British Film Institute Outlines $39M Recovery Fund For England’s Indie Cinemas

The British Film Institute has unveiled details of its £30M ($39M) recovery fund for England’s beleaguered independent cinemas, which have been closed since March due to the pandemic.

Even though cinemas can now re-open in England, restrictions on capacity and virus safety provisions are an economic barrier and, coupled with a minimal slate of film releases, this is a challenging time for venues, particularly indies operating on narrow margins. Of the 775 cinemas in the UK, 55% are independent.

From August 10 until October 30, venues will be allowed to apply to two pots of funding:

  • £3m for safety grants to enable cinemas (up to £10,000 per cinema) to put the necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of their workforce and the public.
  • £27m business sustainability grants (up to £200,000 per organisation) to support independent cinemas to operate viably under the restricted conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund will be administered by the BFI as part of the UK government’s $1.6BN support packages for British arts and culture. It is open to all building based venues that have a year-round program, therefore not for film festivals or touring operators. The first grants are expected to be given out at the end of August.

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Cinemas applying to the fund for business sustainability grants will be required to demonstrate a commitment to increasing their organizational diversity and the diversity of their audiences, such as by making diverse appointments to their boards and senior teams, and curating more programs from minority programmers. They will also be expected to demonstrate commitments to reducing negative impacts on the environment and increasing educational outreach.

Venues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland come under the devolved government administrations.

“The BFI Screen Sector Taskforce highlighted the huge financial pressures facing cinemas as some of the first cultural venues to reopen with strict social distancing and limited box office takings,” said BFI chief Ben Roberts. “We are also working closely with industry to encourage audiences to return to cinemas as they reopen across the UK.”

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