Vue and the BFI team will bring more UK and international films to UK screens

European film giant Vue is partnering with the British Film Institute to create more exposure opportunities for British, independent and international films.

From May, the cinema chain is set to show a series of films curated by the BFI in all of its theaters in the UK. The program will be called “BFI Presents” and the films will screen at Vue’s 88 cinemas across the country.

Vue and the BFI have a special bond given that the CEO and founder of the exhibition chain, Tim Richards, was appointed chairman of the film organization in February 2021. However, the Canadian executive says Variety that discussions for such an initiative were underway long before the pandemic, and that its desire to bring more independent pricing to Vue cinemas “predates [his] presidency.”

“We know there is a market for independent, foreign and British films,” said Richards. Variety. “We want to try to get these films to our customers. It is our belief that it exists. I see it a bit like an organized movie service for our customers, where the BFI, with the experience they have, will actually watch the little movies and watch what’s [appropriate for Vue].”

Richards admits “there’s a perception that the big operators only play mainstream movies – but that’s not the case.”

“It goes a step beyond what we have done in the past and we are moving towards a more organized organization [arena]and really use a world-class organization like the BFI to program films on our screen,” he added.

There will be no additional cost for selected films to be exhibited at Vue, Variety confirmed.

Films will range from newly released, award-winning UK and international films to hidden gems and restored classics. The titles – many of which normally play in independent cinemas or specialty channels like Everyman or Curzon – are all handpicked from BFI seasons by a team led by BFI Head of Program and Acquisitions Stuart Brown and Julie Pearce, responsible for program distribution and operations.

The program kicks off May 18 with special previews of ‘Benediction’ (pictured), a biographical drama about Siegfried Sassoon written and directed by Terence Davies and starring Jack Lowden as the British poet. The pic will be shown two days before its general UK release on May 20.

Other upcoming films include “Brian and Charles,” a comedy from British director Jim Archer. The film will screen on June 28 before its release in July. (Both “Blessing” and “Brian and Charles” are supported by the BFI with funding from the National Lottery.)

It’s still unclear how long the chosen films will screen on Vue. Tickets for “Benediction” and “Brian and Charles” go on sale Tuesday.

Richards says he would eventually like to invite prominent directors and producers to program the “BFI Presents” screen for a while. “We would just go to a top director and say, ‘Here’s the palette and you can program it however you like with hidden gems,'” says Richards. “It’s the beginning.”

The BFI reported earlier this year that films backed by US studios had their highest ever UK box office share in 2021 at 36.1%. In stark contrast, the market share for UK independent films was 5%, a sharp drop from 2020’s share of 14%.

Darcy J. Skinner