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Company Profile - City Screen

Since its launch in 1989, City Screen has established itself as one of Britain's leading independent exhibitors, running some of the top arthouse cinemas in the UK.

Many of City Screen's 18 cinemas are branded as Picture Houses and the circuit specialises in screening arthouse, foreign language and quality mainstream films. If you want to watch Zhang Yimou's Chinese martial arts spectacular Hero, Walter Salles' Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries or a quality mainstream animation like Shark Tale, you'll probably be able to find it at a City Screen theatre.

A City Screen cinema likes to pride itself on being the anti-thesis of a multiplex: they are in architecturally interesting buildings, staffed by film enthusiasts, have café-bars as an integral part of the cinema and play challenging and diverse films. In short, they are a film buff's paradise.

Thirteen of its cinemas are located in the heart of university cities such as Cambridge, Oxford, York, Brighton, Edinburgh, Exeter and Aberdeen. Another five can be found in London, including The Gate in Notting Hill, The Other Cinema in the West End and the Clapham Picture House. Unlike multiplexes, they are all found in city centre locations and strive to prove maximum access to the communities they serve.

In fact, City Screen managing director Lyn Goleby says that the company's cinemas are so different to multiplexes and appeal to such a different audience, that they sit very comfortably alongside them in cities throughout the UK. Key customers tend to be students as well as an older demographic made up of film enthusiasts.

Tony Jones and Goleby founded City Screen fifteen years ago when they took over the Phoenix in Oxford, moving into London when they acquired the Clapham Picture House in 1992. It's a private company, run and owned by its management, and now employs 650 people across the country - ranging from ushers to programmers. It has two head offices: one in Soho in London housing the programming and marketing team, and the other in Suffolk where accounts and personnel are based.

In London, a team of eight programmers under Tony Jones and Clare Binns are responsible for creating the individual programmes for each of City Screen's 18 cinemas. They will watch a huge number of films, often travelling to festivals around the world, to select and book the films that play in their cinemas. "It's quite a labour intensive process," explains Goleby.

The company also offers a separate film booking service for independent cinemas called City Screen Virtual Limited. Using City Screen's expertise, it can supply a tailored programme of films to individual cinemas and offers other features such as the design and production of programmes, posters and even cinema design. Cinemas signed up to City Screen Virtual's service include The Electric in Notting Hill, the Everyman in Hampstead and Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle.

Recruitment is done centrally through our Picture House Cinemas website. "We get an enormous number of hits on our job opportunities section of the website," says Goleby, who explains that "people tend to find us" rather than the company having to go and look for staff. Sometimes, however, City Screen will advertise locally - often in its own printed programme brochure - if it is looking to recruit a cinema manager.

The company offers "very little in terms of formal training" with much done on the job. Cinema managers will be offered training such in areas such as health and safety or the Institute of Innkeepers qualification. Where appropriate, staff will also be given the chance to attend formal training in areas such as negotiating or time management.

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