A new stage: How the Cinegi Arts&Film project is helping culture reach new audiences
A new digital platform is making filmed theatre, music, dance and opera available to a variety of venues across the UK
All the world’s a stage, or so Shakespeare said. In practice, not everyone has access to a local cinema or theatre - particularly those that show artistic or independent content. Even with the flexibility that digital technology provides, it’s not always economically viable for venues to screen cultural content on general release. It can also be difficult for independent local promoters and smaller venues to access high definition cultural content that can be legally broadcast.
Cinegi Arts&Film is aiming to change this. With funding from Arts Council England (ACE), and support from the British Film Institute (BFI), it is unlocking some of the large back-catalogue of organisations like the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Globe, the Royal Opera House and the BFI. It is leveraging the capabilities of local venues from church halls to pubs and clubs, allowing local organisers and promoters to show this material and reach new audiences in venues that might not ordinarily screen films or cultural content.
Promoters who wish to screen content using the Cinegi platform will be able to pay for access to a range of different titles for public display to paying audiences. The content is available via a high-definition download from the Cinegi website and can be screened with standard equipment. The range of programming available through the website will expand throughout 2017.
The project embodies a wider trend in how digital technology can bring in new audiences for the arts as we have seen from Nesta’s earlier work on the effects of live streaming of National Theatre performances. Digital isn’t just about the online world, it’s also about enabling existing venues to offer new experiences, reach new audiences, and improving the access to cultural institutions throughout the country.
A key reason this is important is that people’s engagement with culture can be affected by how easy it is to travel to cultural venues. In making it possible for a pub or community centre to show this content the project will help greatly expand its reach, creating a new cultural distribution network. The output of national cultural institutions aside, the project also aims to make it easier for local content to find new audiences. Content related to specialist interests such as local areas is not always commercially viable for general release, but can find a paying audience if distributed locally. There are some striking recent examples where local productions have been successful, for example the film Tin, based on the story of a Cornish mine, outperformed major blockbusters in the county.
Nesta and The Audience Agency are working together with Cinegi to understand the project’s effects and help it reach the widest possible audience, building on our previous work to assess the impact of the effect of the NTLive on screenings and our wider expertise in the role of digital in the creative sector. We’ll be analysing what factors affect the success of screenings and drawing on existing data on the distribution of cultural venues and cultural participation to ensure it reaches new audiences. Helping the project to provide local communities with new access to cultural content that’s of interest to them. Culture, as you like it.
For more information on Cinegi Arts&Film, or to set up your own screening, head to their website.
 See, for example: Bakhshi, H. and Whitby, A. (2015), ‘‘Estimating the Impact of Live Simulcast on Theatre Attendance: An Application to London’s National Theatre’, Nesta working paper. Bakhshi, H. and Mateos-Garcia, J. (2010), ‘Beyond live’, Nesta research briefing.
 Brook, O. (2016) ‘Spatial equity and cultural participation: how access influences attendance at museums and galleries in London’, Cultural Trends.
 Digital R&D fund for the Arts (2013 and 2015) ‘Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology.’ Nesta. Davies, J. (2016), ‘State of the Art: analysing where art meets technology using social network data’, Nesta.