The Cranleigh Arts Centre, until 2010, hosted a monthly showing of art house movies alongside a programme of mainstream films. In 2010 the Arts Centre revised its pricing policies and announced that it was no longer able to support other than mainstream films. In the belief that there was a potential local audience to support a film club bringing international films into this community, a small group from the regular Arts Centre audience formed a planning committee in November 2010 to bring this to fruition.
This ad hoc committee followed a carefully thought-through strategy to create a sustainable business model in order to present a programme from September 2011. Key milestones were:
- To write a constitution and manifesto and to agree committee roles of chair, treasurer, secretary, marketing and membership development
- To join the British Federation of Film Societies, the national overseeing body which supports community cinema
- To develop a sound financial plan
- To set up banking facilities
- To understand the various licensing options and requirements for film suppliers as well as from the local authority
- To decide a programme
- To find premises
- To acquire equipment
- To develop a group of skilled volunteers
- To achieve a membership of 70+ members signed up at £35 per head in advance of September 2011
- To obtain sponsorship.
The provisional constitution and manifesto were agreed in January 2011. Banking facilities were in place by February. Four potential premises were viewed and costed and agreement with its trustees to use the Bandroom achieved at the end of March; this included an agreement to jointly fund the installation of a screen and the permanent erection of speakers. This was undertaken by committee members and volunteers.
A programme selection sub-committee of 10 was formed which included a wider range of individuals than the core committee and a long list for the 2011-12 programme devised; this was voted on by all involved and the final programme agreed. Email circulation of Arts Centre members was initiated; personal and poster promotion around Cranleigh continued throughout the summer. By July 2011 assets amounted to almost £4,500, ahead of projected equipment cost of £2,500 and licensing costs of £1,500. A small sponsorship was achieved from two local businesses. A £500 loan was made by one member of the committee and there was “seed money” contribution from a small number of individuals. A projector was acquired in June and a date set for a “taster” preview evening for July 21st. Projectionist training of three volunteers took place during June. A local sound specialist was recruited to advise on balance and mixing.
The highly successful preview evening created an enthusiastic “buzz”, brought in further membership and convinced the committee that the equipment met audience requirements, that the premises were conducive to a strong community atmosphere, and that resources would be sufficient to mount a full year programme. The final tasks before the first season began were to obtain licensing for the films and Temporary Event Notices from the local authority. We also agreed what we hoped was going to be an effective audience feedback process.
The initial challenge was to establish a separate identity from the Arts Centre where art house films had previously been shown to a far smaller audience on average than the film club membership. After a year of operation the Club has achieved this through creating a distinctive film viewing experience. Wine and other refreshments are available before the performance; in this way debate is encouraged. A programme note on the film to be shown is available for everyone, together with a feedback proforma. The Bandroom has a particular ambience and the presence and personalities of a dedicated committee complement this.
The determination to communicate regularly with the membership through email, to consult on the programme and especially to obtain their feedback on the film that they have just seen has been crucial. This strongly influences the films chosen for each season.
In September 2017 the Club upgraded its projection equipment to include an Optoma 4k projector and a Panasonic Blu-ray player which provide as high a quality picture as would be seen in a cinema. The Club aims to continue to bring to our membership the best of World cinema in a convivial atmosphere within a comfortable setting, all at a modest price.