Creative Start-ups Series – Screen 22 with Amy Gathercole PT 1

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What is Screen 22?

Screen 22 is a rarity, currently The World’s Smallest Cinema, situated in Hockley, Nottingham. As is suggested by the name, we have 22 (very comfortable) seats and cater for many different types of occasion, from screening films, to playing computer games on the big screen. We play an active part in the independent retail and enterprise community where we can working with local film-makers for affordable prices to them to screen their work and backing innovative events likes MOTF and projects like #PiStreet.  (Watch my latest video interview for Pi Street here). In the past we have hosted photography exhibitions, helped organise surprise proposals of marriage (we have had 9 yes’s and no no’s to date!), hosted music album and launch listening parties and even screened weddings from Las Vegas. We currently host a great 80’s film night, Straight to Video and we were the first cinema to play hosts to the wonderful Kino Klub and if you have an idea for a film club then we would love to here from you (info@screen22.co.uk).

How did you go about buying a cinema & what inspired you to do so?


Ha, it’s not one of the options that springs to mind when you’re a kid is it? Police woman, actress, nurse, teacher…. cinema owner? I’ve been a film fan all my life, my dear ol’ dad used to make me watch hours and hours (often on repeat) of the classics and it stuck with me. I studied Law at university but that was never going to work out for my creative mind and juices.
I started writing film reviews when I was a teen, writing for a then local freebie newspaper and previous to that I even had a few hours a week in a video (yes really a VHS shop) shop – organising the films made me happier than Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory. Then the obsession progressed to a part-time role when I was at Uni writing for Platform the Uni Mag and hosting a radio show too and then luckily I landed a job where people actually paid me to hear my opinion on films, interview the stars and go to premières etc.

I have also worked in the distribution side of the film industry briefly, helping bring some films to the UK market. Cinema is in my blood too, as I discovered recently my great grandparents used to run the Scala cinema in Ilkeston. As for the how, wow, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about that question, it was a question of sentimentality rather than sense in the beginning. Screen Room was closing, I’d spent many happy hours there and I was sad to see it fall into a disused and neglected heap, the thought of a slice of Notts history becoming yet another bar or shop made me angry so I took a risk, a large one and well now soon we’re celebrating the second birthday of Screen 22 being open. So it cannot all have gone wrong can it?

How did you fund the venture in the first place? Any tips for other creative start-ups?


With the funding traditional routes largely, I went through the then Enterprise scheme and worked with The Prince’s Trust and still work with them now, their help and support is truly inspiring, useful and downright awesome. It opens a lot of doors. (If you are eligible and looking to set up in business please consider their start-up programmes.

I didn’t take the loan option that they offered, opting instead for applying for a bank loan and added this to the funds I already had. Granted it cost a lot more than ever intended, and I wasn’t fully aware of what I was getting myself into in the beginning. I’ve learnt a ton, people tell me to write a book advising others… maybe one day! Maybe Kirsty would help me publish it!

A lot of Screen 22 was built on favours, helping hands and a lot of physica,l and at times gruelling, labour (try drilling a row of seats in through and securing to concrete in the pitch black darkness, guided only by a torch beam… I wouldn’t recommend it!) When we took the site on it was a wreck, the foundations of Screen Room had been torn to shreds and we were left with an empty ruin. Or if you look at it in the way I did, a blank(ish) canvas and a lot of energy and ideas.

One top tip would be, collaboration is key. It not only helps you advertise your business but it often aligns you with people who had not only been there and done that but also individuals and companies who are already established and therefore likely to be trusted.

My key example of this is working with the wonderful Richer Sounds, they helped us design and install all of the technical equipment and kit within Screen 22. They certainly went above and beyond the normal call of duty, in fact one of the then installers was even there the night before we opened for our first event as he had worked through the night doing some last minute fix-it jobs. They still maintain all of the kit (projector, speakers, screen, amps etc.) and calibrate the screen regularly ensuring that it is at top performance for our customers. Having their name behind us as a supporter helped us work with bigger clients and showed that they were working with a small independent business, which gives them kudos.

Do you employ anyone, or do you pretty much run the whole thing yourself?

As many put it, nope I run the whole show. I’m a one woman band but there are roadies and crew. For the last two years we have been lucky enough to provide an intern-ship working with Nottingham Trent University to some students, who hopefully we have instilled valuable information and skills into before they go off into the real world. I’ve tried to ensure that these placements are useful, creative and full of opportunities, rather than just becoming the tea boy or girl, as often happens in larger companies. Instead we’ve spent time nurturing. Just ask Lee. Plus they get the added bonus of free cinema tickets!

The website has always been contributed to by volunteers and we’ve gained writers access to film festivals around the country, local press screenings, we ever sent one or two to cover London film premières.

We also work with local businesses and communities where we can in terms of videography, freelance design and other specialist areas. So yes, in essence it is just me that works directly for Screen 22 as an employee, but I am very lucky that so many people are always happy to, and quick to help out when and where needed and I hope to be taking on an apprentice next year, but that will be a huge step for me.

What licensing & practical issues need to be looked at for those doing e.g. pop-up cinema events?

Now there’s a question, got a few hours?  Or possibly days! You would think (and I naively did ) that if you want to show a film, you find out who owns the rights to it, pay them and then you go ahead and screen it, charging an admission or not, however works best for your event.

Sadly it’s not the case, studios own films and they are a bit like the Cookie Monster, greedy. Whether you have an audience of 2 or one of 1,000 it makes little difference, which is a fundamental issue in terms of cinemas, it is a key reason why small and independent cinemas like us are rare. There are only a handful of fully licensed single screen cinemas left. Once upon a time Nottingham alone had around 75 cinemas (come and see them in their glory as we screen a documentary about them as part of Nottinghasm 2013 throughout Sunday’s in October) and all of which turned a profit and ran successfully for years. Tough to believe isn’t it?

There are loopholes, so if you can find content to screen that is unlicensed or where the director actually owns the rights and will do you a deal, then screen away. There are common misconceptions with YouTube where I’ve heard of instances where Pop-Up Cinemas at festivals have screened a film from YouTube or similar and used the argument but YouTube is free. Sadly not the case when the content is an entire film and essentially it’s another form of piracy. The best way to find out who owns what is via the BBFC or the ICO.

Last month we ran a mini cinema in Nottingham Market Square for three days and when faced with the content issue (and outdoor licensing costing more than we usually pay at Screen 22), we thought outside the box and we screened several Ted X talks instead, as well as some locally produced adverts and videso by local businesses such as Mr Stitch FilmsSuperFreak Media, Pi Street and Nottingham’s own Fancy Dress Bank.

 What sort of films do you show? Is everything digitalised?

Sadly when I first took on the old Screen Room site all of the equipment had been ripped out and sold on previously by the owners, there are still holes in the wall where the projector used to be wired in and yes, it was a 35mm system. As I am not a projectionist and the costs to hire one (let alone buying and maintaining a projector) were so extreme it was fortunate that we were told that we were not allowed to run a 35mm projector. So yes everything at Screen 22 is digital. This is a negative from some purists viewpoints, but the truth is that in a few years every cinema in the land will be due to dangers and possible problems that 35mm and reels of film could bring in years to come.

It does have it’s advantages though, in terms of clearer picture, better sound and the fact that we can be very versatile in terms of how we screen content but also in terms of the manipulation factor that we have when working with local filmmakers – allowing them to simply connect their devices, computers and tech without problems.

In terms of what we show, currently we have a limited licence. This means that you can only screen publicly so many times a month, so we used this situation to our advantage and have become the place to go for nostalgia, with our successful 80’s Film Night, Straight to Video and our  own creation, The Sunday Selection. We have an ASK THE AUDIENCE policy so a lot of the time we have an idea and see how many people would be interested via our social media channels. We are not and will never be allowed to show films that are in big chain cinemas at the same time, thus eradicating the competition factor and allowing us to concentrate on what we do well. Entrainment with a difference.

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How does private hire work?

In many different guises and forms, if you have an event, occasion, conference or even presentation that you want to make special, unique and oh so different then come and ask us about it at info@screen22.  We regularly go the extra mile here at Screen 22 and won’t expect any extra for it. A few months ago a customer told me that having a party at my business was like receiving a warm and loving hug. Now you cannot say most cinemas do that can ya?

In what ways do you support DIY independent filmmaking? Do you feel larger indie cinemas like Broadway do enough for the next generation of filmmakers?

In all honesty, we don’t have that much dealings with Broadway, so I am only aware of some of the programmes and seminars that they run to encourage film making and creativity within the arts, as far as I am aware, they do a great deal, working with established and upcoming directors, camera folk and crew. The only area of competition in a business sense is the private hire side of things, of which they are limited to offering ‘My Movie’ on a Sunday afternoon, we are much more flexible and with us the experience is just you and your friends, members of the public are not offered the rest of the seats.

Over the last two years we have worked with several filmmakers, indie and established, some publicly and others privately. Assisting them and enabling them to show their work on the big screen to their friends, family, cast and crew or sometimes to the public. We will be launching a night called Director’s Cut in the new year, think of it like an open mic night but for film.  There are tons for music so we want to offer a similar platform to directors and filmmakers. The format of the night is to be fully confirmed but it will include an interview filmed by us at Screen 22, some short films and a feature if the filmmaker has one. If you wish to submit your work for consideration please do via We Transfer or e-mail links to info@screen22.  We also work with the colleges and universities, last year we hosted lectures for photography students, sound demos for a tech and drama course and we’ve hired out the screening room for students to present end of year/term shows too.

Here’s an exclusive for you too! We also will be hosting a contest alongside our Straight to Video screenings next year, sort of in a Orange Style advert way (Pre Kevin Bacon), where we will be asking people to take on board the ethos behind ‘Be Kind Rewind’ and submit their own versions, which we will then play where relevant. More details to come in December.

You are actively involved with community groups & other small businesses (Cellar 54, The Secret Kitchen etc.), how do you feel this benefits your own business?

As I previously mentioned, collaboration is key. One of the best things I learned this year was a piece of advice offered by my mentor MD, Sharon Roberts of Vision Consulting. (@SharonRobertsUK ) “Never write anyone off, you never know who they might know” – It’s simple but when you think it through invaluable, so at your next event or networking situation hear the person out, as you just never know. That said, I am involved with community groups anyway, not just for business. I am just a person who likes to help people. Screen 22 has a charity policy where every quarter we offer a free hire of the venue to charities that apply. Now, some people tell me that’s stupid for a small business to do and no-one expects it, but why not help if you can?

Also, knowing the businesses around you, in similar situations and on your street, is key. We’re back to collaboration here. We work with Wax Bar next door, offering our customers an after venue with discounted drinks and a great atmosphere to continue the party. We’re also set to be doing similar with The Lord Roberts across the road soon too, for similar reasons but they also promote us – putting up posters in their venue and regularly sharing our social media updates etc.

Working with groups and organisations like Cellar 54, The Secret Kitchen and Bees Make Honey is great. On a selfish note, running your own business quickly gets lonely, so having support is nice and the opportunity to rant, rave and rationalise is ace.

On a business note, by working with such people you will inevitably increase awareness of your own business, organisation or project but in an organic, grass roots way. Which for me is the best way possible, as pay per click and paid advertising to get more Facebook likes etc. is pointless. Why not take the time to generate real fans?

Thanks for reading and hope to see you at either the SOLD OUT LVIV and Zneel Before Zod screening of Phase IV as part of Memories of the Future.

OR… at one of our fringe film screenings –

Adjust Your Tracking – 15th Oct 7.30pm
Sound it Out – 18th Oct – 7.30pm
Indie Game: The Movie – 23rd Oct – 7.30pm

Tickets for all are limited and available via www.screen22.co.uk/tickets

Many thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer our questions & for being a keystone in the shabby loveable drystone wall that is Memories of the Future. We will also soon be posting her top tips on using social media for small businesses. Stay tuned..
Twitter – @Screen_22
Facebook – /Screen22
Tickets – www.screen22.co.uk/tickets
Website – www.screen22.co.uk

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