Community cinema brings the movies home

This Is Wiltshire: A scene from the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel A scene from the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

AS film fans celebrate the news that Swindon is to get another multiplex cinema, bringing movies back to the town centre, there has been a growing movement in outlying towns and villages to take a wide variety of films to the sticks.

Highworth, Wroughton, Wootton Bassett, Cricklade, Broad Hinton and Ashton Keynes all show movies regularly in village halls and community centres, often packing them out.

With help, advice and sometimes equipment from Swindon Film Society, they are bringing a touch of movie magic to locations that don’t have easy access to cinemas.

Barbara Hofbauer, of the film society, said: “Community cinema is booming. It seems to have moved on in leaps and bounds since SFS very tentatively started its first programme in Highworth six years ago. We are getting good turnouts to most screenings – they are proving to be very popular.”

Highworth’s new season got under way earlier this month with a screening of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and has a further six movies to show until March, including Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and War Horse, and those three films make up the Broad Hinton Village Hall Film Nights this autumn.

Royal Wootton Bassett Community Cinema now has a monthly screening.

And after dipping its toe in the water with a few screenings over the last couple of years, Cricklade has now organised its own community cinema, with a short season starting with Oscar favourite The Artist on October 16.

Debbie Butland is heavily involved with Highworth Community Cinema and said that this year they have started operating independently from SFS.

“The positive thing about community cinema is we show films you will not normally see at the mainstream cinemas,” she said. “We get good audiences, I’d say about 70 a month. And they are quite mixed, and different ages, depening on the film.”

Public demand has helped get community cinema going in Cricklade. Good attendances for films such as The King’s Speech and Midnight In Paris has meant a committee has been formed and the town hall booked.

“Cricklade Cinema has recently been formed by a group of movie buffs after testing the water with a couple of popular films,” said town clerk Shelley Parker. “Cricklade is renowned for its community spirit and is somewhere that Swindon Film Society had identified as providing a willing audience for a variety of film genres. Key to all of this is that a night out in the town doesn’t involve a car – residents can walk to a number of venues so the chance for a night out at the movies and so close to home is attractive.

“We are looking at opportunities to show more niche films in the future, how to please Cricklade’s older and younger filmgoers and ice cream may even be on offer if things go according to plan. It’s a not for profit venture so these volunteers are giving their time for something people are clearly enthusiastic about.”

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