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BFI Supports Free Screenings To Grow UK Cinema Audiences

The BFI today announces £2.7m of National Lottery good cause funding to bring new audiences to UK cinemas with free screenings. The funding is awarded to entertainment specialists elevenfiftyfive, who will deliver a consumer-facing pilot campaign with UK cinemas, to break down primary barriers to cinema-going, focusing on cost and accessibility. elevenfiftyfive is actively in development with the project and consulting with industry.

Following an open call to the Open Cinema Fund, which was announced as part of the BFI’s 10-year strategy Screen Culture 2033, elevenfiftyfive has been selected to create an ambitious new campaign. They will seek to engage those who currently have low engagement with cinema, and work to retain them and build new audiences. To maximise the impact of National Lottery funding, elevenfiftyfive is also working to secure a range of partnerships, including sponsors, to further the reach of the three-year campaign, which seeks to build momentum with a regular national moment.

Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences at the BFI, said: “A new approach for our funding, we believe Open Cinemas offers an exciting opportunity to bring the industry together and create a regular national moment that drives new audiences to cinemas. As the exhibition sector continues to face new challenges, we are adapting our support to best meet the industry’s needs and deliver positive public impact. Independent UK and international film enriches people’s lives and cinemas provide vital cultural spaces for their local communities. In partnering with elevenfiftyfive we hope to not only boost cinema attendance, but also build new UK audiences in the long term; encouraging them to watch films they otherwise wouldn’t think of or wouldn’t get the opportunity to.”

David Kapurco-founder of elevenfiftyfive, said: “Sometimes we all need a break from the day to day and cinema can offer just that. This project is like no other before it and our approach is to create a national conversation around the escapism of cinema at scale, while also creating a regular, accessible opportunity to experience it. We will support and sustain the work of the industry by focusing on those who are currently not engaging or feeling like the cinema is a place for them. We can’t wait to reveal what we’ve been working on.”

The campaign will offer regular free screening on the big screen, of films that meet set criteria, which includes offering accessible screenings. Participating venues will also need to meet accessibility requirements. The funding will address key objectives of the BFI’s National Lottery Strategy, providing audiences across the UK a broader range of screen culture in cinemas, with a focus on tackling social and economic barriers.

The fund is part of a £27.6m National Lottery allocation that the BFI has made for supporting audiences over the three years of the BFI National Lottery Funding Plan 2023-2026. Other programmes include continuing the BFI Film Audience Network and the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund.

The BFI National Lottery Funding Strategy aims to build a diverse and accessible screen culture that benefits all of society and contributes to a prosperous UK economy. At its heart are three core principles: equity, diversity and inclusion, so everyone can develop a meaningful relationship with screen culture, regardless of their background or circumstances; UK-wide, so that everyone across the four nations of the UK should be able to experience and create the widest range of moving image storytelling; and environmental sustainability, from reducing the BFI’s own carbon emissions to supporting wider industry efforts to get to net zero and address biodiversity loss.