model will explore challenges in management, strategic planning, financial reporting and governance.

Through a structured learning programme and six months of mentorship, the course will empower participants to develop a sustainable business model that will enable their organisations to survive and thrive in the long term.

Drawing on a wide range of expertise and case studies from across the exhibition sector and beyond, we will consider how cinemas can widen revenue streams, maintain cost control, respond to emergencies, use data to drive their business decisions and deepen audience relationships while continuing to innovate and work towards their organisational mission and values.

Who is this course for?

Successful applicants must be in leadership or senior management positions with a demonstrable ability to affect change in their organisations. Our priority for this course is to work with cinemas (independent, community and commercial) and mixed arts venues, but we can be flexible on this, and you should get in touch if you are interested.

You must work for an organisation that is a member of the BFI Film Audience Network. Find your local film hub here. Participant data may be passed on to the course funder, BFI Film Audience Network, for monitoring purposes.

If you have any questions about the course, including your eligibility to take part, we would be happy to answer them. Please contact

Programme structure

The course consists of seven modules comprising workshops, presentations and case studies. Towards the end of the modules, each participant will be appointed a mentor to work through and implement learning from the course.

Course modules (April – October 2024)

Module 1: Revisiting the Cinema Business Model Structure
Tuesday 23 April, London (in person, full day) 

Setting the context for the course, we will examine common features of not-for-profit cinema models, how they differ from commercial models and what we can learn from commercial businesses to increase our productivity and profits while balancing our charitable objectives. Resilient businesses continuously scan their changing environment to see new opportunities, adapt and sustain, and remain relevant and profitable. Participants will be invited to share their own business plans, explore collective challenges and start to think about how they could both improve productivity and widen their public, commercial and private revenue streams.

Module 2: Financial Planning and Reporting
Wednesday 24 April, London (in person, full day)

For business leaders, financial management will form an intrinsic part of the day-to-day workload. In this session, we will reiterate the key sources of financial reporting if you want to improve productivity and sustainability in this area. What costs should you be keeping the closest eye on, which reports should you be sharing, and who in your team should you be sharing these with? Using contemporary case studies, we will take a deep dive into pricing structures and membership schemes that have worked for comparable venues.

Module 3: Keeping on Top of Your Business
w/c 2 June, date TBC (online, half day) 

This session will explore the financial and performance management tools that can be drawn out in changing circumstances, increasing understanding of remedial actions and the business levers that can be ‘pulled’ in response. Taking the case study of Broadway (Nottingham) and the four financial years impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we will explore reducing costs, securing short-term and long-term income, the importance of Business Continuity Plans, internal and external communication, crisis management and managing multiple priorities. Working together, participants will investigate how these measures can be scaled up or down for their own organisations.

Module 4: Knowing the Market
w/c 11 July, date TBC (online, half day) 

What data do you need to increase productivity and profitability? This session will explore where to look for this data, how to understand it, and take control of what it tells you to drive your business forward. Including presentations from sector experts and case studies focused on effective CRM system use and using brand identity research to deepen reach and profile in the communities you serve.

Module 5: Financial Sustainability: Public and Private Funding
w/c 1 September, date TBC (online, half day) 

What is the current potential for securing, continuing or increasing core or grant funding? This session will look at a range of different sources of external funding, including public bodies, local authorities, and charitable trusts and foundations. How have years of reduced government funding of the arts and culture sector impacted their priorities, and how can you increase the opportunities for your organisation to access these funds by re-focusing your activities while remaining aligned with your mission and values? This session will also explore philanthropic giving from your existing customer base, including a case study on community ownership, and look at the role trustees and staff play in achieving organisational ambitions and sustainability.

Module 6: Financial Sustainability: Maximising Commercial and Earned Income
w/c 29 September, date TBC (online, half day)

As well as looking to external sources, are we maximising the resources we already have? Could revenue be increased from existing commercial activity such as private room/event hire, café and catering, advertising, renting spare office/studio space – or could these be promoted more effectively? Could you work in partnership with local organisations to enhance your film and other cultural programmes, and reach new audiences with them? Through a case study, participants will explore the benefits of expanding public programmes to generate income, rather than reducing your programme to save costs.

Module 7: Growth and Capital Improvements
October, date TBC (full day – in person)

In the final session, we will assess the realistic opportunities for future capital development and whether this is something participants want to pursue and at what scale. With case studies of large, big-budget building projects and smaller projects on a faster turnaround, we will explore what is involved in a development project (time, money, staff resources), the impact on the business while the development takes place, and how the completed development will alter the cinema business model. Or would smaller-scale capital purchases or developments – a new CRM system, upgraded IT, increased accessibility – have a bigger impact on your organisation now and in the future?

Mentor and Peer Support (October 2024 – March 2025)

Participants will have the opportunity for in-venue implementation of learning from the course with the appointment of a mentor who will provide bespoke support over six months. Mentors will be selected in consultation with the participant, focusing on the needs and objectives that have been identified throughout the course. During this period, the ICO will continue to encourage and facilitate networking with other participants, creating a network of peers for ongoing support.

Course leaders

Steve Mapp 

Former CEO, Broadway Cinema 

Chief Executive of Broadway Cinema, Nottingham from 2008 until retiring in June 2023. Joining in 1990, Stephen was originally appointed to set up the Finance and Development departments for the then-newly established media centre, leading the development and implementation of successive Business Plans. Managed over £8m of phased capital developments to expand and improve facilities, raising investments from ERDF, National Lottery, regional agencies and sponsorships. Oversaw merger with film training organisation Intermedia and the establishment of Broadway as the lead organisation for Film Hub Midlands in a partnership with Flatpack. Established Broadway as an ACE NPO to become a key regional centre that supports the training and development of creative talent who use new technologies in their practice. Led Broadway through 14 months of closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, securing Cultural Recovery Funding, introducing remote working and a restructuring of the organisation, leading to a successful reopening in May 2021.

Catharine Des Forges

Director, Independent Cinema Office

Catharine has spent over 20 years working in the exhibition sector for a variety of organisations including the BFI and Arts Council England. She has worked as a freelance programmer and arts consultant and progammed for festivals and cinemas both in the UK and internationally. She has lectured on film at several UK universities and is a regular contributor to industry events and a frequent filmmaker Q&A host. Catharine founded the ICO in 2003 and has been its Director ever since.

David Sin 

Head of Cinemas, Independent Cinema Office

Over the past 25 years, David has worked as a Programmer, Consultant and Distributor, on occasions two or three of these at the same time. From 1998-2002, he was Director of Cinema at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) where he programmed an award-winning season of Japanese experimental film, increased admissions by 100% and also made a success of the ICA’s cutting-edge distribution company; releasing over 40 films including Ring, A One and a Two and Kandahar. Whilst Head of Content at the British Film Institute, he co-produced a screening of Borderline staged at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall; and A Throw of Dice with a live orchestra in Trafalgar Square. 

Course speakers

Micaela Tuckwell
Executive Director, The Ultimate Picture Palace

Micaela is the Executive Director on The Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford’s only independent cinema established in 1911. Under her leadership the cinema successfully met the challenges of pandemic securing a nomination for UK Cinema of the Year in 2021, as well as facilitating a £385k community share raise to bring the business into community-ownership. She is a BAFTA Connect Member as well as a Trustee of Oxford Playhouse. 

She started her career at Jacari, an educational charity that supports children with English as a second language from disadvantaged backgrounds and founded the charity’s first branch in a new location (Bristol) which is still going strong today. Subsequent roles have deepened her understanding of Oxford, it’s diverse communities and the power of art to transform lives —   these include over a decade of leadership and fundraising experience at cultural organisations including The Story Museum, The Ark-T Centre, and Cowley Road Works.

Flo Carr
Associate Director, Indigo Ltd

Flo is an experienced marketing and CRM professional with a passion for audience development. She has worked in a wide range of marketing, communications and venue management roles in arts and cultural organisations in London and Cambridge. Her previous roles include Head of Communications and Marketing at Arcola Theatre, Marketing & CRM Manager at English National Opera and Press & Marketing Manager at Cambridge Live. Having collaborated with Katy Raines to deliver our extensive programme of audience sentiment tracking research during Covid, Flo joined Indigo full time in November 2020.

Mosa Mpetha
Creative Engagement Officer, Hyde Park Picture House

Based in Leeds, and from Liverpool & South Africa, Mosa is a film programmer of Black, African and Archive films in a freelance capacity and in a permanent role as Creative Engagement Officer at her local heritage cinema, Hyde Park Picture House (est. 1914). At Hyde Park Picture House, Mosa works with anyone external to the cinema to strategically co-curate interesting and mutually beneficial film events. In addition to this, at Hyde Park Picture House Mosa curates a new permanent strand of African films called Cinema Africa! for African and Non-African audiences, working in collaboration with community groups, addressing the unreasonable lack of African films being show on the big screen in the UK.

Mosa is particularly passionate about archive film and has recently published a personal journal from a research trip on African Film Archives in South Africa, Burkina Faso, France and the UK. Please see her website for more information

Ellen Reay
Marketing Coordinator, Queen’s Film Theatre

Ellen Reay joined Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) as its Marketing Coordinator in 2019. Prior to that she worked in film exhibition marketing roles at the Barbican and the Independent Cinema Office

Nicola Swift
Freelance marketing professional

Nicola is a seasoned brand, NPD and marketing professional working with retail and hospitality businesses. Specialisms are brand strategy (defining how your business looks and sounds), product and packaging development and strategic support for small businesses owners. Nicola also work as a fractional head of marketing and can take on the day-to-day of digital and local marketing campaigns. 

Previous in-house roles include Creative Food Director of the Ginger Pig butchery business, Head of Retail at Dishoom restaurants and Product Developer at Marks & Spencer. As a freelancer Nicola has or still works with Ultimate Picture Palace, Harvey Nichols,  Pompette restaurant, Spice Kitchen, Farmison and Sous Chef. 

Information session recording

Interested in finding out more about the course? In this session, the ICO’s Director Catharine Des Forges and Head of Cinemas David Sin discussed some of the topics the programme will cover and how it could be valuable for your organisation to take part.

How to apply

To apply, please complete the application form below:

The deadline for applications is Monday 18 March. Applicants will be informed of decisions no later than Tuesday 26 March 2024.

In order to complete this form, you will have to sign into your Google account, which will also give you the ability to save your progress and come back to the form at a later date.

If you do not have a Google account and would like to fill out an application form in Word format, please email us at and we will arrange for one to be sent to you. If you would like to access a list of the questions in advance you can do so here.

The cost to take the course is £800. If you are unable to pay the full fees before the course starts, please let us know and we may be able to agree a staggered payment plan. 

If you have any queries about your application or the course, please contact:


A limited number of bursaries of up to £500 are available to individuals working for not-for-profit organisations to help cover fees. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please complete the additional form as part of the application process.

Remember that many of the regional/national Film Hubs will be able to offer exhibitors bursary support for training. Please ensure that you have contacted your local Film Hub to apply for support in advance of your application to this course.

If you are successful, your organisation will need to pay the remaining fees to confirm your place, so please ensure you have funds in place.

Impact Areas

Focus Areas

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