Open Cinema


OPEN CINEMA is a nationwide network of film clubs programmed by and for excluded or marginalised people. Each week participants watch the best in classic and contemporary cinema and work with professional filmmakers to create films of their own. Open Cinema is unique in providing participants the chance to programme films they would like to see, meet the professional filmmakers that inspire them, and make films based on their own ideas and experiences. The Open Cinema philiosophy is that people excluded from society need the benefits of culture as much as information and food. We take film to people at the margins, and bring them and their aspirations to the centre of cultural life.


OPEN CINEMA is open to all individuals supported by the agencies with whom we partner. The age range of members varies from children at family-oriented centres to the most senior members of society. Specific centres where the activities take place include those supporting rough sleepers, prisoners and ex-offenders, individuals recovering from drug and alcohol dependencies, ex-armed services personnel, migrant workers, those in the care system, excluded young people and low-income communities.


OPEN CINEMA is free to attend. Participants simply follow posters and flyers at their support service or community centre, and take part in the activities they find there. Open Cinema film seasons run quarterly, with four 12-week seasons, or 48 weekly events, per year. Seasons are themed by genre or issue, which participants help choose; titles are co-programmed by Open Cinema's experienced programming team, to include not just favourite titles of the given audience, but new titles from world, independent, classic and contemporary cinema, which they might not otherwise experience. Features are often accompanied by a short film. The events regularly welcome local and acclaimed filmmakers presenting their work, speaking with the audience about their films and the filmmaking process, and facilitating discussion on the issues raised.


People suffering from homelessness and deprivation urgently need the benefits of culture, as well as information and food. Entertainment and culture are another kind of nourishment, and have been shown by research to measurably contribute to the mental health and wellbeing of socially marginalised people.

Our work is supported by research carried out by Broadway, one of the UK’s leading homelessness charities, together with Westminster Primary Care Trust, in 2005. It revealed that taking part in social and cultural activities provided significant benefits to mental health. These included the alleviation of isolation, the reduction of anxiety and depression, and the promotion of relaxation and healthy sleep patterns. A study conducted by the Salvation Army found that 51% of their clients spent most of their time alone, lacking support networks and beneficial relationships.

OPEN CINEMA offers an attractive and safe alternative to the streets, and to the dangers of dependencies and criminal pathways, every week. The regularity of the service is itself an important source of stability for those often without any other form of routine. Since 2005, Open Cinema has seen more than 10,000 admissions through its doors.

A creative outlet and the means for self-expression have been shown to build self-confidence and a sense of purpose, and to improve the overall quality of life for isolated people. Open Cinema offers the chance for people to become comfortable being part of a positive and creative community; to be given ownership of exciting and important media and cultural tools; and all in a service which offers them a say in how it develops.

OPEN CINEMA is at the forefront of a growing movement of cultural outreach in the social sector. We provide for - and focus public attention on - the complex needs of excluded individuals in a society yet to achieve the fairness it strives for.


OPEN CINEMA has received generous support from leading institutions including UnLtd, ClearlySo, NESTA, the Thompson Reuters Foundation, Homeless Link, the Open University, the Metropolitan Police, the Media Trust, and Business in the Community; and in the film and television industry from Channel 4 BRITDOC, Universal Pictures, Lionsgate, Warner Brothers, Arts Alliance Media, Current TV, Cinema16, and Shooting People. Endorsements from leading figures in the UK film industry are too numerous to list, with visits to Open Cinemas from major international filmmakers such as Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), Dario Marianelli (Atonement), Mike Leigh (Happy Go Lucky), Beeban Kidron (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), and Mike Hodges (Flash Gordon).


We are continuously evolving and improving the services we provide, and finding new ways to work with organisations to develop the opportunities of people in need.

We are committed to:

  • reducing exclusion and improving participation for any individual or community in need
  • providing cultural education and training in filmmaking and related arts
  • creating sustainable ways of working, and continual refinement in service
  • socially and environmentally-responsible procurement, and equality and diversity in the workplace
  • working in open and creative partnerships with great institutions

With strategic support from Homeless Link, Open Cinema conducted a pilot network of nine venues in four regions of England, between October 2009 and January 2011. For a copy of the resulting impact report, please proceed to the Evaluation Report page.

For more information about how your organisation can become part of the Open Cinema network, please contact us or download our information pack. If you are interested in volunteering for Open Cinema, please visit our volunteers page.