Facing financial crisis after months of closure and uncertainty an emergency grant from the British Film Institute has ‘really lifted our spirits as an organisation, says Elspeth McBain, Chief Executive of Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts 

The award of £5000 is part of the BFI’s allocation of £1.45m emergency funding to independent exhibitors across the UK through the COVID-19 Resilience Fund managed by BFI Film Audience Network, a unique collaboration of eight Film Hubs, that targeted the fund to help small and medium sized organisations. 

We are so thankful that the British Film Institute has supported Lighthouse through the BFI Film Audience Network Covid-19 Resilience Fund,” says Elspeth. This emergency funding to independent film exhibitors across the UK will enable us to re-engage with our audience when we get back to opening our wonderful cinema.  

“Since our closure in March Lighthouse has lost all its income so this support has not only given us some much needed cash, but it has really lifted our spirits as an organisation. We are proud to be connected to the UK independent cinema sector that provides such a unique offer to our communities.” 

The BFI FAN COVID-19 Resilience Fund is made up of £1.3m National Lottery funding, plus a £150,000 contribution from the Mayor of London’s Culture at Risk Business Support Fund. 

Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences, BFI, adds: “Redirecting National Lottery and Mayor of London funding to make emergency grants to our independent exhibitors has proved to be a lifeline, enabling our fantastic venues, cinemas and festivals across the UK to remain in business in the immediate term.  

“However, it is clear that these vital and unique organisations, which are crucial to the rich cultural fabric of their local communities, are still in crisis. When allowed to reopen, safely implementing social distancing guidance will not only be logistically impossible for some, but many are also unlikely to cover their costs when operating at reduced capacity. Losing these exhibitors would be a huge cultural loss for UK audiences, so I am pleased FAN has been able to help them keep the lights on while we all face the oncoming challenges.” 

A survey by the Independent Cinema Office – Reopening Cinemas the Independent Way – to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the independent exhibition industry found only 59% of respondents considered they could reopen with social measures in place, with 63% stating they could survive for only three months. Almost half of the 59% believe they will be unable to open until September at the earliest. 

The UK Cinema Association and the Film Distributors’ Association have been developing guidance to support cinemas reopen. In the first instance it is likely only multiplexes and larger chains and will be able to open once Government guidance allows, with smaller independent venues hoping to follow later in the year. 

Published 18 June 2020