Case Study: Jam Jar Cinema – Bridging the Digital Divide

Jam Jar Cinema - a community cinema in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside - developed their single screen venue to increase capacity and add DCP capability. In addition, the venue trialled a community programming panel model to increase audience engagement and attendances.

Film Hubs

Impact Areas

Focus Areas


Switching to DCP afforded the cinema more range in programming new and specialised works, which were in demand from the core audience. As a result, the venue was able to work strategically to meet audience needs and increase the range of specialised films for their members.

Project aims

  • To upgrade the cinema space and equipment, increasing the number of seats, screen size and adding DCP projection.

  • Trial 'community cinema programming panel' events, to explore how audiences could influence and shape the cinema's programme to include more British, independent and specialised releases.

  • Increase the number of specialised screenings of foreign language, British independent and new work from lesser known filmmakers including British short films.

  • Raise operating revenue to help create a sustainable cinema, and fund paid positions for the venue.


  • Increased the number, range and average audiences for screenings, from 2790 admissions for 114 events in 2014 to 4760 admissions for 170 events in 2015

  • Introduced a membership programme to track audience preferences, and ensure the cinema catered for older and young audiences, whose tastes are quite different

  • Combined community led programming events with professional film booking services to create a strong and well-received programme

  • Became a more sustainable year-round concern with paid staff


Monthly Foreign language film night;
Themed screen classic seasons such as: 'Sex Lies and Scandal' season celebrating the quirky and cause celebre of British culture;
Focus on new, emerging and British talent including BAFTA shorts, local independent works.

From the community panel picks: Macbeth, Legend, Suffragette, The Lady in the Van, Brooklyn, Spotlight.

From the youth panel: Deadpool, Mockingjay pt II, Spectre, Star Wars, Maze Runner 2

Key partnerships

Film Hub North provided financial support and guidance for the pilot project; Film Mobile, a cinema booking and equipment service, provide professionalised booking and programming services. Support from the local authority was key at the outset in securing the venue for original repurposing to create the venue in 2012.

Budget in brief

£4,800 awarded by Film Hub North against venue's private loan and operating surplus to support redevelopment. The venue is part-community run and benefitted from the practical support of over 80 volunteers as part of the renovation.

What worked

  • Community programming was a huge success enabling us to define what kind of cinema we needed to become

  • Working with Film Mobile provided vital knowledge and expertise in film booking and programming services

  • Friend of Jam Jar Cinema programme helped create community loyalty and track trends for future programming

  • An increase in audience numbers, attendance, and repeat customers

What has been difficult

  • Financial security - the switch to DCP was initially expensive however it has helped to significantly increase audience development and revenue

  • Transition from volunteer-run to some staff - expectations of the venue and the people have changed however we are dealing with this well.

Awareness / Attitudes



Social Cohesion

Our community-boutique cinema is programmed by local residents and run by, with and for local people and as a result we have developed a real community space that helps promote community identity and belonging.

Our project helped to develop a strong sense of social cohesion through community programming panels. This encouraged a sense of community belonging and increased a sense of control of the local people in their own cultural space.

One of our projects major aims was to develop a programme that helped to engage our traditionally hard to reach audience: Young People 14-19 yrs, 25-40 yrs with children under 5 and over 65+. In doing so we were able to engage these groups with helping us to shape our future film programming.

Screening films from local filmmakers and students, we were able to raise awareness of new and emerging British talent and encourage progression and engagement with art and culture.

What audiences said

  • British and independent films scored higher than blockbusters throughout our community programming panels