Cinema’s greatest love stories hit the big screen, from cinemas to castles, community halls to railway stations presented by the BFI Film Audience Network. The ambition was to offer opportunities for diverse audiences to experience and share the multiple ways love has been presented in film on the big screen across the country. The result was an inspiring array of film screenings and supporting activity was delivered across the UK during the key months of the BFI LOVE Blockbuster - October and December 2015.
Why this mattersThe LOVE Blockbuster was a real catalyst for festivals and cinemas to work in collaboration e.g. five African Film Festivals working together on a touring programme of African love films. Local venues and organisations put together impressive programmes of activities that brought important local expertise and audience knowledge to the nationwide LOVE season. The support from BFI FAN meant that participating organisations could take greater risks with their programme choices and provide enhanced activity and opportunities for audiences to be immersed in a selection of classic and contemporary films.
- Work in partnership with BFI and other key stakeholders (ICO, Into Film & Cinema For All) to present a number of National initiatives, immersive events and programmes of a selection of classic and contemporary titles that embody the theme of LOVE.
- Maximise the strength and breadth of the BFI Film Audience Network through National Moments and cross hub partnerships.
- Provide a programme of enhanced activity to engage new audiences and enrich the experience of cultural cinema.
- Provide opportunities for exhibitors by enabling them to take greater risks with their programme choices.
- The national approach connected independent cinemas, audiences and partners with participation from 81 cinemas, part-time exhibitors and film societies, delivering 770 screenings in 265 different locations.
- The total audience reached over 80,000 with over 30,000 tickets sold across the UK.
- The shared menu of films resulted in 25 titles being available (8/9 titles for each strand of the cultural brief and 4 re-released titles with extended runs). The Menu was booked by 30 exhibitors across 40 locations and resulted in 118 individual screenings.
- Over 2,000 responses were gathered from the Audience Survey (7% of total audience). Not only did people rate their experience at LOVE events really highly (the majority of respondents scoring 8-10), nearly half of the respondents were first-time visitors to the venue - a real audience development success!
134 feature films, 57 short films. Including a selection from a collective menu of title including; Brief Encounter, Dr Zhivago, When Harry Met Sally.., Casablanca, Wings of Desire, Gone with the Wind, Gregory's Girl, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Fatal Attraction, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Stranger By the Lake.
Watershed in Film Hub South West & West Midlands led the National coordination of the programme who worked cross hub with the eight other BFI Film Hubs as well as strategic partners Cinema For All, Into Film and the ICO. Over 80 member organisations participated.
Budget in brief
The total budget was £711,308. £422,075 (incl. a £10K external evaluation fee) came from Lottery Funding through the BFI PDF Award. The rest was generated through box office income, own resources and partners. Subsidy per head was £13.41.
- Exhibitors benefited from being part of a national BFI led project by gaining prestige and being supported with joint marketing, profile raising, collaborations and pre-publicity all providing a positive impact on projects involved in the season;
- Achieved an overall audience engagement of 83,150 with 31,473 box office receipts;
- The project encouraged and supported innovative partnerships between exhibitors e.g the Big Love Tea Dance with screenings of Brief Encounter took place at nine venues across the country;
- Developed a collaborative networks which worked together effectively to deliver an exciting programme of film activity e.g the five African Film Festivals delivered a programme of Food and Film events at each festival;
- Screening classic films in non-cinema venues e.g the screening of Wings of Desire in Paisley Abbey, Sensoria Festival presented A Matter of Life and Death at Norton Aerodrome where the film screened alongside wrap around activity;
- Increase diversity of film choice, cultural experience of watching and the settings in which to experience film;
- Focused activity supporting young and diverse audiences such as What's the Matter with Gregory an immersive experience around Gregory's Girl for 12-15 year olds was presented at 10 venues across the country and the Iris Prize provided a LGBT short film to be screened with Brokeback Mountain across 54 Vue Cinemas nationwide;
- Enhanced the networks expertise in the areas of film programming, education and audience development;
What has been difficult
- Press coverage and creating online ‘buzz’ around region-specific activities that weren’t UK-wide.
- Some exhibitors struggled to meet ambitious target audience numbers due to a busy time of year and limited lead in.
- Meeting deadlines for delivering assets within challenging regional venue timetables.
- Managing expectations of both the funder and exhibitors activity and audiences achievable in an already saturated time of the year.
What you would do differently if you did it again
- Create a direct method of communication for participating exhibitors and a central platform for discussion, hosting assets, disseminating UK-wide information;
- Encourage cinemas to set more realistic audience targets;
- Streamline administration processes around distributing funding, reporting and creative more innovative ways of collecting audience feedback.
The BFI LOVE Blockbuster UK-wide activity aimed to cater for underserved audiences specifically by making a variety of films widely accessible. The Film Audience Network worked with a number of members to specifically present programmes that engaged diverse audiences including; the Iris Prize who put together a programme of LGBT short films to accompany feature films, including one title preceding a screening of Brokeback Mountain in 52 Vue sites across the country. The SQIFF seasons provided extensive representation of LBTQ women and engaged audiences with issues surrounding this representation as well as with queerness and marriage. The SQIFF UK tour provided an opportunity to develop deeper connections formed between queer film programmers across the UK, with the assistance of events organised in collaboration with Queer Film Network members, Wotever DIY Film Festival and the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. The Five African Film Festivals (London, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Bristol) successfully collaborated on From Africa With Love a series of events and shared titles highlighting African cultures and the challenges of love in each location. These screenings were well-attended or sold out at all five festivals, and were found to be a very successful format. This was achieved by working in a number of non-traditional venues, such as church halls and universities which allowed us to reach beyond regular cinema audiences.
A diverse variety of foreign language events with on screen representation brought to areas where audiences are traditionally underserved, such as Le Monde and the Bang Bang, Bollywood events in Wales. Classic films were contextualised with discussions focusing on gender, age, BME, LGBT and transgender topics at Glasgow Women’s Library and Scarlett’s Women in South Hill Park, Bracknell. Curzon Community Cinema, Clevedon reached out to the older population at a care home for their Brief Encounter Tea Dance, many of whom were over 90 years old.
Audience surveys revealed that 8% noted that they had a disability; 16% came from a non-white ethnic background. 13% stated their sexual orientation is not heterosexual. 10% were in the 16 - 44 years age bracket.
Knowledge & Experience
Attracting young audiences was high on the list of priorities for all venues and youth panels and ‘New Producers’ were engaged and inspired at venues such as Watershed, mac Birmingham, Cinemagic and Take Over Film Festival to work with industry professionals, learning practical skills in film curation and event management that gave a great sense of achievement when it all came together successfully.
“We were allowed just the right amount of freedom coupled with guidance making it feel like our own but also putting the ideas within the necessary restraints needed to make things work correctly. We were given the opportunity to make our own creative ideas actually happen under the Watershed brand and this felt like an opportunity and when completed felt like a real achievement.” Watershed Future Producer 2015
Audiences were given an opportunity to experience classic films in different environments often with added activity such as an introduction by an experienced film historian or lecturer to provide a different context or the venue was dressed in the era or theme of the film to enhance the atmosphere and create an enjoyable experience.
Enjoyment featured very high, with the majority of audiences scoring 8,9 or 10 for both the film and the overall experience. Reasons included; the opportunity to see a classic on a big screen, the atmosphere and ambience created in the venues and the additional extras, such as discussions and refreshments.
"Amazing! Film was fun, venue was very interesting. Good food, friendly staff. Altogether a fun night" - Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bluetown Heritage Centre
"Brilliant, friendly atmosphere , warm welcome and lovely food. I loved the film and the choice of speakers who were passionate and knowledgeable about the film and its topics." - Orlando, Glasgow Women’s Library
‘Thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon out - it was lovely to come along to something different - the film, afternoon tea, music, quiz and raffle." - Casablanca, Soar Centre
What audiences said
- "Excellent great opportunity to see a classic film in an appropriate environment." Audience member – Brief Encounter, Birmingham Moor Street Station
- "Brilliant, friendly atmosphere , warm welcome and lovely food. I loved the film and the choice of speakers who were passionate and knowledgeable about the film and its topics." Audience member – Orlando, Glasgow Women’s Library
- "A powerful, unique experience." Audience member – Wings of Desire, Paisley Abbey
- “The talk prior to the screening was very informative and helped me understand the film” Audience member – Long Crendon Film Club about A Matter of Life and Death
- “Sharing, watching in wonder together with others: Cinema is the place where the magic happens” Audience member - HOME
What professionals, press and partners said
- “The season enabled us to show more obscure, risky and foreign film. It increased the number of classic and cultural films we show, attracted a few new audience members, encouraged a few established patrons to be more experimental with the films choose. Highlighting to our audience the Strand Arts Centre’s intention of supporting more British; Independent; Cultural and Classic films.” Strand Arts Centre, Film Hub NI
- “These features [added value of speakers, food and drink etc] also have the advantage of creating a more holistic engagement, as the discussions and the food allowed audiences to be introduced to the themes of the films, and the histories and cultures of Africa in a more comprehensive and interactive way that added more depth than a stand-alone screening.” Africa in Motion, Film Hub Scotland
- “Don those dancing shoes for a Strictly Brief Encounter. As the nation goes crazy for Strictly Come Dancing, the legendary weepie is getting in on the act with special dance-themed screenings throughout the UK” DAILY EXPRESS
- “Love is all around over the next three months as the BFI mounts a nationwide celebration of an abstract quality nobody could object to” GUARDIAN GUIDE