Many rural villages are blessed with a regular cinema, thanks to volunteers who buy the equipment and run the show. This is a really good way of bringing people together and creates a social hub. Ice cream, juice and popcorn are not mandatory but they add fun to the occasion!
But most not-for-profit organisations in rural Scotland who wish to hold cinema nights in the winter worry about their local authority’s heavy-duty licence fee. This fee is in addition to the costs of other licence fees. Worry no more, as help is at hand from a most unlikely place! But first, let’s clarify the general licence situation.
If you want to play any type of recorded music, you will need a PRS/PPL music licence costing £179pa. If you want to show DVDs, a MPLC film licence is required but only applies in the context of a closed group. The cost is 1% of net-of-grant/donation income per annum, or twice this amount if such income is more than £10k.
You can apply to these organisations online by ‘googling’ your way into them. If you play music or show DVD’s without a licence, you would be breaking the law. If you want to hold cinema sessions by (a) opening them up to the general public, (b) advertising the titles and (c) charging an amount to cover the costs, you need to have a cinema licence in addition to music and film licences. So, you could be spending about £300 or more before you even think about running a cinema, which, for example, can cost £600pa.
However, do not despair as help is at hand; and from the most unlikely but welcome place.
Inside St Andrew’s House, on the site of former ‘Bridewell Prison’ of Edinburgh, can be found the Criminal Justice Division of the Scottish Government. Nested within that Division is a most helpful Licensing Team who, in certain circumstances, will issue not-for-profit organisations with a, yes, you have guessed, a coveted Cinema Licence. What you probably will not have guessed is that it’s free of charge. And you definitely will not have guessed that it applies for five years!
So, having satisfied the terms of the annual music and film licences, and armed with your FREE cinema licence, you can start your cinema nights by digging out the old projector and clearing a space on a white wall, The purists among you may wish to rush off and buy the latest thing in Dolby behind-your-head sound systems but, whatever way you do it, don’t forget to purchase stocks of the said ice cream, juice and popcorn…