Things to think about when starting a film society

So you want to start a film society?

People want to start film societies for all sorts of reasons. Here are a few:

  • They would like to see films that aren’t screened at their local cinema (eg foreign language films and older films in all languages)
  • They love films, but getting to a cinema involves a long drive there and back.
  • They believe it would be a good way to raise funds for a special purpose.
  • They like to watch films, but they don’t like the prices charged by the commercial cinemas.

Whatever your reason, here are some things to think about before you go any further.

The really good stuff about film societies

  • You can screen films when and just about anywhere you choose.
  • Your film society involves members of your local community who all share an interest in film. It’s a great way to meet people and form friendships.
  • In isolated areas a film society brings people together and helps build the community, in the same way that the old Saturday night dances did in years gone by.
  • Film societies generally provide a more complete appreciation of ‘the cinematic experience’ than commercial cinemas. At a society screening you know everyone, from the person on the door to the projectionist to the people sitting next to you. You are part of an audience who all share your passion for film, so your response to the film is relaxed, and your enjoyment of the experience is enhanced. Compare this with an impersonal cinema where you might be one of six people in the audience, all separated by acres of space and feeling self-conscious about laughing when everyone else is silent.

The hard work of running a film society

  • Governance – everything has to be above board. This means having an organisation with objectives and rules.
  • Safety – personal safety (especially accident and fire prevention) is the highest priority.
  • Personal comfort – looking after your members – parking, audience seating and facilities, catering
  • Communication – keeping your members informed about your activities and screening program
  • Costs – the main expenses are equipment (projection and sound systems), venue hire, screening rights (much more on this later), insurance and catering.
  • The work load – jobs to be done – programming and booking films, maintaining membership records, secretarial and treasurer functions, newsletter, website, technical (setting up, projecting films; maintaining equipment), catering.
  • Complicated rules and regulations – copyright law, distributors, screening rights.

If you’ve read this far and are still interested, you need to know about:

Screening rights


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