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Cinegi Arts&Film – the library as a cinema?

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Culture icon[Editor’s note: Guest post written by Mandy Berry, CEO of Cinegi Arts&Film. We heard about this project during a recent Taskforce meeting]

There are a growing number of community cinemas across the UK, and many more public spaces – venues that might not ordinarily screen films or cultural content – like libraries, museums, galleries, arts and community centres, which can easily transform into a pop-up cinema for special events or regular screenings. And what better venue for screening filmed performance – theatre, opera, music and ballet or local archive – than a library, the place where we explore our culture and discover more about who we are and where we live.

How does that work?

Cinegi Arts&Film is a new digital distribution service that makes it easy to do public screenings in all kinds of venues across the UK. Not everyone has access to a local cinema or theatre - Cinegi Arts&Film changes this, making high definition titles from major arts organisations easily and affordably available.

It works as a secure digital download and plays out in full HD – no DVDs needed – just a Windows 10 laptop, projector, sound system and screen. The library chooses and books a programme online, downloads it over standard broadband into the free Cinegi player app and it's ready to play.

What content is available?

The catalogue includes titles from major arts organisations like the Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company, NT live, Shakespeare’s Globe, the London Symphony Orchestra, and also smaller companies like Miracle Theatre from Cornwall, York Theatre Royal, Random Acts shorts and the British Council Shakespeare Live Short Film Collection, alongside content from Britain on Film and archive arts and documentary titles from the BFI. Altogether over 300 individual titles, long and short form.

A selection of films from Cinegi’s catalogue
A selection of films from Cinegi’s catalogue

Make the screening an event

There are many innovative and interesting ways in which people are using Cinegi Arts&Film to programme screenings that resonate with local or group’s interests, exhibitions and festivals. Helston Museum screened 1934 archive film of the town’s famous Furry Dance from the BFI’s Britain on Film collection alongside York Theatre Royal’s Olivier award-winning production of 'The Railway Children', with the screening set up in the midst of industrial heritage exhibits. A community centre in East Durham held a Vintage Tea Party and screened local archive from Britain on Film.

Vintage evening. Photo credit: Cinegi Arts&Film
Vintage evening. Photo credit: Stephen Noble – A Different Ilk

You can build your own programme with, for instance: shorts from Random Acts followed by No Man’s Land from the National Theatre; the Miners Hymns with Tin from Miracle Theatre; a British Council Shakespeare short and Love’s Labour’s Lost from the Royal Shakespeare Company; or a collection of BFI archive titles on the theme of poetry.

Some areas are thinking of doing simultaneous screenings of a particular title across a network of libraries, which offers a sense of occasion and extends the shared experience.

Audience comments

Friendly community venues such as libraries provide a perfect environment in which to encounter the intimacy of filmed performance, where audiences can become truly “immersed in the experience” as expressed by this audience member after a screening of Giselle from the Royal Opera House: "Wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy the ballet, but in this format found it spectacular and amazing; you get a real sense of their athleticism; you move with them in a way you could not in the theatre."

An elderly audience member explained after a screening of Macbeth from Shakespeare’s Globe: “As you can see, I can't get to London and go to the Globe Theatre – you have brought the Globe to me in my village – thank you, thank you so much.”

What does it cost?

The standard minimum price for a screening is £99 including VAT. We ask venues to charge a minimum ticket price of £4 and £2 concessions but they are free to charge more if they wish and, of course, cinemas charge higher ticket prices for alternative content. Screenings using Cinegi Arts&Film are potentially another way for venues to earn income and contribute to their sustainability.

Who is supporting this initiative?

Cinegi Arts&Film is an action research project supported by Arts Council England in partnership with the BFI, testing how a digital service can engage new audiences for cultural content. The research partners are The Audience Agency and NESTA. Findings will be made publically available on completion of this research phase.

You can browse the Cinegi Arts&Film catalogue and find out more at


Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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  1. Comment by Adam Adshead posted on

    Great article - but don't forget there are also some great Community Cinemas already in existence in places as far apart as Billericay and Writtle in Essex and Glasgow. Our Billericay Community Cinema has been operating out of our local Library since late 2015 - and in 2016 we were awarded the national title of Best New Film Society 2016 at the Cinema For All Awards