The Live Cinema in the UK Report 2016 was written in response to a huge growth in the number of film screening events in the UK augmented by synchronous live performance, site-specific locations, technological intervention, social media engagement, and all manner of simultaneous interactive moments including singing, dancing, eating, drinking and smelling.

Supported with public funding from Arts Council England, the world-first research project which has led to this report was instigated in response to there being no national industry research on the live cinema sector.

As an emergent academic field, this project has also partnered with King’s College London and the University of Brighton as home to two of the world’s only researchers in the field of experiential and live cinema events: Dr Sarah Atkinson and Helen Kennedy. The publication of this report coincides with their specially edited edition of Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies that it is recommended to be read alongside this report for further academic analysis of the sector (hereafter referred to as Atkinson & Kennedy, 2016). The first year of research culminated at the Live Cinema Conference, King’s College London, 27th May 2016, where challenges identified through the research period were address through sharing issues, building terminological consensus, masterclasses and workshops.


Executive Summary

As the first industry research in the area of ‘live cinema’, this report sits alongside our other key outputs:

  • The themed issue of Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies edited by Dr. Sarah Atkinson and Helen W Kennedy (hereafter referred to as Atkinson & Kennedy 2016). This should be read for further academic analysis of an illustrative range of international case studies of this emergent cultural form
  •  The first Live Cinema Conference held at King’s College, London May 27th 2016
  • The formation of the new Live Cinema Network to implement the recommendations of this report and further study and develop this thriving sector

The outcomes of this first year of research in the area include:

  •  Creating a common definition of live cinema
  • Establishing a national infrastructure for the study and development of live cinema through the Live Cinema Network
  •  Collation of locations, audience and box office statistics on live cinema events
  • Qualitative or quantitative analysis of the live  cinema audience experience and profile
  • Establish best practice for licensing, fundraising and development of live cinema events

The scope of this initial report in light of no previous industry research specific on live cinema is to:

  • Segment the live cinema sector in terms of cultural, economical and organisational development
  • Provide initial analysis of primary data sets; establishing the ‘known unknowns’ for the sector
  • Provide recommendations for further research,  including the introduction of box office data capture and further testing of audience and exhibitor profiles from initial surveys and consultations.

Key Findings


There is general consensus in the film industry that live cinema is a distinct format from event cinema (the broadcast of theatre, opera and other events to cinemas nationwide), though the term is not commonly used by audiences. Live cinema events can be typified as three categories: enhanced, augmented and participatory. Films screened as live cinema events come from a vast array of genres, with silent film as the largest proportion (18%). Cult and genre titles make up over a quarter of live cinema productions (27%), and world cinema titles are a particular area for future development potential.


Live soundtrack events constitute 54% of all live cinema events in the UK, providing much work for musicians choosing to specialise in the area, alongside a vast range of other artistic and technical roles in the sector.


Producers of live cinema events come from a diverse range of artistic backgrounds. There is a 100% retention rate for live cinema producers: all consulted will continue to create new work in the sector.


48% of UK independent film exhibitors host live cinema events, constituted by cinemas, festivals and pop up exhibitors nationally, with the North of England, London and Scotland being particularly active regions. There is no national method of box office data collection at present for live cinema events which should be immediately addressed. There is cohesion between ticket prices charged nationally for live cinema events, and audiences are generally satisfied with the price they pay.


Licensing film content is a common barrier for artists, producers and exhibitors. Best practice for acquiring licenses is presented here, and encouragingly 100% of content holders consulted would like to license for films for live cinema events.


The majority of live cinema audiences are frequent cultural event attendees with 61% regularly attending the theatre and 54% attending popular music. Live cinema events encourage audiences to attend other cultural events: 46% want to attend more immersive theatre events, 48% more popular music events, 32% more classical music and 28% more dance events. Discussion of live cinema events online provides opportunities for live cinema organisations to position themselves as unique brands, and deeper engagement with individual events has room for development.