On this page we offer a guide to setting up a community cinema. We can carry out some or all of these stages for you. We will work with you to make sure you have a fantastic service to offer local people.

These are the  13  steps to guide you through the process of setting up your community cinema. Don’t be overwhelmed as we can help you every step of the way.

Step 1: Research

The first thing to do is some suitable research. With our community cinemas we always ask the community their thoughts on what their community cinema would look like. What times and on what days would they like to see films shown, the type of films, the age group and other topics relevant to your area. We can do all this for you so you get your cinema off to the best possible start.

Step 2: Create a team

Then you need to get a team together. Include a range of people with different skills, to fulfill the eight main tasks.

  • Legal
  • Technical
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Film Choice
  • Hospitality
  • Set up and pack away
  • Catering

Community Cinemas are volunteer projects. Creating a range of meaningful volunteer opportunities is an important aspect to consider as you prepare your team.

Step 3: Choose the right venue

Finding a suitable venue is important.  Places for example like community centres, hotels and pubs with function rooms make good venues for hosting a cinema evening.

Good practice is to run a test screening with a few local people to get some feedback.

If you get a good response regarding the venue, book your screening dates in with your venue. On average, community cinemas screen films once a month, but it’s up to you how frequently you run your cinema events.

Find out if there are any other community cinemas in nearby towns or villages.

Step 4: Constitution

A constitution is simply the aims and rules that your group will use. It’s a statement of what your group is going to do and how it is going to do it. It is important because:

  • Without a written understanding people can easily find themselves at cross purposes.
  • It will serve as a reference, and help to resolve problems.
  • Outsiders, especially potential funders, will want to see that your group is democratic and accountable. This involves having a clear procedure by which decisions are made.

The sections of a constitution are:

  1. Name
  2. Objects
  3. Administration
  4. Management
  5. Finance
  6. Alteration of rules
  7. Dissolution

Step 5: Finance

Creating a budget is good practice to make sure you know how much cash you’ll need to get started. Set up a simple spreadsheet and complete it as a team.

Start with the main costs, which will include:

  • Venue hire and licensing
  • Film booking and licensing
  • Equipment
  • Catering
  • Marketing

And then enter the ways you might make money, such as:

  • Ticket or membership sales
  • Food and drink sales

Organise a fundraiser or sponsored event to raise money for your start up costs. This would also be a good way to let people in your community know about your cinema.

Once you’re comfortable with your budget, you can start projecting your figures for the future.

Note: If you apply for funding, having budgets to hand will make the application process much easier.

Step 6: The correct equipment

The quality of the equipment you use is central to the experience of watching a film. We have invested in good quality equipment which we supply at affordable prices.

Along with audio-visual equipment, don’t forget to ensure you have everything else you need for your venue, like blackout blinds and enough chairs (and maybe plenty of cushions!).

Step 7: Legal matters

Making sure all the licences you need are in place is very important to make sure you operate legally. They can be quick and simple to arrange. Your cinema will need two main types of license:

  • A licence for your venue, which quite often lasts for a full year and can be organised through your local council.
  • A licence for each film you screen, which you can book through us.

If you plan to sell alcohol as a way to increase your takings, you will need to get a temporary alcohol licence from the local authority.

Step 8: Choosing your film

There are several ways of selecting films to screen. It is a matter for your group to decide on the method you use. However you should ask the people in your community through some form of community research. The films should be booked well in advance to give yourself plenty of time to advertise them.

And of course don’t forget your licence.

Step 9: Marketing

Building awareness and excitement about your new cinema can be really satisfying. There are lots of ways you can market your screenings, many of which are completely free. Start getting the word out using printed material like posters or flyers, use social media or even set up a website.
And of course, one of the best forms of advertising is word of mouth, so ask your friends to tell their friends about your cinema’s launch and upcoming screenings.

Step 10: Technical

The technical aspect of showing a film is possibly the most important as people will always remember the quality of the sound and picture.

We can help with supplying equipment and training. We also lease all the equipment you will need.

Step 11: Hospitality

Hospitality and welcome is critical to running your cinema. We have all been to events or for a meal where people were not as welcoming as they could have been and this has put us off going back. It costs nothing to be friendly and your guests will feel more at home for a smile and a word of welcome.


Step 12: Catering

Depending on the level of catering you are going to offer, this is another important service to your customers. If you’re just starting, keep it simple. Light refreshments and packed products like popcorn, crisps and chocolate would be the best products to sell.

Another idea might be to work in partnership with the local pub or restaurant and offer a meal and a film.

If you have the facilities in the venue then offering food and drink is always helpful.

Step 13: Packing up and Putting away

If you’re hiring a venue like a community centre you will need time to set everything up before the film and then pack away afterwards. A good team is always best as more hands make light work.

Step 14: Screen your first film

The day has arrived!

After a final test of your equipment before the screening, transform your venue into a cinema – draw the blinds, set up your seats and prepare any drinks and snacks. You could also dress your venue to match the theme of your film.

Then all you need to do is get ready to welcome your new audience for a great film experience that will bring your whole community together.


Imagine Projects is experienced in setting up Community Cinemas. Contact us to find out how we can help you set up yours.