Case Study: Into Film and BFI FAN Youth Engagement Project

In support of FAN member venues attracting 16-19 year olds to their venues to watch more independent film and following a successful pilot year of activity in 2018/19, Into Film – the UK’s largest Film Education organisation, re-ran their Youth Engagement Project in 2019/20.


For film exhibition to continue to be economically viable, the next generation of young cinema attenders needs to be developed. It is widely recognised that cinema going trends for 16-30 year olds have changed (even more so since the onset of the pandemic), and as a result the industry needs to adapt to entice young people back into their cinemas, to support them in sharing the experience with their peers and to recognise the appetite for more diverse and specialised content amongst this age group.

Into Film, as the largest film education charity in the UK and with their links to secondary schools and colleges is in a unique position to help FAN members to reach 16-19 year olds. In research conducted by Into Film specifically into the cinema going habits of this age group, the results demonstrated that:

• Young people are advocates of film, with the cinema being their favourite place to watch the latest films.
• The biggest barrier to more frequent visits to the cinema is the cost incurred, which is why a loyalty scheme that is seen to reduce the cost of a visit has greatest impact.
• They value the social aspects of a cinema visit as spending time with friends & family is a key motivation for a visit.
• Food & Drink is crucial element of cinema going for young people but if it’s too expensive or not appealing they will bring their own food with them.
• They are risk averse as they’re nervous about negative feedback from friends if the film they watch together isn’t enjoyed by them all.

So this project aims to support FAN members to address these barriers within their own venues with direct input from the 16-19 year olds in their area.

Project aims

  • To discover effective ways of engaging 16-19s with FAN members and film, bringing more of this audience into venues in the short and long term.

  • To provide FAN members with feedback directly from a group of young people aged 16-19 years to help inform the development of their offer in a range of different areas

  • To develop greater relationships with HLOs, FAN members and organisations working with 16-19 year olds.

  • Case studies to share with FAN


  • 100% of FAN members who responded to the end of project survey reported the project had given them a better understanding of what appeals to young people (75% strongly agreed).

  • Regional Into Film staff reported having a better understanding of the FAN members in their area who are interested in engaging with film education, HLOs and young people.

  • Young people reported having a greater awareness of opportunities at venues

  • 66.67% of young people who responded to the survey reported they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I am more likely to visit this cinema/festival as a paying customer’.

  • The FAN venues also reported that by participating in the project they gained a much better awareness of the entire Into Film programme and how they might be able to work together more frequently in the future.

Key partnerships

The 10 partner venues were identified with the support of their relevant Film Hub teams. The venues in turn were connected with their local secondary schools or colleges. 2 venues recruited independently as follows:

Hippodrome, Bo’ness (Film Hub Scotland, Larbert High School)
GFT, Glasgow (Film Hub Scotland, John Paul Academy)
Broadway, Nottingham (Film Hub Midlands, independent recruitment)
Metal, Liverpool (Film Hub North, Liverpool College)
Quad, Derby (Film Hub Midlands, Derby College)
Phoenix, Exeter (Film Hub South West, the venue recruited individual 16-19 year olds)
The Watermark, Ivybridge (Film Hub South West, Ivybridge College)
Chapter, Cardiff (Film Hub Wales, Cantonian High School)
Genesis, London (Film Hub London, Bishop Challoner Catholic Federation School)
Rio, London (Film Hub London, Central Foundation Boys' School)

Budget in brief

Into Film offered each venue up to £600 as a contribution to delivery costs. The majority of venues on average received £500.

The venues were able to budget for this activity independently but key expenses included snacks for the group in each of the sessions, travel reimbursement and cinema tickets, so that group members could watch and feedback on the experience of watching a film in the venue.

What worked

  • The 16-19 project further developed and improved good working relationships between Into Film, FAN venues, FHLOs, educators and pupils in the UK

  • FAN members participating in the project were connected with 16-19 year olds’ who previously hadn’t engaged with any independent cinema venues, let alone theirs.

  • FAN members unanimously felt they had benefited from the project and that they appreciated the extra support (staffing, expertise in working with young people and financial) that Into Film brought with the project.

  • Both Into Film and the FAN venues were impressed by how honest the feedback the young people gave them was.

  • Young people gained a new cinema experience, increased their confidence by taking ownership over the project and as a result now have a better understanding of how independent cinemas differ from multiplexes.

  • From a PR perspective, the project generated lots of good news stories that the FAN venues and Into Film could share with the sector to encourage more venues and schools to take part.

  • FAN members reported that the project had reignited their passion for engaging a younger audience and that it gave them a starting point and helped them to develop their strategies moving forwards

  • Those young people considering careers in the industry reported feeling more confident and connected to the exhibition sector. They appreciated having the opportunity to get to know the venue and the staff which made them feel more comfortable about returning as a paying customer.

  • All the young people appreciated being able to learn new skills and to add the experience to their CV’s and University applications

  • The young people also reported feeling listened to by the venues, that their opinions were respected and that they had genuine influence over the changes the venues were prepared to make to attract their peers.

  • The project helped raise young people and FAN member venues’ awareness of Into Film’s wider offer beyond the festival and spring screenings activity.

What has been difficult

  • Due to the limited nature of the project Into Film were not able to develop as many new relationships with 16-19 organisations as they had hoped to.

  • Whilst FAN venues appreciated the honesty of the feedback they received, in some cases it just wasn’t relevant or realistic – i.e. I don’t like the colour of this room.

  • For students recruited openly i.e. not via a specific school or college and who essentially attended in their own time, the sessions felt too much like school and it was harder to engage them initially.

  • The onset of the global pandemic meant that sessions had to be cancelled or the project was not able to be delivered at all.

  • The project didn’t take place in the South East as it proved too difficult to get parents to sign the parental permission forms.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • To help speed up student engagement with the activity, it was felt that the first, introductory session should take place in the school or college with teacher support, jointly facilitated by Into Film and the venue.

What audiences said

  • ‘It has re-shaped my view of how cinema ‘should’ look/feel because I am used to Cineworld or The Vue’

  • ‘I feel more confident about criticising and giving feedback on an event without feeling out my depth’

  • ‘The project gave me time to hang out with my friend and made me feel part of the community’

  • ‘In the dark made me feel more confident with social interaction’

  • ‘It was good to experience a new cinema and something different’

What professionals, press and partners said

  • ‘Our young people have absolutely loved being involved with the In the Dark project. It has been so important because it provided pupils with the opportunity to engage with an independent cinema; somewhere they would never have visited previously. The project truly expanded their cinematic horizons. It also helped us to highlight the importance of pupil voice and that their views are welcomed and respected.’
    Michael Daly teacher at John Paul Academy

  • ‘In the Dark was a unique opportunity for pupils to affect real change in their local area. Our participants loved being able to have their voices and ideas on the table when it came to improvements for their local cinema. They have been able to evaluate their own experiences with cinema and community in a way that is meaningful and has real impact, which is an opportunity not always afforded to them. I would strongly encourage people to participate in this project.’
    Kerry Abercrombie, English & Media Teacher, Larbert High School

  • “Undertaking this project is allowing us to go beyond the simple focus group approach because it’s giving us the time to establish a rapport and trust with a key audience segment. By having this project in place we are able to dig deeper into the young audiences expectations of the cinema experience at Broadway.

    Their influence is already being felt at a programming decision level, where our trepidation about booking Captain Marvel was confirmed by the conversations we have had with the Into Film group around programming expectations for independent cinemas. Furthermore, they have influenced the language we use when promoting the film programme on social media, where they place a higher emphasis on quality of sound and screen than our older customers. So far the project has been incredibly insightful and we’re looking forward to the next stage.”
    Stewart Terry – Broadway, Nottingham

  • “The Into Film Youth Engagement Project has been really inspiring to be involved in, we have found out new things about our venue and have seen it form a young persons perspective. We made connections with young people in our area that we hope will carry on beyond the project.”
    Jenny Porter – Metal, Liverpool

  • “I strongly recommend doing this project. Into Film were extremely supportive and proactive in helping us 16-19 Youth engagement with a 16-19 audience.”
    Rebekah Taylor – Quad, Derby

  • Working with Into Fim on our Film Festival Young Promoters workshops was a really valuable experience, giving us new engagement with younger audiences and a great insight into how to build this engagement in the future. The structure and support from Into Film proved invaluable in the process and helped make the workshops fun and rewarding.
    Luke Hagan – Phoenix, Exeter

  • I would not hesitate to recommend any venue to work with INTO Film to introduce young people to their venue and get insight into the programming and marketing that appeals to this age group. They really are the experts and have provided great resources and support to achieve our aims.
    Jonathan Parsons – The Watermark