The idea for a local community cinema was formed in Summer 2015 when Ronnie Williams and Eugene Gardner went to Evington village hall to hear how they operated a cinema. In the months that followed other similar community cinemas were visited and opinions solicited. An online survey to assess local interest was created and that showed overwhelming support.
The first film (Joy) was screened on 28th May 2016 as a free event and part of the first Rusthall Arts Festival and 80 people crammed into the hall to enjoy that. We started showing films every 4 weeks and in September 2016 moved to a three weekly schedule. A year later we moved to a fortnightly programme and have remained at that frequency ever since.
We screen 26 to 30 feature length films a year. Choice of films is by suggestions from anyone who lives or works in Rusthall or surrounding areas. Annual members form a self appointed selection panel to wittle a long list down for all to vote on the following few months' shows.
We are a non-profit making charity run entirely by volunteers. We try to make cinema accessible to those who would otherwise find it hard to get to the commercial cinemas - whether due to age, infirmity, or financial constraints. To this end we offer free transport to those unable to reach us under their own steam and charge only what is necessary to cover our costs. An induction loop helps those with hearing difficulties.
Before each feature film we show a short (perhaps 10 - 20 minute) film selected by our videographer or perhaps a presentation or other entertainment related to the main film's theme. Our short films are often subtitled foreign made, documentaries, locally produced or relevant, or independent arthouse. They are designed to be something unusual and interesting. We encourage local musicians and filmmakers to contribute and always have a space for local charities to promote themselves.
After each show we host a discussion group along the lines of a book club where anyone who wants to stay can critique the film and benefit from others' experiences hearing sometimes obscure aspects of the film brought to light. Our post-film discussion group is an excellent way to get to know neighbours while learning about otherwise missed aspects of the films.
The biggest misconception we come across is that we offer the same as a commercial cinema, and having already seen a film is a good reason not to see it again. In fact ours is a different concept from commercial cinemas and film societies. Films are chosen by popular suggestion and vote, are preceded by an interesting related entertainment, and followed by a fascinating discussion for those who want to stay. Here you are likely to talk with your neighbour. Being a volunteer run charity our prices are silly small, our bar is always open, and we are a very friendly and accepting bunch. Having already seen the main film will stand you in good stead in the discussion group and enable you to get the most out of the preceding short entertainment.
We cater for hot and cold drinks and snacks and have a licensed bar. Where possible we dress the hall to give an immersive experience and encourage audiences to come attired in keeping with the theme of the evening. We are always looking for volunteer helpers - there is no commitment beyond the next show.
Anyone can watch our films, there is no membership, residence or other barrier. Seats are not reserved in advance and are available on a first come first served basis (so arriving soon after 7pm will give the widest choice of seating). We ask £5 on the door or nothing at all if you pay an annual subscription of just £40. Limited off-road car parking is available.
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CFA membership: 16-176
BFI ID: BFINC005133