Open Cinema

  • Open Cinema Finland launches in Helsinki

    Open Cinema Finland is live! After four years of development, a great launch of the franchise in Helsinki on 6 June gathered stakeholders from the film, community and education sectors, all excited by the beginning of a new framework for cultural inclusion across Finland. A screening of the award-winning, autism-focused documentary My Secret Forest was followed by a remarkable Q&A with its subject and star, Lauri, and with its producer Sara-Helena Rawat. Open Cinema founder Christoph was also on hand - after a customary smoke sauna and sea swim - to introduce the origins and some future directions for this network of distributed innovation. Kiitos!

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  • Jawbone Star Johnny Harris at St Mungos Recovery College, 7 Dec 2017

    Last night the Open Cinema film club at St Mungo’s Recovery College Rushworth St welcomed boxer, writer and actor Johnny Harris for a very special screening of his incredible film Jawbone (dir. Thomas Napper, 2017). People using St Mungo’s services from all across London filled the screening room and made a fantastic atmosphere for what was a memorable night.

    Jawbone tells the story of former youth boxing champion Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris), a man in search of hope but looking in all the wrong places. When he hits rock bottom he turns to his childhood boxing club and the only family he has left: gym owner Bill (Ray Winstone) corner man Eddie (Michael Smiley) and promoter Joe (Ian McShane). Back in training, years after anyone thought he was a contender, he risks his life, as he tries to stand tall and regain his place in the world.

    In the Q&A Johnny revealed that the film is heavily auto-biographical. Johnny dropped out of school at 13 and fell into homelessness and addiction but was also a champion boxer. He was so open and generous during a Q&A that lasted over an hour, discussing addiction, recovery and the challenges of writing, making and starring in this amazing film. As Emily Catlow, the coordinator of recovery college, said after the screening: ‘It was such a great evening and I am very sure that [Johnny] connected with and inspired every single person in that room. It was the highlight of the Recovery College term and will be talked about for years to come’.

    As with all Open Cinema events the screening became about so much more than the thrill of meeting a star of the screen. It was all about connecting over shared experiences and a shared enthusiasm for the power of film to highlight all the struggles, challenges and joy of life. Jawbone and the discussion that followed highlighted the incredible struggles people go through and the heroism of those go out of their way to help and support others. There were many powerful and cathartic moments in the film and the post-film discussion. We’d like to extend a special thanks to Johnny, listening to everyones questions, stories and opinions.

    We’d also especially like to thank everyone who attended for being such a great audience! Johnny commented many times that the questions being asked were fantastic. As we look forward to 2018, we can’t wait for many more evenings like last Wednesday.

    Will Swinburne, Open Cinema Network Manager

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  • OC visits Helsinki, Midnight Sun Film Festival

    By OC CEO Christoph warrack

    I pulled the short straw and flew to Helsinki last week for meetings with the Open Cinema Finland team!

    We then flew north across the land of 100k lakes (and several billion trees) to Rovaniemi in Lapland

    followed by a drive to Sodankyla, passing my first reindeer friends

    for three days at the fabled Midnight Sun Film Festival.

    Founded by the late Peter von Bagh with Aki Kaurismakï, and now in its 32nd year, the festival has hosted filmmakers including Francis Coppola, Agnes Varda, Victor Erice, Werner Herzog, Abbas Kiarostami, and many others intrepid enough to make the trip, all rewarded by the other-worldly light of Lapland at this time of year.

    The sun doesn't set over the festival, so the screenings - of hand-picked Finnish, new international and archive cinema continue through the night. The undisputed highlight was a presentation of the 1925 "Phantom of the Opera" with a barnstorming Lon Chaney as the Phantom, and a live orchestral score.

    We were staying with friends of OC Finland CEO Jaana Merenmies, at the forested lodge of the chief medical office of Lapland. After a long day at the festival, dinner would start at around midnight, followed by a sauna and then a walk across the rose-lit hilltops.

    I'm looking forward to the office draw to visit Midnight Sun in 2018...

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    Three years after a presentation (on 'distributed innovation') at the European Social Franchising Network Conference in Gothenburg, Open Cinema is thrilled to announce the launch of our first country-level franchise: Open Cinema Finland. Working with a great team led by experienced social entrepreneur Jaana Merenmies, the first venues will be launching in Helsinki in early 2018, followed by further sub-franchise venues and networks.

    As it celebrates its first hundred years, Finland has a hard-won international reputation for social equity and innovation. We are extremely proud to be launching our first franchise in this wooded Nordic country of 5.5m and 100k lakes, where - our favourite fact of 2017 - there are more saunas than cars!

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  • April 2017 - Open Cinema letter in the Guardian

    On 1 April - and easily distinguishable from some of the excellent April Fool's jokes this year - the Guardian published a letter from Christoph on the health of UK cinema exhibition, written in response to a letter (here) from the CEO of the UK Cinema Association, Phil Clapp.

    We await Phil's response...

    Read Christoph's letter here.

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  • ​March 2017 - Deutsche Bank DBACE awards judging

    Open Cinema is one of the judges on the film section of this year's Deutsche Bank DBACE awards for creative enterprise. Winners to be announced in April....

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  • ​February 2017 - New cinemas launch, OC wins 2 international awards!

    Open Cinema this month launches new community cinemas at the St Mungo's Recovery College and at Evolve Housing in Bromley. Ed Stoppard (The Pianist, Upstairs Downstairs) was on hand to help launch Open Cinema Bromley, presenting short film Mate and chatting to members about acting for video games, and how to take the first steps into the industry. Later in the month we'll be opening a groundbreaking community cinema at the St Mungo's Recovery College. More on this to follow...

    Great news reached us from GHP Pharma in Australia where we'd won two awards in the international Social Care Awards 2017, for Social Enterprise Communications Excellence, and for Best Media for Development Company 2017. Thanks to everyone who nominated us and to the panel at GHP. This one goes out to our communities!

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  • November 2016 - Open Cinema makes films for Power to Change, and contributes to research

    Following the film we made to celebrate the launch of the Power to Change Institute (you can watch it here), Open Cinema has made two more films for the community business-focused lottery fund, and has four more in production. We'll post links to these as they're released.

    This month also sees the publication of the Institute's report on the Community Business Market. The report was composed by researchers at Social Finance, and we contributed data and analysis along with colleagues at Bigger Picture Research and Arts Council England. You can find more on the report over on our Impact page.

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  • ​October 2016 - Open Cinema wins RSA Scaling Catalyst Award

    The Open Cinema has bagged the top RSA Scaling Catalyst Award, from a competitive field of over 30 fast-growing social enterprises. Worth £10,000, the award has helped us develop the new foundation website (launching soon, with support from the amazing Assemble), and co-author a bid with a lottery fund to create a national network of community businesses. We'll be blogging in December about the work the award has supported, and look forward to seeing it boost our impact in 2017 and beyond.

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  • ​September - UK Arts and Homelessness Forum convenes for first time

    Over thirty peer organisations who work with the arts to improve the lives of homeless people met at Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to share ideas, experience, fellowship and plans. The project has emerged from the Homeless Link-led Get Creative (download report here) to whose advisory committee Open Cinema was a contributor. We look forward to the next quarterly meeting, to welcoming new members, and fostering a national and international movement of arts/homeless practicioners.

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  • ​August 2016 - Jerry Rothwell helps change the world at St Mungo's

    St Mungo's in Chancery Lane, London, have been running a season called How to Chane the World, featuring classics like Dr Strangelove, Big, and the 3hr 30mins Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But the centrepiece took place on August 29 when Grierson-winning director Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water, Town of Runners) appeared to introduce and discuss his documentary history of Greenpeace, the Sundance-winning How to Change the World, which opened Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2015. Our regulars, some of whom remembered the first actions Greenpeace took to stop whaling and artic drilling, engaged Jerry in conversation about the film, the season, and the world.

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  • ​July 2016 - Digital Pathways Showcase at BFI Southbank

    On 4 July, the BFI hosted the first Open Cinema Digital Pathways Showcase. 60 delegates from over 20 organisations watched four short films from two groundbreaking new 'tech inclusion' programmes on which Open Cinema has been working with partners including the Tinder Foundation, Homeless Link, Evolve Housing + Support, Richmond-upon-Thames College, Living Networks, and with support from funders the Big Lottery Fund and Cisco Systems.

    A panel made up of leaders from these organisations engaged in lively discussion of the issues of digital skills and an inclusive economy with an audience of programme participants and other invited guests following the screenings. Refreshments were served to an electronica soundtrack and much constructive hobnobbing took place.

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  • ​June 2016 - OC coordinator wins Housing Heroes Award

    George Bageya, our outstanding cinema and peer mentoring coordinator at the Evolve Open Cinemas in Stockwell and Croydon won the Apprentice of the Year award for the London region in the Chartered Institute of Housing's Housing Heroes Awards. He then went on to win the national award at the annual ceremony in Manchester on 27 June. The award was presented by broadcaster and former member of parliament Gyles Brandreth. Hats off to George!

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  • ​May 2016 - Pathways to Your Future commences at Cisco Systems

    Open Cinema's latest Enterprise Film Programme - training young people excluded from education, work and training in life, media and enterprise skills, launched at Cisco Systems in Feltham, in partnership with Living Networks. The programme runs for 12 weeks, and offers participants the opportunity to graduate to a paid, accredited, three-year apprenticeship at Cisco Systems.

    Work created through this and the Reboot UK programme (see this page next month) will be showcased at BFI Southbank on 4 July 2016. To attend, please email

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  • ​April 2016 - Platform launches with Ping Pong Screening at Impact Hub Westminster

    Open Cinema International's new digital platform for community cinema powered its first ticketed screening, at the Impact Hub Westminster. Ping Pong (2012), directed by Anson and Hugh Hartford, tells the story of eight participants of the World Over 80s Table Tennis Championships. The screening was preceded by an exhibition match - and open challenge! - by members of the Veterans English Table Tennis Society (VETTS), and followed by a Q&A with the players and producer Beadie Finzi.

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  • ​March 2016 - Open Cinema presents at the RSA on the Sharing Economy

    On 15 March, The Royal Institute of Arts Manufacturing and Commerce held a packed gathering on the ultra-live topic of the sharing economy. OC CEO Christoph Warrack was there to present on Open Cinema as a sharing economy platform alongside great social ventures Lend and Tend, LiftShare, Library of Things and GrubClub. The RSA's senior researcher in the economy, enterprise and manufacturing team Brhmie Balaram was there to summarise research they have recently published (here) into developments in this area.

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  • ​February 2016 - Creative England invest in Open Cinema International

    OC International is currently raising its seed equity round, and was glad this month to confirm Creative England as the first investor, through its Strategic Partnerships Fund, with funds originating in the BFI Lottery Film Fund.

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  • ​December 2015 - OC meets the Prince of Wales

    Open Cinema, a supported venture on the Business in the Community arc programme, was featured in a showcase to celebrate the creation of 1,000 jobs through the programme. During the event, HRH the Prince of Wales stopped to ask our CMO Ben Hirsch about our work, the kind of centres we work in and the pricing we're able to offer community members, and concluded that our work was "fantastic".

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  • ​September 2015, Part 2 - OC Features in The Key Fund 2015 Impact Report

    The Key Fund have published their Impact Report for 2015, which discloses a record-breaking year of lending to social businesses, and the fact they are now the UK's biggest social investor by deal volume. Open Cinema was supported by the Key Fund through the Dotforge Impact accelerator, and was subsequently the recipient of second-stage investment by the fund. You can view or download the report here, and the feature on OC on pp23-4.

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  • ​September 2015, Part 3 - OC's Legal Team Win 2015 Lawyer of the Year Award

    At a glittering ceremony on 24 September, a brilliant, multi-field team of lawyers from international practice Latham & Watkins LLP's London office have been awarded the top Lawyer of the Year award for their work with Open Cinema. Hyo Joo Kim, Aoife McCabe, Katie Peek and Frances Stock were honoured for their focused and complex guidance of the evolution of Open Cinema over a two-year period from a non-profit structure to a group comprising a charitable foundation and a for-profit digital company. Open Cinema will be presenting at their office in the City of London in late October on the latest developments and the impact the collaboration has had.

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  • ​September 2015, Part 1 - Is September the Busiest Month?

    Non-stop action at OC HQ this month. Christoph signed the Founders Pledge at Founders Forum, committing 5% of personal revenues from any future exit to frontline development causes. We also presented on Open Cinema's participatory filmmaking programmes at the international Visual Methods Conference in Brighton. Later OC took part in a social innovation brainstorm hosted by the brilliant Swarm for Macmillan.

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  • Ju​ly / August 2015 - Hiring and Scaling

    The summer of 15 has been spent building the team, further developing the forthcoming digital platform, and preparing our first international market entries (beyond the UK and Ireland). We've been receiving amazing support on these developments from the Impact Hub Scaling Programme.

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  • ​June 2015 - Bloomberg Demo Day, Key Fund Investment

    At the conclusion of the Dotforge Impact accelerator, Open Cinema was one of ten ventures presenting prototype platforms to investors at the super-swish London headquarters of Bloomberg. Subsequently Open Cinema received a seed funding commitment from the social investor The Key Fund.

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  • ​May 2015 - Open Cinema at Digital Shoreditch

    Open Cinema was at Digital Shoreditch 2015 in May to present to an audience of 200 on our plans to help democratise cinema. The 10 minute talk by CEO Christoph Warrack, entitled "Anywhere is a Cinema, Cinema Can Be Anything", can be seen here.

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