I am Ron Dean. My colleague and friend,
Angela Reed and I, are very pleased to be here representing the Forum Cinema
in Northampton, England. Good day to you all.
The Forum Cinema is a local authority Regional Film Theatre facility provided by Northampton Borough Council. It receives funding from East Midlands Arts and programming assistance from the British Film Institute. Northampton, which is situated in the centre of England, has a population of 190,000 The cinema is situated on the Eastern side of the town, which itself is densely populated by some 40,000, and includes areas that demonstrate high indicators of depravation.
Our cinema is an integral part of Lings Forum Leisure Centre. This busy complex has a multi-purpose arena catering for 5-a-side football, netball, basketball, badminton, martial arts and similar sporting activities. The centre is equipped with a high-tech gymnasium, a dance studio and provision for swimming and squash.
The cinema itself has a seating capacity of 250. We have both 35mm and 16mm projection. The auditorium is equipped with Dolby Stereo Sound as well as a stage for live performances and pre-performance lectures.
The Forum’s programming policy is to screen a balanced mixture of first and second-run mainstream and art-house movies including Hollywood screenings, Lesbian and Gay films, Africa/American films, childrens’ matinees and, of course, European films for young people as part of the Euro Kids Network.
The Forum Cinema was selected by MEDIA Salles to mark the Centenary of the Cinema by taking part in their 1995 initiative “A Week For The Century Of European Cinema”. This took the form of 100 medium sized towns screening European films over nine days. The Forum had a successful week and screened five titles : The Sexual Life Of The Belgians”, “Jeanne La Pucelle”, “Tristana”, “Before The Rain” and “The Neon Bible”. Guest speakers gave talks and led discussions both before and after the films. We also hosted a European wine and cheese tasting in conjunction with the screening of “Before The Rain”. This was sponsored by Marks & Spencers, a leading British food and clothes retailer, who attended the event and kindly provided cheeses and wines from throughout the European community.
The marketing for this initiative was helped enormously by the funding we received from MEDIA Salles and enabled us to print flyers and posters advertising the event. These were distributed via the free local newspaper to all homes on the Eastern District of Northampton and by the Cinemas computer mailing list. We were also interviewed on local radio and an editorial about the event appeared in the local press.
In 1996 the Cinema was very pleased to be chosen to take part in “Euro Kids Network” with the commitment to screen European films for children and young people in schools and colleges. The cinema carried out a survey amongst local school children to find out if they would like to attend the Cinema on a Saturday morning as a useful way to introduce them to European film. With the help of the schools’ teachers, 1400 children completed our questionnaires and the overall response proved positive and encouraging. As a result of our marketing, the Forum set up “Kids Screen” in which a childrens film is screened on alternate Saturdays. We reduced the normal admission charge to enable local children, many who come from low income families, the opportunity to have a cinema experience. Many children were unable to attend the multiplex cinema in the town centre because of the high bus fares and cinema admission costs.
Our next target was to introduce European film to these children. This proved quite difficult as they where, in general, only used to watching main stream American blockbusters. I am pleased to say however that the audience figures are slowly rising for the European product as children get used to visiting the cinema on a more regular basis, their interest is caught by trailer advertising and they tell their friends, becoming our marketing agents so to speak. A flyer is also distributed to each child through the partnerships developed with class teachers, letting them know of future screenings.
Overall, the audience figures have been very encouraging and it is the intention of the Forum with the help of the funding from MEDIA Salles, to increase attendances by widening our marketing efforts to a larger catchment area of Northampton. We are particularly interested in making personal contact with children by visiting schools to promote film awareness, including of course, the European product. We feel that the opportunity provided in the classroom, will allow us to talk about the value of film as a learning experience. At the same time, if and when a child visits the cinema they will be met not by a stranger, but rather, by a face they recognise, a member of a small but dedicated team.
Our educational screenings for European films have also been very successful with 28 titles screened to school and college groups throughout 1996. These films were marketed in the Forum’s bi-monthly film brochure and by flyers sent to teachers in schools and colleges. Lecturers in Film and Media studies were also brought in to give short talks to the students before the films.
The cinema staff produced programme notes for use by the students in the classroom as part of this initiative.
The Forum has built on its success of 1996 and has seen an increase in the number of schools interested in its 1997 programme of European screenings. 15 titles have played at the Forum so far this year and have been very well attended.
A Day School is planned for January 1998 for about 200 college students to see “The Blue Angel” and “Cabaret” with a talk from a local Higher Education lecturer on German Expressionist film.
Given the appropriate resources and financial support, the Forum Cinema would like to continue to broaden its activities, by making available to all, art, culture and education through film.
I would like to warmly thank MEDIA SALLES for their generous support, sponsorship and funding. This has presented the Forum Cinema the opportunity to widen its product scope. Also allowing an involvement in offering the community in and around Northampton, UK, a European film cinema culture.
Thank you all for your attention.