The first early thoughts about a community cinema were aired at Biggar Rotary Club just before Christmas 2010. In February 2011, four film enthusiasts met to get the idea going, and we screened our first film at the end of March. Our Chairman, Tom Matthews, who had been one of the founders of the original Biggar Film Club in the 1970s, remarked: 'It took us 12 months to set up the operation 40 years ago, and this year we did it in six weeks!'
Our objectives were to run a community cinema on a non-profit basis, and to disburse all the surplus from our screenings as charitable donations to local organisations and Rotary projects. We also believed it was important to provide the opportunity for members of an isolated rural community to enjoy good films without having to make a round trip of 60 miles or more to the commercial cinema.
Our first film, shown on Saturday 26th March 2011, was Hope and Glory, directed by John Boorman in 1987, starring David Hayman, Sarah Miles and Ian Bannen, and featuring Sebastian Rice-Edwards. The classic Hope and Glory had been shown in 1988 at the Biggar Film Club, so it was most appropriate that the film should be shown on our opening night. A display of posters from the '70s and '80s included one for the first screening of the film.
To launch Biggar Little Cinema, David Hayman made a personal appearance and introduced the film. We were very pleased indeed that David was able to be there to speak to us about the film in which he starred. We were delighted that so many supported us to make our first night such a resounding success.
David was delighted with the amount raised for his charity Spirit Aid. The collection on the evening raised £270 - we were so thankful to all for being so generous. Together with a donation from the Rotary Club, almost £1,000 was raised in total.
David Hayman speaking at our opening night, with the poster for the original showing of Hope and Glory in 1988
Following Hope and Glory, we continued with a mini-season of three more films, to gauge support for the idea of a community cinema, to determine the time of year which was most suitable for screenings and to ascertain which type of films were of interest to our audience. Hence, we chose three more films, each very different in subject, content and style, for April, May and June.
Our April film was Made in Dagenham, a comedy drama with a host of British actors, based on the Ford sewing machinists' strike of 1968 that aimed for equal pay for women. Judging by the laughs from the audience, the film was a particularly good example of quintessentially British humour.
In May, we screened The King's Speech, perhaps the most successful UK film of all time. Colin Firth played King George VI, who, to overcome his stammer, consults Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian speech therapist. We had such a strong response for tickets to The King's Speech, that we screened it on two evenings. Momentum Pictures, the producers of the film, very kindly agreed to waive their licence fee for one of the screenings, effectively adding £120 to the amount raised.
The final film, in June, for our opening mini-season was Unstoppable, an action movie based on the true story of the US railroad incident in 2001, where a train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals ran through North-Western Ohio with nobody at the controls. Again, the film was very well received by our audience.
Since our opening mini-season, we have gone on to run a regular season of 12 screenings each year, showing a film each month from October to March inclusive. We have two screenings of each film, generally on the last Friday and Saturday evening of each month, although, especially over the Christmas period this schedule sometimes alters. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who has supported us over the years, both by renewing their membership annually and by purchasing tickets for individual performances.
If you would like to read about the films we have shown each year, then simply click here to be go to our films page.
To assist us in showing films which were of greatest interest to our audience, we conducted a detailed survey at the conclusion of our first season, asking viewers which of our films they had especially enjoyed, together with the type of film they would like to see in the future. We have been constantly informed by these comments, and have borne them in mind when selecting titles for our screenings each season. As a result, our objectives are to choose up-to-date films, many of them multiple award winners, with a wide audience appeal, as well as films which we believe offer something a little unusual, and hence of special interest to cinemagoers.
We have also undertaken audience surveys to determine which days of the week are most suitable for our cinemagoers. As a result, our screenings are on Friday and Saturday evenings wherever possible, as these are the two evenings which have been voted as the most popular.
In addition to our regular season, since 2016 we have shown an extra film on the last Saturday evening in April, for one night only, to raise funds for a chosen charity. We offer a special vote of thanks to everyone who has supported these charity evenings.
If you would like to see the total donations we have made over the years, please click here to go to our donations page.
None of the above would have been possible without the support and encouragement of a number of people, from those who gave up their time as committee members to set the whole thing up, to members of Rotary and others who help on the evenings, to Brydens who sold tickets in the early years and Hamiltons who sell them today - and, of course, to all those local residents, and some from farther afield, who became members, bought tickets and without whom Biggar Little Cinema would not have got off the ground in the first place.
Actor David Hayman at the Corn Exchange on 26th March 2011
Posters from the original Biggar Film Club, displayed on our opening night, 26th March 2011