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Rural community cinema

Cinema-going has retained its popularity in the 21st Century as a space in which to socialise watching films. But where do rural cinemas fit into the cinematic experience?

Perhaps this provokes the opposite image of the modern, multi-screened metropolitan cinema, but research here at University of East Anglia is proving how valuable film screenings in rural places continues to be. Despite the availability of cheaper and more convenient ways of watching films at home, large audiences are still seeking out the communal viewing experience.

In places where isolation is felt, going to the cinema is much an opportunity to meet people as it is a place to watch films. Beyond socialising, it perhaps aids in alleviating the sense of not belonging by placing people in a space where faces are recognised and known.

Dr Karina Aveyard in the school of Arts, Media and American Studies said:

“the survival and growth of rural cinema attests to the lure and longevity of the big screen, showing that despite the emergence of a range of more convenient and less costly ways of seeing films, audiences continue to actively seek out the more traditional apparatus of the movie theatre and the social and cultural interaction this offers.   

A research project initiated by Dr Aveyard and supported by Creative Arts East has been focusing on the issues that surround rural community cinemas today, and in particular, the role of Touring Organisations around the country that support individual community groups to run screenings in their villages and towns. The important work of Touring Organisations is often overlooked and a key aim of this project is to help establish a national body to promote and advance their work through a two-day workshop. 

 "Rural audiences will often go to great lengths-through fund raising and volunteer activity- to ensure that they have access to films in this format”.                

The Maltings: Wells Community Cinema 

With around 30 different Touring Organisations that currently aim to support community cinemas within the UK, including third sector organisations and art charities, a singular, more coherent representative national body would bring support and encouragement for collaborative action on issues such as funding and access to film distribution. And with rural cinema so pivotal for helping to promote local connections and engagement, this would be a way to ensure its development.

Alongside this research project, PhD student Rebecca Innes will be completing her research on ‘The Meaning and Role of Community Cinema in Rural Norfolk, which is a funded Collaborative Doctoral Award held by UEA and Creative Arts East. This project, the first of its kind, aims to identify the social impacts of attending rural community screenings and the experience of community cinema-going. From this, interactions between cinema-going and the rural in general, from its growth, rebirth, and sustainability, can begin to be discussed further.  

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Dr Karina Aveyard

Senior Lecturer in Media, Arts and Humanities, School of Art, Media and American Studies.

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