More Than 200 Pandemic-Hit English Indie Cinemas to Receive $22 Million Lifeline

The Prince Charles Cinema in central London
Prince Charles Cinema

The Prince Charles Cinema in central London

The U.K.'s groundbreaking emergency film and TV insurance fund is also being extended into Spring 2021.

More than 200 independent cinemas across England are set to receive grant awards totaling £16 million ($21.6 million) to help see them through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The grants — ranging from £7,000 ($9,500) to £564,000 ($763,000) and spanning sites of all sizes the length and breadth of the country — will come as a major relief to a beleaguered exhibition industry, with most cinemas now closed once again after authorities placed much of England under the strictest tier of pandemic restrictions as it grapples with a deadly second spike in infections.

The funds, allocated by the British Film Institute on behalf of the government, came from the $2 billion Culture Recovery Fund rescue package for the U.K.'s arts sector, which was announced in July.

Eligible cinemas were able to apply for safety grants, to help venues meet the immediate costs of implementing COVID-secure measures to protect staff and audiences, and larger business sustainability grants to help stabilize sites financially. Theaters will be able to apply for a further £14 million ($19 million) in grants from a second round of the Culture Recovery Fund in the new year.

"Across the country, local independent cinemas are hubs and lifelines for communities and often the only form of culture and entertainment," said BFI chief executive Ben Roberts. "From educational programs and workshops for young people, to screenings for the elderly and audiences with specialized needs, these cinemas play such an important role in people’s lives. The Culture Recovery Fund will mean that many of these cinemas survive the current crisis, and go on to play a vital role in the recovery of local economies and communities, bringing people together to offer joy, solace and the magic of the big screen."

Among the major names to offer their support was Michael Caine, who starred in the biggest film to launch during the pandemic, Tenet.

"The moving image has the power to change the way we think. The power to inspire; to delight; and to move. It happens to me all the time," said the iconic British actor. "Film is one of the most powerful and accessible art forms on earth — and for so many a local cinema is a place we know, love and have grown up with. A cinema is very often a vital part of any community and we need to support them in order to keep the art of film and the sense of community alive. Let’s go to the pictures!”

In another major piece of news for the U.K. cinema industry, the Film and TV Restart Scheme, the government's £500 million ($676 million) insurance fund, is being extended. The program, which since opening for applications in October has already helped assure almost 100 productions that they are financially covered should future losses be incurred due to the pandemic, has now pushed its deadline to April 2021, hopefully giving more projects the security to start shooting in the spring.

The initiative is also being expanded to include cast and crew members over the age of 70. The changes will enable productions to to receive compensation for COVID-related delays affecting up to two cast or crew members over 70 years old.