Case Study: FACT’s Cinema in the CityShowcasing the best independent films in extraordinary places across the Liverpool City Region
Cinema in the City extends FACT’s world-leading digital art and film programme beyond their doors, bringing the best in new and independent film to extraordinary places across the Liverpool City Region.
Happening over six weekends between November 2021 - July 2022, Cinema in the City presents an evolving and enhanced offer of films, food, locations and more, allowing them to excite and inspire audiences whilst responding to their needs.
It first launched in August 2021 on the rooftop of the city’s historic Cotton Exchange shortly after FACT reopened its doors to their audiences, with support from National Lottery funding through Film Hub North’s Film Exhibition Fund. And to support FACT in achieving their long-term film audience development plans and expansion of Cinema in the City, the current season of this project is supported by Film Hub North’s Strategic Fund.
Project Aims & Objectives
Through Cinema in the City, FACT aims to attract and cultivate an independent film audience in Liverpool; show independent films not being shown in the city or that are particularly relevant to local audiences; and celebrate Liverpool’s architectural and cinematic heritage by bringing cultural events to unusual locations.
The programme consists of three feature films being screened each weekend with each one paired with a short film from local or emerging filmmakers. Some examples of chosen films from January 2022 weekend: Ultraviolence, Hey Jo (Short film), Almost Liverpool 8, Same BUT Different (short film), GAGARINE and Black Boys Can Swim (short film).
Target admissions: 1,260 (70% capacity of 1,800 tickets available)
They partner with venues as well as food providers. Current partners include Lewis’s, LUSH, Fabric District Festival and Future Yard CIC. They have also worked with food partners to expand the offer including Squash Nutrition and VietNom. They also promote the programme through their peer network of cultural organisations in the city, including other arts organisations, restaurants and cultural guides.
Project Budget Overview
- Cash Income: £32,409 (FHN: £20,943 / ticket sales: £11,466)
- In-kind Income: 18,000 (Venue fees)
- Total Income: £50,409
- Equipment: £25,698
- Licensing £7,031
- Advertising: £3,000
- Staffing & Overheads: £13,640
- Overarching Programme Costs: £1,100
Cinema in the City is the first film programme run by FACT and the first step in their ambition to take over the cinema operation in their building in 2028. Its success with audiences and subsequent growth has been encouraging.
In terms of what is going well, FACT said that they are developing an audience which is loyal and enjoying the programme; partners are really keen to work with them, especially as they look to extend the programme’s footprint outside of Liverpool City Centre. They have also seen social media to be their greatest marketing tool for raising awareness and selling tickets for the event. Some survey results illustrating Cinema in the City’s audiences are:
- 78% net promoter score of the event with 86% wanting to return to the programme
- 86% of audiences attended to ‘support independent, local film’
- 53% of people want to see more foreign film
- 48% of audiences were under 29 (beating their 30% target for attracting audiences under 30 to the programme)
- 80% of audiences had engaged with FACT before showing a strong crossover with our visual arts audience
- Actual Admissions: 1,166 admissions so far across 18 screenings.
As for the challenges they’ve faced and opportunities to grow, with this being their first full scale cinema programme FACT has run, there have been learnings around understanding how to best staff the programme. They have supported their Events and Film Officer in his film programming by creating a Cinema Working Group - containing team members from Operations, Marketing and Front of House. This has enabled them to better understand the programme from a cross-organisational perspective and improve the quality of their offer moving forward. They are still honing their best approach to access across all of their screenings and hope to improve their offer to those with additional needs by the end of the project.
When thinking about how Cinema in the City positively impacts individuals and their communities in the areas, FACT have said this…
There is a real enthusiasm for the programme as it is offering a cinematic experience in a different way. As we are seeing across the sector, there is a want to do things, experience something different and be with people at the moment and we feel Cinema in the City responds well to that.
The programme also spotlights short films by local and emerging filmmakers which explore similar themes to the selected feature films; it acts as a vehicle to facilitate representation and community on screen which not only broadens our audiences’ awareness of the talent in their areas but also the topics being explored in films about where they live.
By taking this film programme out to partner venues and organisations across the region, we are able to disperse the economic impact of Cinema in the City beyond the city centre. It is also an invaluable way for FACT to better understand places that may not be best served by the arts & culture sector currently and form lasting unique partnerships with communities and organisations to remedy that.
On Social Cohesion
Cinema in the City allows us to have a greater understanding of the city through the lens of popping up in different places, understanding how the urban fabric of the city has changed, and the city region from different places. And seeing that directly. By having the chance to see films from local filmmakers, you tap into themes you might not be aware of, or that you would like to explore further or that spark conversations between different groups in the city.
On Knowledge & Experience
Through Cinema in the City we are able to create more short film screening opportunities for our local filmmaking community, especially those who may not have had the experience to share their work in this way yet. And this is really important to us at FACT. As we do have such a younger audience base, part of our responsibility is serving and supporting young and / or emerging talent as part of this programme.
We are also able to enrich our audiences’ experience and knowledge of the films through introductions, Q&As and conversations allowing for new communities to be created within these spaces across the region for people to talk about film. And hopefully, we will find avenues to expand upon that more formally, in the future.
On Awareness / Attitudes
Artistic programmes that engage with a country’s cultural experience is a moment for exploration and critique. And through the very kind of distinct programmatic choices we are making as we focus on screening independent films, we are able to create those moments with our community. As we build more partnerships and really understand what our film network is in the city, we will be able to really see what challenges different communities are facing in regards to film and how they would like to address that through film. And from them, we can use that kind of network as a joint platform to lobby for change.
On Diversity, Access & inclusion
As per BFI diversity standard, over 90% of films shown achieve On-Screen Diversity standards. We have seen: a high number of women attending film screenings (81% female); 48% of our audiences were under 29 - which beat our 30% target for attracting audiences under 30 to the programme. When it comes to access & disability, this is a priority for us that we have not yet met. And in terms of socio-economic stats, see pictures below:
On Young People
Young people make up almost half of our audiences for Cinema in the City (48% of attendees were under 29) and it has been great to see their appetite for independent cinema. As mentioned earlier, our initial target for attracting audiences under 30 to the programme was 30% which we have now surpassed and only hope to build upon.
Here are some of the things their audiences have said…
- Deep conversation starter
- Fun, different, cultural
- Yummy spring rolls
- Enjoyable, expensive, fragrant
- Engaging. Cool. Quirky.
- Unique, Emotional, Uncomfortable
- Quirky, funny and empowering
- hard to see
- Interesting, informative, provoking
- Fun, reminiscent, welcoming
- Enjoyable, uncomfortable seats
- Relatable, moving, funny
- Comfy, emotional, community
- Different new experience cool
And here are some things FACT's peers and partners have said…
“Really loved the venue. It did feel special being in that space after the Biennial show. Very central location, wonderfully welcoming (LUSH?) staff on the ground & 3rd floor. Yes,yes,yes to the listings-current & upcoming. Loved watching the short film at the start too. Can't wait to see the next venues...Victoria Gallery & Museum (The Leggate theatre) would be nice or something even more unexpected.”
“The choice of film worked well with the venue, the wider programme is varied and includes films which are not available to watch locally in traditional cinema spaces. The team are welcoming and friendly and pay attention to the needs of the audience, particularly in unfamiliar spaces.”
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This interview was conducted in April 2022. Cinema in the City is supported by National Lottery funding through Film Hub North’s Film Exhibition Fund and Strategic Fund. For more information on how we can help your next project, contact our team or visit our Exhibition Funding landing page.
Image credit: Julian Gill.