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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Call to protect 'fleapit' cinemas
Mobile cinema (generic)
Mobile cinemas increase access for rural communities
Small town cinemas should be protected to ensure local communities have access to movies, an MP has said.

Councils should be given more powers to protect local cinemas, David Rendel, Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury, told the House of Commons on Wednesday.

He said "fleapits" could help community spirit and tackle social exclusion.

His backbench Cinema (Rural Areas) bill received an unopposed first reading but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.

Mr Rendel said multiplexes accounted for 71% of UK screens in 2003, up from 10% in 1988, and had an adverse effect on smaller local cinemas.

"The problem is that it is the smaller cinemas that tend to serve the rural communities," he said.

"Their closure has resulted in a serious problem of access in many small towns and rural areas.

'Social cohesion'

"The dominance of the multiplex has resulted in what is often a more sterile, individualised film-going experience."

He added that "social cohesion" would be enhanced by access to local cinemas showing "films grounded in a specific cultural context".

His bill follows measures by the UK Film Council to improve access to film across the UK and promote the wider release of specialised films.

These include using 500,000 of Lottery money to provide digital equipment for local film societies and film clubs, and another 13m to create a "digital screen network".

"There are undoubted disparities between different parts of the country over access to film," said a Film Council spokesperson.

"We are trying to address this on a number of fronts."

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