Reaching New Audiences with Filmed Theatre, Ballet, and Opera

The Cinegi Arts and Film Action Research Project is a great example of a large scale, collaborative, arts and digital project. It set out to test how digital distribution could bring filmed arts and cultural content to audiences in venues beyond mainstream cinemas in England - such as local libraries and village halls.

The report contains really useful learnings, particularly for anyone looking to bring cultural programming to areas without dedicated arts venues.

The project was supported through a grant from Arts Council England, and a partnership with the BFI. The research report was created by The Audience Agency and Nesta

You can read the full report, but we've summarised some of the main findings below.

What they did

  • Redeveloped the ‘Cinegi player’ platform.
  • Sourced and licensed 220 titles for screenings in libraries, community halls, and non-cinema cultural venues across England.
  • Content included filmed theatre, ballet, opera and archive film material.
  • Publicly launched the platform and promoted take-up of the service.

Project Aims

  • Unlock the potential of arts centres, libraries, community centres, and local/independent film clubs.
  • Reach audiences who would not otherwise engage with the arts or specialised film.


Audience Analysis

  • 3984 people attended one of 117 screening events. (Lower than original aim of  31,150 attendees over 1,650 screenings)
  • Generally, audiences were really positive about their experience at the events.
  • Most respondents had already been to an art gallery (70 per cent) or a play (61 per cent) in the last 12 months.
  • Audiences were mostly local to the event.
  • A high proportion of screenings (71 per cent) were held in areas that had lower than average access to performing arts venues.

So, a positive result for attracting local audiences, but disappointing that it didn't reach as many people who were new to arts and culture as they had hoped.

Challenges and Learnings

  • Lead-in time for bookings too short: 59% of promoters who had not booked on the platform reported that they tended to book content over two months in advance of screenings.
  • Technical issues: The requirement to have Microsoft Windows 10 to use the platform was a barrier to booking.
  • Cinegi Arts&Film thought that there would be more engagement through networks related to both the BFI and Arts Council England and that this would result in greater numbers of bookings (but they got great results from the Film Hubs and Cinema for All networks).
  • Worked well where there were strong local film clubs or histories of screenings, but there were low bookings in areas without these.
  • The project was most successful when bringing new content to areas where there was already some cohesion around rural or local engagement of film or art in other ways, adding to that provision rather than creating an entirely new market.

Where to go from here...

This was an ambitious project, and there's clear potential for working with new and unusual venues, and local community cinema groups to bring arts live-screening to new audiences. Collaborative working seemed to be key to this project overall, both in terms of marketing it and also bringing local tech know-how to venues through community film clubs. 

The fact that audiences were so local to the venues, means that live-screening could be an option for bringing cultural provision to rural areas, or areas of cities without dedicated arts venues nearby.

The action-research report from Cinegi profiles their efforts to bring filmed theatre, ballet, and opera to libraries and village halls across England.

Read the Report

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