Clare Binns, Picturehouse

Picturehouse managing director Clare Binns says the company’s move into film financing is due to a changing industry, in which Picturehouse can “help films actually get over the line.”

The distributor-exhibitor is kicking off its financing activities with Harry Lighton’s feature debut Pillion starring Alexander Skarsgard and Harry Melling, shooting this summer for Element Pictures, developed and co-financed by BBC Film.

Without revealing exact figures, Binns says Picturehouse put “a little bit into the pot” after Element sent Binns the script. This built on the strong relationship between Picturehouse and Element dating back to Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 The Lobster, which Picturehouse boarded as UK-Ireland distributor at script stage.

“We’re lucky enough to be able to make our own decisions about how we do this,” says Binns. “We wanted to make Pillion happen. If there’s a way we can help get a film over the line, we’ll do it.

“It’s not like this is a strategic move that we’ll be doing with every film we come across. It’s more that we’re flexible and open to different partnerships.”

The production funds are raised through Picturehouse Entertainment’s distribution activity, which recently includes Oscar-winner Anatomy Of A Fall with Lionsgate last year. The company will take a share of profits from any film it produces, with the size dependent on the scale of Picturehouse’s investment. It also gives it early access to distribution rights – as for Pillion, which the company will release in the UK and Ireland.

The Pillion deal was struck by Picturehouse’s new head of acquisitions James Brown, who joined the company in January alongside acquisitions manager Julia Trawinska. Binns is an executive producer on the film, and says she will continue to be heavily involved in buying films for the company. “I have a strong vision about what I want Picturehouse Entertainment to be, and that will continue. I’m not going anywhere.”

The company has no plans for a set number of films each year, but rather will look at each project on an individual basis. “Our strategy is always to have a range of films – English-language, British, American, foreign-language. Then it’s finding the best way to keep those films coming into the UK.”

Binns also heads up Picturehouse Cinemas, the 27-site exhibitor (soon to open its 28th in Surrey) owned by Cineworld. Picturehouse Cinemas has gone back on its policy of not playing films without a theatrical window – a move that came about after the departure of former Cineworld CEO Moshe Greidinger in August last year.

“We now play everything,” says Binns. “We can play Curzon films, and Netflix, and we are very happy to be doing that. I’m delighted that we are supporting each other because we need to.”

Binns will be recognised with the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) achievement award at exhibition trade event CineEurope next month. After over 40 years in the business and over 20 years at Picturehouse, she sees herself as “a soldier of cinema.” Despite an appearance on the UK’s Culture, Media and Sport committee last month where she said “the industry’s in a bit of a crisis”, Binns says she feels “very positive about the future.”

“People want to go to cinemas, be together and watch films,” says Binns. “If I wasn’t an optimist, I wouldn’t be going to Cannes looking to buy quality films and opening more cinemas. That is because I have a great belief in the industry. And people are coming back.“