Weekend of Film – Watching Film discussion
On Saturday 15 November, as part of our Weekend of Film, we welcomed Andrew Elliot (Penrith Lonsdale Cinema), Jill Jones and Jane Sedgwick (Brampton Film Club) to discuss the world of independent cinema screening, the current film landscape, audience numbers and the future of cinema.
Making money from films is a tricky business, as both Brampton and Penrith know well. As well as charging for individual tickets, Brampton have an annual membership scheme which contributes to overall running costs, free tickets and subsidise trips out. They offer refreshments at screenings like tea and coffee, and ask for voluntary contributions. Andrew was surprised about this – he revealed that people buying food and drink is where cinemas make their money, as most venues only receive 10-20% of ticket sales with rest going to the film production and distribution companies.
We asked Andrew about the change in how films are screened, from projection reels to hard drives and now downloading from the internet. Andrew revealed that he trained as projectionist at the start of his career and actually managed to set a film on fire in his early days! He’s found that sound quality has dramatically improved with the move to digital but admits that he misses the unpredictability of watching a projected film – from the jumps and scratches on the picture to the missing bits where the projectionist hasn’t joined the reels together properly.
We discussed how the digital revolution has impacted on audience numbers and how people watch film. We all agreed that it’s great that viewers can watch incredible work cheaply and conveniently but this was no match for experiencing a film at the cinema. This is especially true at the moment, when film companies are bringing back spectacle to encourage people to part with their cash, through 3D and huge action experiences like the Marvel films and the recent Godzilla re-boot. Jane and Jill emphasised the social benefits of watching films together – sharing the experience, emotions and ups and downs of the production then discussing it afterwards.
Live event cinema seems to be the way forward for independent cinemas, particularly through schemes like the National Theatre Live and the new series of the New York Met Opera. These events are particularly popular at Penrith where audiences have an appetite for cultural experiences that are difficult to access in the North!
Andrew, Jane and Jill all expressed concerns about the future of independent cinema in light of uncertain audience numbers and the expense of screening films. The key message from both organisations was for people to support their local independent and get involved – donate, volunteer, spread the word and sustain your support, not just in times of crisis but as often as you can.