The UK Cinema Association has today launched Keep the Magic Alive, a high profile social media campaign aimed at persuading government to provide targeting funding for its members, many of whom are struggling to survive the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Actor and writer Stephen Fry has narrated the centrepiece to the campaign, a short film reminding viewers of the contribution that cinemas make both to individual and community well-being, and issuing a call for as many people as possible to contact their local MP to ask government to step in. The film can be seen here.

While many smaller venues have received funding through the BFI and the devolved administrations, the concern is not only that that may not be sufficient for them given the ongoing restrictions and lockdowns many face, but also that the largest operators – who account for some 80 per cent on the UK cinema market and in many ways provide the ‘critical mass’ for the sector – have so far received no targeted support over and above that offered to business in general.

Commenting on the launch of campaign, UK Cinema Association Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

‘We are hugely grateful to government for the furlough scheme and other business support, all of which has helped to see our members through the COVID crisis to date. But given ongoing challenges, we believe that many cinemas will need further direct funding if they are to survive and recover in 2021.

For our smaller operator members, that may mean additional finance over and above that already provided through the Culture Recovery Fund. But crucially for our larger members, who have so far received no targeted support and account for the vast majority of employment and audiences, that means direct funding to help bridge the increasing revenue gap they are experiencing.

The positive response from the public when cinemas were briefly allowed to re-open in Summer after the first lockdown was overwhelming. We now need to draw on that affection to ask people to make clear to their MP how much they would miss local cinemas if – as is still possible for many – they were required to permanently close.

This is not just about cinemas as places of entertainment, important though that role is. They are also a vital contributor to many people’s mental health and, as well as being key local employers, particularly of young people, also act as a focal point for retail and hospitality activity on the high street, something which is now under pressure like never before.’

As well as Stephen Fry, the campaign has already picked up high profile support from Director Edgar Wright and Film and TV Producer Nira Park, with other key industry names ready to throw their weight behind the lobbying effort in the coming days.

The ‘call to action’ for the campaign is here.