The idea for a local community cinema was formed in Summer 2015 when Ronnie Williams and Eugene Gardner went to Evington village hall to see 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. All equipment was borrowed or hired and the projector was on top of two tables in the middle of the hall. We initially showed films every four weeks and in September 2016 moved to a three weekly schedule. A year later we moved to a fortnightly programme and remained at that frequency until August 2019 when the Film Society was formed to show Sunday matinée films once a month.
We screen about 40 feature length films throughout the year. Choice of films is by suggestion from anyone who lives or works in Rusthall or surrounding areas. Annual subscription holders form a self appointed selection panel to whittle the long list of suggestions down to a couple of dozen before the whole community are invited to select the season's shows by public ballot.
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 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: the audience selects films, which 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.
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 doors open time will give the widest choice of seating). We ask a small sum on the door or nothing at all if you pay an annual subscription.
You can download our Constitution by clicking here.
CFA membership: 16-176
BFI ID: BFINC005133