3:25am – China-Australia Documentaries – Community Cinemas For The Regions

Oscar Scherl

Two special film/TV projects for the Southern Highlands from an experienced producer with a long history of successful projects who has always returned his investor’s money.

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Bringing People Together, Community Cinemas in Australia.

The first question has to be what exactly are community cinemas? A community cinema is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers that shows films to its community. This includes local film festivals, film societies and any group meeting up to view films selected by the audience; any profits generated go back to the cinema to sponsor future screenings or equipment purchases. There are often screenings where the profits go to charities or specific local causes or people, this not only benefits good causes financially but also raises awareness and discussion surrounding these causes and those involved. There are no commercial influences in the choices of films shown, they are simply selected by the intended audience and are never shown for promotional reasons. All services and facilities provided are also not run for profit, merely to enhance the enjoyment of those attending the events, any profits go back to either fund the cinema itself or local charities.

The advantages of Community Cinemas are many. The lack of commercial influence means that a wide range of films both popular and obscure can be shown opening up a broad cultural spectrum of interests and tastes. With commercial cinemas pressurised to make a profit they do not have the opportunity to take risks about their schedules, community cinemas do not have these worries. They are often informal and warm atmospheres where a community can come together and socialise. Communal cinemas can operate anywhere which means that they cover big cities and small villages. In remote and rural areas where there is a lack of commercial facilities they offer a chance for local people to experience a cultural opportunity they may not have access to otherwise. This is especially relevant when you have a disability that prevents you from visiting commercial city establishments, the community cinema can be accessed by everyone whatever their circumstances.

Examples of established community cinemas in Australia include:

Burswood Community Cinema | Perth WA – Outdoor cinema run in the summertime that donates all ticket takings to children’s charities.

Murdoch Community Cinema  | Perth WA – Outdoor summer venue showing a wide range of movies and serving food.

Bassendean Community Cinema  | Perth WA – One more summer venue serving food and bean bags to hire.

Euroa Community Cinema  | Strathbogie VIC – Opened in November 2003, showing a wide range of films Friday – Sunday.

Running a community cinema from a legal standpoint is not much different than a regular commercial business. Health and safety standards need to be met as well as the correct licenses sought for screening movies and documentaries. A membership system can be used to not only secure finances at the start of each year but will also tend to lead to higher turn outs when fees are already charged. This promotes involvement from the members who have already invested both time and money. It is also recommended that a committee be formed to make decisions on the running of the cinema, roles should be given out as would a traditional business with Chairman, Secretaries and Treasurers etc. Having a solid organisational structure increases the chance of longevity and success of the organisation, and promotes a healthy democratic management.