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Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will make a statement on the future of small independent cinemas. [114867]

The Government are committed to ensuring that a wide variety of films is shown in cinemas across the UK. When it established the UK Film Council in April 2000 as the Government's leading strategic agency for film, one of its key objectives was to develop film culture by improving access to film.

For this reason, the UK Film Council provides funding for independent regional cinema through its network of Regional Screen Agencies. Last year, £1.25 million was provided to support independent cinemas.

In addition, the UK Film Council is currently finalising a cinema exhibition strategy to further support audiences and, where appropriate, cinema exhibitors. This strategy will be delivered using £18 million of Lottery funding, £15 million of which has been delegated to the Film Council from the Arts Council of England, and is aimed at ensuring that the widest range of UK audiences gain access to the broadest range of British and International cinema.

The key components of the strategy are:

a Cinema Exhibition Fund totalling £14 million for investment in a 'circuit' or network of specialised cinema screens, including an allocation for 'traditional' capital use such as refurbishment;
a Digital Fund totalling £1 million for investment in non-theatrical exhibition, and a package of measures aimed at increasing the availability of soft-subtitled prints1 for the deaf or hard of hearing and audio description facilities for the blind or visually impaired; and
three UK-wide funds, each of £1 million per annum:
a Cinema Education Fund;
a Specialised Print and Advertising (P&A) Fund; and
a UK Film Distribution Programme.

Through the Film Council and the Cinema Exhibitors' Association, the Government are made aware of the issues and concerns facing independent cinemas in the UK.

1 "Soft" subtitling, as opposed to 'hard' subtitling that appears automatically on the screen, is stored on computer disc, which can be projected onto the screen when required using new sub-titling technologies equipment (such as DTS and Dolby).