The British Film Institute (BFI) has released the first tranche of money from its £30 million ($38.6 million) Culture Recovery Fund, with £650,000 ($838,000) disbursed to 42 independent cinemas across England, U.K. culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced Friday.
The BFI grants are part of the U.K. government’s larger $1.9 billion lifeline for the arts sector that was announced in July. They are being allocated by the BFI on behalf of the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
More venues will receive cash in the coming weeks.
“We all enjoyed the escapism of a good film during lockdown, but nothing beats the experience of the big screen,” Dowden said. “This first wave of emergency funding will help dozens of independent cinemas around the country, preserving their unique character and history for future generations.”
Ben Roberts, BFI’s chief executive, added: “The government’s support for independent cinemas through the Culture Recovery Fund is having a positive impact for venues and local communities in cities, towns and villages across the country as they reopen with new COVID-safe measures in place and new releases.”
Cinemas can apply for safety grants, to help independent venues meet the additional costs of creating a safe and COVID-secure environment for staff and audiences, and business sustainability grants of up to £200,000 ($258,000) to help stabilize venues as they reopen.
The support for independent cinemas has been welcomed by “Luther” co-stars Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson. Elba, who is also a BFI governor, said, “In a time with so much change and uncertainty around us, there is comfort in the familiarity of a comfy pair of seats and some popcorn at your local cinema. It’s a simple and effective way of bonding with our cities and culture. We depend on the independent cinema and they depend on us to support them, now more than ever.”
“What lockdown has made very clear is how vital local communities are,” Wilson said. “I am thrilled independent cinemas will be able to access the Culture Recovery Fund. They, alongside all local arts organizations are lifelines for their communities and for the people that work in them.”
The fund will remain open for applications until Oct. 30.
The government has also opened the application process for the £500 million ($648.5 million) film and TV production restart scheme to help productions get cameras rolling.
“The U.K.’s cinemas and film & TV production industry are a key part of our culture — they provide thousands of jobs and help to entertain the nation,” U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, said. “So I’m delighted that we can support independent cinemas through the Cultural Recovery Fund, and help to get productions up and running again through the film and TV production restart Scheme, protecting vital jobs across the industry.”