Oh but this was funny. I had to call Laura.
One of my Movie Nighters, a terribly lovely lady who likes a glass of red wine (the grape is immaterial, so long as it’s red and wet, it’ll do), and has a gorgeous collie dog, emailed me to ask how I do Movie Night.
It transpired that the lady is connected in some way to a community group in the nearest town, and they have decided to do their own film ventures, on Friday afternoons in their own venue. This is fine, as it won’t affect me in the slightest. However, she wanted to ask if I had to have a special license for Movie Night, or if I got away with it because I don’t charge an entry fee.
I’m going to take that thought and go home with it. That is the best compliment I could hope to receive. It clearly looks like I’m doing nothing, such is my effortless charm. (No, really.)
Poor woman has now received a reply from me. Two A4 pages on how to run a Movie Night legally.
This will come as a shock. I’m actually relatively clever. Clever enough, anyhow, to look up the legal whatnot before advertising all over social media.
The community group to which this lady is attached have not been quite so circumspect; they’re all over Facebook.
However, they have bothered to seek me out, which works in their favour. With six years of this project under my belt, I am uniquely qualified to speak about what is needed for a Movie Night.
● Point One: Having a license to play music from the radio is not enough.
I can only explain things from this side of the pond. The rest of the world will have its own rules, but in Britain, you need a Performing Rights Society license.
This involves a phone call to the PRS and a brief chat, whereupon, a rather irritating form will arrive at your venue.
● Point Two: When the form arrives, long and tiresome, you must be honest to a fault.
I have known other premises supervisors at other venues, who have played down everything they have in their building to reduce fees.
When I started Movie Night, we filled in a new form and told the truth.
Obviously, with a new and weekly event, our fees went up from the baseline of music and tv, but we kept within the confines of the law.
The PRS form requires a vast amount of detail.
They want to know what sort of technical equipment you have in your venue. This will include radio cassette players, CD players, DVD and BluRay players, televisions, projectors, and any further devices which are used within the building and have provision for broadcasting music or visual entertainments.
They also require details on how many people you can readily accept within the building. It matters not how many might actually show up; this is likely to be a much lower number. However, the number of folks you can accommodate, this will likely be the number the fire inspector has advised you of, is what they’re interested in.
They will need to know how many events you intend to have annually.
Don’t be tempted to get ahead of yourself, you’ll get the same form again next year.
With the Legion, we have a weekly Movie Night all year round, plus the Opera Nights (more on those in another post, undoubtedly), and any sporting events which are available via Freeview. It’s always better to overestimate, but as accurately as possible.
● Point Three: An entry fee will cost you more than you expect.
This is what I have learnt from the imitators. They see me, generally Guinness in hand, blathering for hour upon hour about every sort of film-based trivia, and they think to themselves ‘Movie Night can’t be that complicated, you just need an alcoholic who can press ‘play’’.
It may seem like a brilliant little money-spinner. All you need, surely, is a screen of some kind, a DVD player, DVD, and a kettle. You could charge for a cup of tea or coffee, and whack on an entry fee – you’ll be rolling in it in no time.
If only it were that simple. Our PRS fees work out to several hundred pounds per year. Those who haven’t known enough to ask me, and have tried to set up their own (without benefit of license) have folded and been fined quite monstrous sums for their lack of permission.
Those who charge an entry fee, as many around this way have done, have license fees spiralling into the thousands. It’s almost certainly not worth it.
Another pretender didn’t get the license, got slammed with a big, bugger-off fine and now has to pay quite exorbitant fees.
They reduced the number of films they would show, but in an effort to recoup their spunked-out funds, began charging an entry fee; and it’s a circle.
They charge entry, so their license fee goes up, so they have to charge more for entry. They’re currently charging £8.25 per person, and it’s BYOB.
That’s more expensive than the cinema, and you might not like the film enough to open the bottle. They’ve done very well in making me look like both saint and bargain.
In my case, the Legion is a Members’ Club, as such, we expect Membership, not entry fees.
A Member, by our own bylaws, may bring in family (spouse or partner, and children up to the age of eighteen, whereupon they can be members in their own right) and two guests, who must be signed in.
Non-Members are only permitted entry three times a year, a maximum of once a month. As soon as they’ve been in three times, they must make a decision about whether they intend to come back. If they do, they must become a Member.
Everything on the PRS application form must be accurate to the best of your knowledge, and signed which makes it all very scary and serious.
● Point Four: The size of the fee you pay is prohibitively large.
As alluded to, unless you’re using an old VHS player in a portapottie, the fees run effortlessly into the hundreds, if not thousands.
● Point Five: Supplementary licenses will undoubtedly be offered, this doesn’t mean you need them.
I don’t say they’re all scam-artists. However, when we were told, rather aggressively over the phone, that we needed an extra license of repulsive acronym and several hundred pounds more, rather than fold and just pay it, I called PRS.
It was a scam. A lot of people had fallen for it. This is not to say that there are not additional licenses available. If in doubt, I would contact PRS. It’s in their interests to make sure the ventures around the country do not fold, and can therefore, continue to pay the fees year on year, which ensure that all artists, writers and moneymen are paid appropriately.
● Point Six: There will always be imitators, but they never do the research and are usually closed down with a big fine.
Once your license arrives, and your sticker or certificate displayed, Point Six is just something to enjoy. Imitators very rarely ask advice on how to run a Movie Night. This is because they are already under the delusion that they are the competition.
● Point Seven: it can take a while to get the measure of your audience. My people like an ensemble cast, plenty of Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, mostly comedies, some drama and an occasional musical.
I try different genres as often as possible, but horrors only generate interest at Halloween, and kids’ films don’t work at all.
I did Saturday afternoon family friendly films over the summer holidays a couple of years ago, and just wound up getting drunk in the afternoon, with friends in their forties, watching ‘Labyrinth’.