“Town centres first”: the relocation of the cinema from out of town to the town centre (Invited paper)




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Peer reviewed


In 2013 the British Film Institute (BFI, 2013) reported that 48 per cent of Britain’s 3,817 cinema screens were in town/city centres, 14 per cent in ‘edge of centre’ sites and 34 per cent in ‘out of town’ sites. Though the multiplex cinema is still located predominantly outside the urban centre, changes to planning laws in the past fifteen years and a developing culture of “town centres first” has seen the re-emergence of the cinema as a key feature of the city centre. In part the attractions of the multiplex cinema in both out-of-town or town centre, rest with the relative attractions of both locations to cinemagoers and these are determined by a range of demographic factors. According to research undertaken by Mintel Oxygen (2009) cinema-going ‘attracts more than half of all adults to town centres’ suggesting the importance of cinemas to the developing urban leisure and retail economy.

This is increasingly an economy which positions the cinema in relation to a series of other commercial and leisure enterprises, such as bars, nightclubs and restaurants, whose express appeal is to young people and non-car drivers. The concentration of such outlets in Britain’s town and city centres has a bias towards those aged 16–34. If one considers that cinema’s predominant audience are 15–34 year olds (BFI, 2013) then one can see how the cinema assumes a key position in this new urban leisure-based economy. Broadly speaking, where a city centre multiplex exists this has proven popular with younger audiences and those unwilling to drive. This has meant that the cinema, historically associated with the town and city centre of course, has become an integral part of the development of urban centres once more. This paper considers the reasons for this, how important the cinema is for specifying the urban leisure experience and the impact upon the design of cinemas. It does so through a case study of Leicester, in the East Midlands region of the UK.




Hanson, S. (2013) “Town centres first”: the relocation of the cinema from out of town to the town centre. International Workshop on Comparative Cinema History 2013 - The Lure of the City: Cinema Culture in Small-Towns and Rural Communities in Europe, Universität des Saarlandes, Germany, September 2013.


Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)