I am concerned about the future of the UK’s cinemas and the more than 20,000 people who they employ. The cinema industry was already facing difficulties before the pandemic, but the pandemic has hit it particularly hard.
As you may know, building cinemas in city centres has been a tactic to try and revive the UK’s highstreets for several years now. In Bolton, The Light was an integral part of the plan to redevelop The Market Place and draw people back to Bolton town centre. This tactic was used across the north, including in Bury and Rochdale in an effort to help struggling northern towns, so the closure of cinemas will have a big impact on towns like ours in particular.
At the end of last year, I asked the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, whether the Government will implement targeted support for cinemas.
Not long afterwards, Caroline Dinenage, the Minister for Digital and Culture, answered my question by detailing what the Government was then doing to help cinemas. She added that the Government would be making a further announcement on this area in due course.
That announcement has now been made and goes as follows:
“More than 200 independent cinemas have so far received funding of £16 million in the first round of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. This funding is being administered by the BFI on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the biggest ever single investment in this country’s cultural sectors. Grants have been awarded to cinema sites in every corner of the country, with cinemas outside London benefitting from 78% of funding to date. Further to this, we announced in December that cinemas will be able to apply for a share of an additional £14 million in grants as part of the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund. This second round closed on 1 February, and will provide support for cinemas into the next financial year. Cinemas have also been eligible to apply to the second round of Arts Council England’s Repayable Finance scheme, with a total of £100 million available.
“Recognising that cinemas need content, during this crisis the Government’s Film and TV Production Restart Scheme has helped keep the cameras rolling at the other end of the screen supply chain. The £500 million scheme, which opened for applications in October 2020, has assured over 100 productions that they will be supported if future losses are incurred due to Covid-19 and provided the confidence they need to restart filming.
“In addition, most cinemas have been and are continuing to benefit from economy-wide measures including the VAT cut on tickets and concessions, a business rates holiday, access to Bounce Back Loans, the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and Local Restrictions Support Grants.
“Together these measures are providing a comprehensive package of support to the cinema industry to support it through the pandemic.”
I am glad that the Government has announced specific support for the cinema industry, and I am eager to hear the response from the industry and cinemagoers. If this package of support falls short of what the industry needs, then I am happy to contact the Government again to raise their concerns.