Bringing cinema to farms

News Posted 30/05/17
Hampshire arable farmer Christopher Horn has launched one of the most unusual diversifcation projects in the South East.

After two years of testing, he is showing feature films on farms across the country this year. Film On A Farm, began on his family’s Bushey Down Farm in Hampshire and a friend’s farm near Newbury.

But the popularity of watching a famous film in the open air from the comfort of a deck chair, bean bag, duvet or anything else while eating ice cream and popcorn has spread. Last year there were six screenings on the two farms, and this year there are 13 screenings on nine farms, including Bushey Down.

“I own all the cinema kit and hire a generator and a Transit van,” said Mr Horne. “The idea is that we will do everything ourselves. But over the next couple of years, other people could copy our model and perhaps we will offer it as a franchise.”

Mr Horn emphasised that Film On A Farm is not a drive in cinema. “We looked at that originally and it could work. The problem is that all our grain stores which could be suitable for showing films have just one big entrance – so from a fire exit point of view, we could not make it work.”

So far, the business has not lost money over the first three years with Mr Horn investing in equipment such as lighting and transformers and spending a bit on advertising. “I think this is an opportunity for a business which means that I don’t have to draw quite so much money from the home farm.”

As a partner in the family business with his father Stephen and uncle, Mr Horn manages the diversification projects. “It’s an arable farm which gives us more time to play with because there is no livestock to look after. We have to work our season round the harvest, but there are a few people at home all heavily involved in the farm so that I can come away for a day without leaving the farm short of labour.”

Films and acting have always interested Mr Horn. “I spent time on stage performing when I was younger, and still do a bit now.” As to his favourite film, he is not sure but has enjoyed screening Notting Hill and Four Weddings And A Funeral. “We showed Grease and had everyone dancing around the field to that.” He is the owner/director, but is helped by Sarah Murray who does all the marketing and a lot of the day to day running of the business.

Mr Horn is the projectionist, and on the evening he spoke to South East Farmer, he was planning to show The Lion King at Manydown Family Fun, an activity farm near Basingstoke. “Three guys are doing the technical stuff because this is our first away day.”

Tickets cost £15 for a single, £38 for a family of four and £8 for children, but these prices are kept under review. “For our Lincolnshire venues, we have dropped the prices a bit because they are very rural and might struggle to get people out there.”

Licensed distributors are paid a fee to show the films. “We pay on a per head basis, so the more successful we are, the more we pay.” Farms where the films are shown pay a refundable deposit which is kept if they bail out for any reason. They sign up to a collaboration agreement, which Mr Horn said was a profit sharing arrangement which “incentivises the venue provider to do as much as possible.”

Anyone who wants to book a film should go to www.filmonafarm.co.uk


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