New research shows local cinemas get vote of confidence

Going to the cinema remains a highly popular leisure activity in Scotland despite the competition from downloads. New research – the first of its kind in over a decade – highlights the value of local cinemas for the communities that they serve. Initial findings show:

  • 83% of respondents said that they preferred watching films as part of an audience rather than at home.
  • 97% were satisfied with the quality of experience at their local cinema
  • 72% described their local cinema as ‘extremely important’ for the local area (and a further 24% thought it was ‘important’).

This research has been commissioned by Regional Screen Scotland (RSS), the agency which operates the Screen Machine mobile cinema. RSS teamed up with Glasgow-based Social Value Lab to undertake a major piece of research that will chart how audiences value the experience of local cinema-going, whether that’s when the Screen Machine visits, or through any of a wide range of more ‘static’ venues, ranging from Dumfries & Galloway to Stornoway.

The Hippodrome, Bo'ness Picture by Alex Hewitt

In addition to the many city-based multiplexes, Scotland is fortunate in having a rich network of local cinema venues. These range from small film societies to Scotland’s largest arts centre, and from one-screen historic cinemas like the Bo’ness Hippodrome to a four screen family-run business, the Pavilion in Galashiels. What they have in common, whether run as a commercial enterprise, by volunteers, or by a Culture Trust, is that they have strong links with the communities in which they’re based.

Robert Livingston, Director of Regional Screen Scotland, said:

“The most extreme example of a ‘local cinema’ is of course the Screen Machine mobile cinema, which has been visiting many of Scotland’s smallest and most remote communities, including some 16 islands, for 18 years, and has built up a huge following in those communities. A huge amount of valuable data is still being analysed, but the overall message is clear: people really value the local cinema experience. By a small margin, the specific responses for the Screen Machine service were even more positive, and valued its community role even more highly.”

Jonathan Coburn, Director at Social Value Lab, said:

“This is a very significant piece of research indeed; the most comprehensive look at the role and contribution of local cinema for more than a decade. We canvased the views of almost 3,500 cinema audience members across 12 main venues. The emerging findings clearly reveal the significance people attach to their local cinema and the social and cultural value that cinemas create for the communities in which they operate.”

A full report on all 12 venues is under preparation.

Those positive responses from Screen Machine audiences have coincided with some of the best box office returns in the mobile cinema’s history, with regular sell-outs not just for the obvious titles, ‘Spectre’ and ‘Star Wars’, but also for ‘The Lady in the Van’, ‘Sunset Song’, ‘The Revenant’, and ‘The Danish Girl’, and with many screenings selling all their online ticket allocation long before the Screen Machine arrives in town.

RSS are also giving audiences a direct way to influence the Screen Machine’s programme through signing up for the new Audience Panel, which will seek members’ views not just on recent screenings, but also on the choice of future films. The Panel has already signed up over 250 members in its first month.

RSS doesn’t just operate the Screen Machine, as it also has a remit to develop access to cinema across Scotland. In this role, RSS has launched a new website at, which includes an updated interactive map of cinema provision across Scotland, and case studies on some of the best examples of local cinema venues, big and small.

Published on Wednesday, 20th April 2016


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