Film licences

You will need a licence for each individual film that you screen. Which kind of licence you need will depend on how much and when you intend to charge people to attend, and how you plan to advertise your screening. 

The Cinema For All guide 'Starting a Community Cinema' has a useful section on licences, which you can download here

There are a number of different organisations that can supply you with film licences. Most of the time, this runs smoothly - but there may be occasional bumps in the road, as Hannah MacSween discovered when she and fellow volunteers set up 'Muir Movies' - read about their licensing experience here.  

As well as a film licence, you may need other licences in place depending on your venue (see below).

Cinema Licence (Scotland-based groups only)

If you are based in Scotland and screen more than six films per calendar year in the same venue, you will also require a Cinema Licence, obtainable from your local council. However, if you are a not-for-profit group this does not apply to you, and you can request a 'Cinema Licence exemption' from the Scottish Government.

So, if you're getting close to six screenings, click here to download a template letter, created by Grow Your Own Cinema, requesting a Cinema Licence exemption. You only need to apply for this licence once.

PRS Licence for music

It's likely that music will form a part of your screening, so you'll need to ensure a PRS licence is in place. Most venues already have this, so check with the people who run the space you're using.

To find out more about PRS licensing, download the Voluntary Arts briefing, 'Using Copyright Music' here.

Occasional alcohol licence

One way to help generate income to cover your costs, is to run a bar (or bring in somebody else to do it for you, and take a percentage of the profit). To do this, you'll need to have an 'Occasional alcohol licence' in place, which you buy from your local council in advance. Here's what Keith Taylor of Fife-based community cinema, Letham Lights had to say:

"We have applied for occasional alcohol licenses before each of our screenings. In our local area, these cost £10 per application to the council, and you are allowed up to 12 occasional licences per year (these can stretch for as long as four days at a time though, allowing for a weekend film festival for example). Each licence application is sent to the council at least six weeks in advance. As well as beer and wine, we offer teas, coffees, home baking and snacks.

We have found that people will eat and drink a bit more if you build some additional time into your schedule - such as before you start the film, after a short film or even during an intermission. This can be a good source of revenue for us, and just as importantly it helps our audience to feel well looked after and to chat to each other, which is what we are all about."