Award-winning actor, director and writer Kenneth Branagh delivered a barnstorming keynote address on the opening day of this week’s 2022 UK Cinema Association conference, brilliantly explaining his affection for the big screen experience and declaring his support for the work of cinemas across the country.

A sell-out audience of over 300 cinema operators, film distributors and colleagues from across the UK industry gathered at Picturehouse Central, London, to hear Branagh deliver a heart-felt personal tribute to the power of the big screen.

In a wide-ranging address which touched in his insistence that those looking to distribute his Oscar- and BAFTA Award-winning film Belfast be required to watch early footage on a cinema screen, and his love of the ‘physical’ aspects of film marketing, he also set out his thoughts on the reasons behind the resilience of the cinema experience, even during times of extreme challenge as seen over the last two years.

“I believe that the very experience of cinema is at its best a timeless classic – human beings around the projector light, attending to stories that are part of the rebuild of our shared human experience and its particular size and scale and sound and vision, and in the company of others it remains unique.”

Extraordinarily well-received, his speech kicks off the 2022 event, which over the next day and half considered evidence of the return of audiences following the end of lock-down in 2021 as well as what more might be done to encourage hesitant older cinema-goers to return, including the potential value of event cinema.

Shorter ‘spotlight’ sessions also looked at the experience of those behind The Living Room Cinema in Liphook, Hampshire, a cinema built during COVID and now due to open in a few weeks and the Electric, Birmingham, re-opened after a lengthy period of closure and neglect. Other short sessions considered the increasing importance of audiences for South Asian cinema and the challenges of marketing smaller titles in an increasingly busy film slate.

Day two was launched by an opening address from Mia Bays, Director of the BFI Film Fund, setting out the range of key BFI-funded independent film titles coming to UK cinema screens in the coming weeks and months.

In his closing remarks for the event, UK Cinema Association Chief Executive told the audience that everyone in the industry should be incredibly proud of the resilience and strength they and colleagues had shown over the last two years, but the hard work of the recovery was still underway – all had a part to play, not least as ambassadors for the sector.

He also suggested that the sector should re-commit to ambitions expressed before the pandemic that the UK should be looking to reach 200 million admissions per year in the next five-ten years.