Not only is cinema one of the most accessible forms of experience for audiences on a tight budget, but it’s also a form that straddles the arts, entertainment and leisure categories.
That means that cinema is best placed to be a gateway for people seeking experiences to improve their quality of life, and looking for transformative and positive social interactions.
The law and our definition
Besides that, cinemas have a moral and legal (Equality Act 2010) obligation as public venues to be accessible to all types of audience, and to make suitable changes to their programme and environment to accommodate audiences that may be marginalised by disability, minority or a mixture of traits that could see them feeling alienated from the cinema experience. To this end, we seek to increase diversity throughout the Film Audience Network.
Our definition of diversity is to recognise and acknowledge the quality and value of difference. Our focus is on disability, gender, race, age and sexual orientation (as they pertain to the Equality Act 2010), because there continues to be significant under-representation in these areas. We also seek to ensure that people from lower socio-economic groups are better represented.
There are some compelling statistics to clarify why cinemas should be supported to be inclusive in their approach to audiences, and to provide accessible screenings:
- The UK is among the worst performing EU states on improvements to gender equality, and hasn’t improved in 10 years.
- One in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months.
- Nearly half (42 per cent) of trans people are not living permanently in their preferred gender role stated they are prevented from doing so because they fear it might threaten their employment status.
- Today, 30% of children in the UK are living in poverty.
- There are over 11 million people in the UK with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability. Life costs you £570 more on average a month if you’re disabled.
- It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem and major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease.
- There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – that’s more than 1 in 100. If you include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. 70% of autistic adults said that with more support they would feel less isolated.
- There are 850,000 people living with dementia across the UK, and this is set to rise to over 2 million by 2051. 34% of these people don’t feel part of their community and 61% felt anxious or depressed recently.
- Almost half of blind and partially sighted people feel ‘moderately’ or ‘completely’ cut off from people and things around them.
- 34% of respondents with hearing loss said they were dissatisfied with the accessibility of cinemas. Less than 1% of cinema showtimes are accessible via captions in the UK. 83% of people with hearing loss said they would attend cinema regularly if a nearby cinema had captioned shows at convenient times.
Where a person has protected characteristics that might place them in a minority group, they are also likely to be affected by other factors that increase their diversity and need for even greater measures by providers to ensure inclusion:
- Between 44% – 52% of autistic people may have a learning disability.
- At least one in three autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack of support.
- People from black and minority ethnic communities are at greater risk of some of the leading causes of sight loss.
- Older people with sight loss are almost three times more likely to experience depression than people with good vision.
Inclusive Cinema provides a slice of normal life for audiences with disabilities, and their companions, who may find social and physical barriers when they usually visit cinemas. Simple, practical changes can make a world of difference in bringing film to a wider audience.
Diversifying audiences isn’t just about being fair, and legally appropriate however. There is a real economic value in expanding the capabilities of cinema spaces to bring in audiences from all backgrounds and with a range of requirements. Audience portfolios that are diverse result in more robust organisations, that can handle changes in economic climate, and cultural trends.
As an example, the “purple pound” is the potential spend from over 11 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability, and is reckoned to be worth around £249bn, as you can see in this BBC video.