Lots of you have asked us how we choose the films that we screen. So we thought you might find it interesting to understand a little more about the process for selecting and obtaining our film choices.

The Programming Committee for the Community Cinema Club meets around three months before the start of each film season in order to consider our programme. Our general policy is that we try to choose new films that

  • first and foremost, we think will be of interest to you the members
  • which are unlikely to get a screening at any other local cinema
  • have (generally) not been made available on DVD or movie channels yet and so are less likely to have been seen by the membership

We like to look at the films that are slated for release over the coming months and we will try and select a programme that features a mixture of different genres, for example a comedy or a drama. We also try and choose at least one film for each season of films that is a foreign language, reflecting the fact that these films are exceedingly unlikely to get shown in King’s Lynn/West Norfolk.

Although most of our films are new releases, we do like to select at least one “vintage” film each season, perhaps an old favourite that has been reissued, or a film that we may be familiar with seeing on television but hasn’t been seen on the big screen in years!

Another consideration is to try and build at least a couple of social or educational events around our film choices each season; hence a French themed meal could be available to match a French film, or a Japanese film like the Seven Samurai to follow on from an educational session on Japanese filmmakers.

However, although we may agree on a particular set of films, there are potential pitfalls. Sometimes a film of our choosing may get a screening at the Majestic; we then have to decide if people will go along to see it at our club for a second time if they have already been to see it. Sometimes a film has a longer run in the mainstream cinemas than was expected — perhaps because of success on the awards circuit — which means it is not available when we want to screen it.

Which brings us to another factor that we need to take into account; our films have to be sourced from its specific UK distributor. There are absolutely hundreds of distributors out there, and they will only release their films to us for a cinema club screening once a film has finished its run at mainstream cinemas. The distributors themselves tend to be helpful to varying degrees, but it is probably fair to say that some of the major-league distributors don’t prioritise small clubs like ours, as proportionally we generate very little profit for them. It can be quite hard work to make contact with them in order to agree to a screening, and they are also more likely to require us to set up an ongoing account with them and to deposit a security bond.

The smaller distributors are usually more responsive, and often we don’t require a bond. Sometimes the speed by which a distributor responds may dictate how early we are able to “announce” a future screening or not, and sometimes the speed of response influences our choice of film if there are two or three contenders in the running.

Overall we hope you feel that we get it right more often than not; the extra screenings that we make each season allow us to be a little bit more adventurous if we know that we have a really good core selection of four films in a season. For every more demanding film, such as Tree of Life, or Seven Samurai, we’ll try to balance it out with a relatively populist choice like the King’s Speech or Some Like It Hot.

We are always keen to get your views; for example, if you would prefer to see more oldies — and not necessarily those deemed “vintage” — then we would look again at our policy on film bookings. If you feel that we are neglecting a particular genre of films — and note that we are planning to show a musical in the summer season — or if there are certain directors that you would like us to feature then please let us know. It’s your club and it’s your continued support that allows us to bring films that otherwise you simply don’t get to see in King’s Lynn.

Ian Barton

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