Venue Case Studies
Electric Palace, Harwich
The Electric Palace Cinema is a heritage-listed cinema based in the port town of Harwich.
Why We Started This Work
The first YFP group at our historic cinema in Harwich, was set up in December 2021 by our Education Officer at that time, Laura. It consisted of six members, all over 18yrs, three from Harwich & three living in nearby town Colchester while studying at the University of Essex.
At that time, the cinema was still closed after delays in a major renovation project funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) & Historic England. As well as having no cinema, covid restrictions were still a big implication regarding groups meeting up so Laura had to launch the first YFP Group of the Electric Palace completely online!
Despite such setbacks, the group were able to complete a successful programme and with us finally reopening our doors to the public on April 8th 2022, celebrating with a finale event screening of 1958 film Dracula. This included a dressing up competition and Q&A with a local drama group who happened to be in rehearsal for their latest play- Dracula! I took over as Education Officer from Laura in February and we decided to continue with a YFP group as the aims were still very much at the forefront of our minds- to encourage greater awareness of routes into the film and cinema industry, reduce/remove barriers for teens and young adults to become involved in our cinema either as part of the programming, as audience members or as part of our volunteer team- or possibly all three!
While four of the original group moved on, we were very lucky that two members decided to stay on and were both keen to be more involved now that the cinema was up and running and felt that they could be useful in supporting any new recruits. Recruitment had proved tricky for Laura back in 2021, so I was hoping it would be a lot easier second time around- it wasn’t! Adverts on twitter, Instagram, Facebook and our website had a lot of views and many comments indicating interest, but no one actually emailed to join up. After a few weeks of advertising, two new members were recruited who had both been keen to join up last year but hadn’t been able to due to their age (originally it was advertised for 16-25yrs) so we decided to lower the age to 15yrs & they could then both join us.
Our Planning and Approach
We began our new 15-week programme on 27th November 2022 with these four members and considered it was ok to stay small rather than continue to try recruiting. I put the programme together using the evaluation from Laura and the resource pack from Film Hub Southeast, ‘Setting Up Your Young Film Programmer’s Group.’ Weekly meetings on a Sunday morning were settled on, moving to zoom on a Monday if the cinema was booked up for private functions. On our first meeting, we completed safeguarding requirements and decided on our goals- Pick three films to screen over the duration of the course, work on promoting the films to appeal to a younger audience & increase knowledge of progression routes into the film industry.
The first film the group decided to screen, The Nightmare before Christmas, went ok with ticket sales in the 70s over two screenings. The second programmed film was a total surprise of a film classic- Home Alone- which saw 117 people sitting in our cinema on Christmas Eve! This was brought about by the YFP coming up with a poll on social media and Home Alone was chosen against three other films. Not only did we see more youngsters at this event, but we saw families of mixed generations who enjoyed reminiscing and reported that they would love to make it a festive tradition!
The final film chosen was a bit of a risk for our cinema, M3gan, with it being very much aimed at the audience we struggle to get-15 to 20’s age group. The YFP set up a Tik-Tok account to make a great teaser & used AI Assistance to produce eye catching flyers. Once again figures were ok, 40 overall from two screenings, but the actual success was that the audience was dominated by younger people with many of them visiting for the first time!
Reflecting on this YFP journey, I think the hardest part happened right in the beginning when trying to recruit members. I did receive some advice from our group which I am happy to pass on-do not expect young people to sign up via email! Our two youngest members both said this is too much effort and it’s better to have a link to just click. Also, I would recommend contacting secondary schools and colleges in the local area and inviting yourself in to tell them personally about the programme.
As we prepare to celebrate the completion of our programme (with a film of course), I would say the highlight has been watching this group start to bond and work together to find the best routes into increasing audiences for our cinema. That and the fact this is the first time our youngest member has ever completed a club all the way to the end!
Hayley Forrest, Education Officer at The Electric Palace.