The British Film Institute (BFI) has released guidelines for the £30m Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England, designed to support independent cinemas experiencing challenges due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The fund, which will be open from Monday 10 August until Friday 30 October, will be administered by the BFI as part of the Government’s unprecedented £1.57bn support package to help Britain’s culture, arts and heritage organisations hit hard by the pandemic which has included the closure of all cinemas across the UK.

Open to award both non-profit and independent commercial cinemas, including mixed artform venues, funding will be directed at building-based venues which 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, helping many independent cinemas which are working towards a scheduled September re-opening.

The fund offers support via two strands addressing the high upfront health and safety costs facing venues and the challenges of financial viability in the early months of reopening as social distancing limits the number of cinema seats that can be sold at each performance. Cinemas are able to apply for grants from both strands which will be structured as follows:

  • £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; and/or
  • £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 seek to sustain viable and important Culture institutions in the most cost- effective way possible whilst also serving as a catalyst for change. Cinemas applying to the fund 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 cultural venues as community spaces. They will also be expected to demonstrate commitments to reducing negative impacts on the environment and increasing educational outreach.

Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive, 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.”

The guidelines and details for cinemas looking to apply are published at www.bfi.org.uk.

Cinemas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland come under the devolved Government administrations.

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