British Film Institute Sets Out $39 Million Recovery Package for Independent Cinemas

Photographed by Charlie Gray
BFI chief executive Ben Roberts

The financial lifeline for indie exhibitors hit by the coronavirus pandemic is part of the U.K. government's $2 billion arts and culture recovery fund.

The British Film Institute has unveiled details of a £30 million ($39 million) recovery fund for struggling independent cinemas across England, many of which have remained closed since March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The fund — which will administered by the BFI as part of the British government's $2 billion support package for arts and culture — is open to all building-based venues that have a year-round program, with applications open Aug. 10-Oct. 30. 

Venues can apply to two support packages. From a pot of £3 million ($3.9 million), up to £10,000 ($13,000) per cinema is available to help put in place necessary measures to ensure the safety of their workforce and public. From a pot of £27 million ($35 million), up to £200,000 ($260,000) per cinema is available to help them operate viably under the restricted conditions imposed by the pandemic. The fund is only open to venues in England, however, with those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland coming under devolved government administrations.

While cinemas in the U.K. have been allowed to reopen for several weeks, many have remained shut due to the increased costs, capacity restrictions and limited availability of new film releases. Those who have opened have struggled to get people through their doors, with many complaining that they have been burning through remaining cash reserves. Of the 775 cinemas in the U.K., 55 percent are independent venues. 

“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," said BFI CEO Ben Roberts. "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 U.K."