The UK Film Council has allocated £1.2m of Lottery funding to a new scheme that aims to bring the latest digital cinema equipment to film fans in remote communities in the UK.

The scheme follows UKFC research that found many exhibitors in rural areas are currently using DVD-based equipment, meaning they are unable to screen new films until 12-16 weeks after the film’s cinema release, or until the DVD becomes available. Limited access to high quality equipment also means rural communities are unable to enjoy the same sound and image quality as in urban areas.

The scheme will run in three areas -North Yorkshire, Shropshire and Wiltshire - and will pilot high standard digital projection equipment giving audiences the chance to enjoy a modern digital cinema experience. The equipment will also enable screenings of 3D films and live satellite events such as opera and theatre to be beamed across the UK.

The UKFC is now seeking applications from consortia of rural cinema operators in each region to run the scheme and operate the digital equipment in non-traditional venues such as village halls and arts centres. The local groups can include also film societies, independent cinemas and other arts bodies. The deadline for applications is Monday 10 August.

Pete Buckingham, head of the UKFC’s distribution and exhibition fund, said: “More people in the UK are going to the cinema than ever before, with admissions at a record high and the box office booming. But we know there are rural regions where large numbers of people are unable to enjoy films in a communal environment without travelling long distances to towns or cities.

“This new pilot scheme will bring a top quality cinema experience to the three pilot areas, so that people can enjoy the wide range of films on offer in urban areas, right on their doorstep.”