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Phoenix Cinema

The BFI has released guidelines for the £30m Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England, aimed at supporting venues that continue to face major challenges around reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fund will be open for applications from August 10, issuing grants that will enable non-profit and independent cinemas to open with safety measures in place protecting employees and audiences. The deadline to apply is October 30.

Grants will be aimed at supporting independent cinemas on reopening, as social distancing measures will restrict the level of admissions for performances, resulting in lower takings.

Every cinema in the UK closed on March 20 as part of a nationwide lockdown, imposed due to the virus crisis, and around 80% of the nation’s 775 cinemas remain closed. Some 55% of all cinemas in the UK are independent venues.

The new grants will be administered by the BFI as part of the government’s £1.57bn support package to help Britain’s culture, arts and heritage organisations.

The fund is open to both non-profit and independent commercial cinemas, including mixed artform venues, and will be directed at building-based venues that provide a year-round film programme. It is, therefore, not available for film festivals or touring operators.

It is anticipated that the first grants will be available from the end of August, in a bid to aid independent cinemas that are working towards a September reopening.

Diversity encouraged

The fund offers support via two strands. A total of £3m will be dedicated to 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.

The second strand covers £27m of 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. Cinemas are able to apply for grants from both strands.

The fund is also being utilised as a catalyst for change. Cinemas applying for business sustainability grants will be required to demonstrate a commitment to increasing their organisational diversity and the diversity of their audiences.

They will be expected to make commitments to improving the diversity of their boards and their senior teams; the development of more public programmes by curators/programmers from minority backgrounds; and the greater use of culture venues as community spaces. They will also be expected to demonstrate commitments to reducing negative impacts on the environment and increasing educational outreach.

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts said: “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.

“So we really welcome the Government’s culture recovery funding and its vital support for independent cinemas, many of whom will soon be able to provide audiences with a positive and safe cinematic experience. We are also working closely with industry to encourage audiences to return to cinemas as they reopen across the UK.”

Cinemas in England were given the greenlight to reopen on July 4. Cinemas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland come under the devolved government administrations but are also now cleared to reopen.

Further guidelines and details are published here.