The UK Film Council's new Capital and Access Fund for cinemas will give Lottery Funding of $1m (£500,000) to independent cinemas to update buildings and facilities and better serve impaired audiences.

The fund will assist cinemas with essential capitol projects including expansions or improvements such as access for disabled cinema-goers.

Funcing applications are now open (through Nov 30) for cinemas in a circuit of fewer than nine cinemas. The Capital and Access Fund will cover up to 50% of each project, with maximum awards of $101,269 (£50,000).

The Capital and Access Fund replaces the previous Small Capital Fund and Cinema Access Programme.

'We hope this funding will help small, local cinemas to remain at the heart of their communities offering all audiences access to fresh and exciting films in a comfortable environment,' said Pete Buckingham, head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council. 'Facilities for cinema-goers with hearing and sight impairments have improved over recent years but are still too patchy, that's why we are hoping to fund a number of cinemas to improve their access.'

This new fund was originally announced in May 2007.