Are there Geographical and Place-Based Distinctions in Film Provision?

Beyond the Multiplex found that there are five types of geographical and place-based distinctions in England’s film provision:

  1. Diverse film cities
  2. Mainstream multiplex cities
  3. Diverse film towns
  4. Mainstream film towns
  5. Limited underserved areas

What are the characteristics of each type?

  • Diverse film cities – These include the urban centres of Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield, where there is a broad ecology of different types of film exhibition, including multiplex, independent and boutique cinemas, festivals, film clubs and a diverse array of year-round programming.
  • Mainstream multiplex cities – Cities such as Liverpool, Hull and Sunderland are dominated by commercial, multiplex and boutique cinemas, usually competing on location and consumer experience rather than the programmes they show. There may be some small-scale specialised programming initiatives, but these are often temporary and supported by volunteers.
  • Diverse film towns – A small number of towns such as Berwick-upon-Tweed, Keswick, Leigh, Stroud and Hebden Bridge. These towns may not have multiplex provision, but they have an independent local film exhibition ecology made of popular film societies and festivals, often based around a single-screen or mixed artform venue.
  • Mainstream film towns – Towns such as Barrow-in-Furness, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Doncaster, Warrington, Swindon and Bournemouth all have multiplex cinema provision from the main national chains, but there is limited opportunity for audiences to see anything outside of this.
  • Limited underserved areas – The most underserved areas in the regions are those that only have irregular film exhibition, such as film clubs in community venues.

What is the impact of each type of geography of provision for film audiences?

The availability of variety in film programming for audiences is limited to those that live in the diverse film cities. Therefore, there is a narrower breath of film audience experiences in the mainstream film cities and towns. Film audiences in diverse film towns have the opportunity to see a variety of films but they are often time-limited to when a festival or film club is scheduled. 

How do people develop their film viewing in each of these types?

In the cities and towns with a greater availability of different types of film, there is more opportunity to engage with a diverse film culture and this can shape people’s personal film journeys. However, in all areas people still have the opportunity to engage with all types of film at home, on television and online.

What is the relative importance of venues, film clubs and home screens for the ways in which audiences develop?

The availability of different ways to watch films locally has different meanings to different people. Some place emphasis on film watching as a venue-specific audience, both for the experience of the big screen and sometimes the shared experience of watching collectively. For others, film watching is primarily an activity associated with the home, and here digital and group audiences form, but occasional trips to the cinema with friends or family might also be part of their audience experiences.

What is the impact of each type for people developing their interest in film and in joining audiences?

There is greater opportunity for people to watch a variety of different types of films in the diverse film cities and towns. This shapes the types of audiences that form, as well as people’s personal film journeys.