Watching Film is Good For You – and Your Community!

Watching Films is Good For You — and Your Community!

New research demonstrates the personal and social benefits of having a local cinema or film society in your community.

Regional Screen Scotland and the Social Value Lab have collaborated on a report entitled Your Cinema, Your Community, which examines in detail the views and attitudes of over 3,400 audience members at 12 very different local cinema venues across Scotland, including Scotland’s mobile cinema, the Screen Machine. The outcome is a very big ‘thumb’s up’ for all forms of local screen provision, as vital sources of entertainment and stimulation, social interaction and personal wellbeing, and community cohesion and identity.

A previous report on ‘Film Exhibition in Scotland’, published in June and compiled by Drew Wylie for Creative Scotland, has already estimated that Scotland has 10.8 screens per 100,000 population, well above the UK average, and that the number has been growing in recent years. Despite this, the report also identified large areas of Scotland where there are significant gaps in screen provision.

Now this new research complements the statistics in ‘Film Exhibition in Scotland’ by demonstrating the value that audiences in different communities attach to shared screen experiences. It reveals a strong preference for watching films as part of an audience rather than at home. It highlights the importance that audiences attribute to local cinema as a form of pure entertainment or escapism, but also as a thought-provoking communal experience.
The study indicates that local and independent cinema attracts a loyal and regular following, bringing together people to enjoy a shared cultural experience. It describes the importance that audiences attribute to cinemas in relation to the neighbourhoods, towns and villages in which they live.

The report also provides evidence of the essential role that local film exhibitors play in removing the linked barriers of geographic access and cost to attending cinema and to sustaining this form of cultural participation.

The research points to the influence and impact of local cinema across six areas:

Local Economy

These represent a broad set of outcomes that have traditionally proven difficult to count, evaluate and compare, making this new research a valuable foundation for wider research into the social value, not just of local cinema, but of many other forms of local cultural venues.

The online survey also resulted in many hundreds of personal responses of how people view and value their local cinema, including such comments as:

“It’s a different experience. There is something magical about [our local cinema] that isn’t achieved anywhere else. It is a fantastic asset to a rural community. You catch up with people you haven’t seen for ages and it is brilliant to get new releases so close to home.”

“It is closer to home, it is really comfy, it shows all the latest and best films, it has knowledgeable and passionate staff, and creates a sense of both community and occasion. My family and I love it!”

Also launched is a separate Annual Performance and Impact Report 2015/16 on the Screen Machine, drawing on the survey responses drawn from the mobile cinema’s audiences. In 2015/16 the Screen Machine visited 42 communities, presenting 577 screenings of 47 different films and selling 21,460 tickets, a 3% increase on the previous year.

The full Your Cinema, Your Community report and the Screen Machine report can both be downloaded from
Jonathan Coburn, Director of the Social Value Lab, commented: ‘This is a very significant piece of research indeed; the most comprehensive look yet at the role and contribution of local cinema. The findings show clearly the significance that people attach to their local cinema and, more importantly, the social and cultural value that cinemas create for the communities in which they operate.’

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