Tony Earnshaw: In celebration of the long-awaited return of community cinema

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Everything goes in circles. When it comes to cinema it appears that the prevailing attitude is to hark back to the days when every town had its own bijou picture palace. That was before the multiplex invasion.

Cinemagoing has taken a circuitous route but it appears that community cinema is making a comeback in a real and significant way. It began as a reaction to the sterile warehouse experience of the multiplex as film fans yearned to see unusual films in unusual locations. Thus movies were screened in cemeteries and abandoned churches, mills, on giant outdoor screens in the grounds of stately homes, in tunnels and on mountains. Hey, why not?

But for those hard-to-reach audiences in the sticks it was not so much a matter of presenting unusual programming in funky locations, more a case of providing a genuine service.

Cine North (formerly Cine Yorkshire) filled that gap. First it created a network of venues for far-flung audiences. Then it delivered quality movies. To do it meant juggling a complex partnership of supporters and funders. But it was worth it to those starved of a real cinema experience.

Now the rollout has been expanded to 40 venues and 130 screenings. The screening locations include pubs, village halls and cathedrals. The films cover all genres from An American Werewolf in London, The Lego Movie and Educating Rita. The Broad Acres can boast events in Howsham Mill in North Yorkshire, Victoria Hall in Saltaire, The Gamekeeper’s Inn in Long Ashes Park and Carleton Village Hall. What’s more the spread of venues means Cumbria has been welcomed into the fold. Florence Mine in Egremont is lined up for film shows. Hence the change of name from Cine Yorkshire to Cine North. An empire is building…

The team behind the project is naturally incredibly excited. There has been much hard graft involved in drawing together the strengths of various partners such as the British Film Institute, Film Hub North and Bradford’s National Media Museum.

What began as a three-year pilot has morphed into something bigger, more expansive and if not exactly nationwide then certainly northern with a capital ‘N’. Isolated rural areas are no longer so. Hard to reach 
urban centres can lay claim to their own programmes. Forty years ago cinemas were being demolished. Now they’re coming back in a different guise. People are hungry for film.

The appetite is there to be sated. It’s never been easier to run a cinema programme. And if you’ve never done it, then Cine North offers equipment and promotional support, too. So if you have a nostalgic craving to restore film to your town or village, then all you may need is a barn. Although a cathedral might be better…