ABOUT LOUTH FILM CLUB
The award-winning Louth Film Club was set up in 2005 to bring to the small Lincolnshire market town of Louth a selection of modern arthouse films from around the world, plus a range of classics most of which have not been seen on the big screen for many years.
Right from the start, the club developed in a different way from most film societies, which show films (usually in DVD format) in village halls or other community buildings. Louth already had a small independent cinema, the three-screen Playhouse in the town centre. The four founding committee members — Nick Louth, Alex McMullen, Mark Merrifield and Louise Niekirk — decided that to work with the cinema would not only make it easier to bring the idea of a film club to fruition, it would also help reinforce the survival of this important local institution for all filmgoers.
Working with an existing cinema
The cinema industry has over the decades suffered hammer blows from television, then satellite TV, and the sale and rental of films only a few months after their theatrical release. All these developments have made it easier for people to watch new films without stirring from the sofa. Inevitably, it has been the small independents which have suffered most , and while there are plenty of large multiplexes, few towns as small as Louth (pop 15,000) still have a cinema.
Marrying the needs of a commercial cinema with those of a film society is not easy. However, after negotiating with the owner, Gerald Parkes, the club agreed to rent a screen on Mondays, when attendances are generally low, helping improve income for the cinema and bringing in new customers. We would do this on alternate Mondays, with a longer gap over Christmas and the New Year.
Until recently the Playhouse only had 35mm projectors, but has now installed digital projectors and we now screen films mostly in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) high-definition format.
We have been fortunate to have the assistance of not only a hands-on cinema owner, but enthusiastic staff who have shown great flexibility to work with us. We are particularly grateful to manager Kirsty Dobson and projectionist Steve West.
One great advantage we had right from the start has been that one committee member, Mark Merrifield, runs an independent music shop, Off The Beaten Tracks, within the town. That makes it easy for members and non-members alike to ask questions, seek out soundtracks for films they have already seen, and generally see the friendly public face of Louth Film Club.
Funding and objectives
When setting up the club, we had no idea how many members we would recruit and how many people we would attract to our screenings. We thought that 90 members and audiences of 60 would be the best we could hope for. We did carry out some initial consultation, asking people who would be interested in joining a film club to fill in a form and indicated the type of films they would be interested in seeing. Whilst this demonstrated an interest, it did not guarantee membership numbers. We also had to juggle the existence of the club with the cinema’s own contractual commitments which required that all screens be open for public performance. That meant a two-tier entrance fee, for members and non-members.
We applied for and were granted funding from Awards for All, which is Lottery funding. In doing so we set out to encourage the broadest possible attendance of the club, making it easy for the disabled by using a ground floor screen, and publicising the club in outlying villages.
The results to date have exceeded our wildest dreams. For our 2013/14 season (Feb 2013 to Jan 2014) average attendance was 104 and the club had over 260 members.
Support from top talent
We have been enormously fortunate in gaining the support of two Oscar-winning film stars who have local connections. Jim Broadbent attended a screening of Iris in 2005 while 1960s screen icon Julie Christie (Far From The Madding Crowd, Dr Zhivago, Billy Liar, Don’t Look Now) was with us for her new film Away from Her in 2009. Both were kind enough to agree to question and answer sessions on their lives and careers in front of packed audiences.
And in 2012 the internationally renowned opera singer Christopher Maltman, a former Louth schoolboy, attended an exclusive screening of Juan, a modern-day version of Mozart's Don Giovanni, sung in English to the original music, in which he took the title role. Christopher introduced the film to an audience of over 200 and held an entertaining and informative question-and-answer session immediately after it. In 2014 Jim Broadbent returned to the club and attracted a full house for Q&As after our screening of his latest film, Le Week-End.
Chairman: Paul Hill
Treasurer: Pete Hickman
Club Secretary: Heather Jenkins
Production: Alan John
Press & Publicity Officer: Richard Keeble
Membership Secretary: Mark Merrifield