Film Unit

The oldest student cinema in the UK

Film Unit is an independent cinema in Sheffield, whose aim is to make cinema going an enjoyable experience. 

Reading the Film Unit programme

Richard Clesham, Chairperson of Film Unit, said:

“As an independent cinema, we want to be more than just a place to watch films. We’re contributing positively to our community, whether that is the University of Sheffield or Sheffield as a whole.”

‘Rediscover Cinema’, the slogan of Film Unit, means that people will be able to discover a wide variety of films that they might never have seen or come across at an affordable price.

Old but still popular

Located deep in the University of Sheffield Students Union, this is oldest student cinema in the UK. It has been entertaining movie enthusiasts since the 1950’s.

In 2005, the British Federation of Film Societies (BFFS) gave Film Unit the award for the longest serving BFFS member student-run cinema in the UK. It also won BFFS’s Best Student Society ‘Distinction’ in 2005 and ‘Golden Gnome’ Award for Contribution to Student Life in 2006. It has recently been shortlisted for Best Working Committee at 2012 Activities Awards.

Chairperson Richard said:

“We’re now in our sixty-third year as a student cinema which is crazy to think about. To ensure that we remain popular and successful, we are immersed in the whole student population and in Sheffield.”

The cinema’s popularity amongst students is confirmed by the fact that it is entirely run by student volunteers.

Film Unit Cinema

Anyone can visit the Film Unit for only £2.50. This is considerably cheaper than commercial cinema retailers. Entrance fees are waived for volunteers, who are always welcome.

Richard said: “We’re keen to know what the customers think. If the audience are a part of the process then they’ll be more interested in the films we show.”

Independent and flexible

Film Unit said that as an independent cinema it has its own advantages. Richard said that the main advantage is that they don’t have any expectations placed on them about how much money they should make.

“We are not only about profit. We care about showing films and enjoying the cinema experience, whereas commercial chains are forced essentially to be more focused on profit margins and making their shareholders happy.”

Film Unit does not have to choose films based on external factors such as box office returns. They simply choose what they think their customers will enjoy. They also study their audience figures and feedback from previous years, to see what kind of films are welcome. They monitor film reviews and festival reports to keep track of the latest films.

On Tuesday May 9th, suggestions will be taken in the foyer of the Students Union to gather requests for the next half of the year.


“We are overall a very community-minded organisation,” said Richard.

As a working committee, there are two different ways for Film Unit to provide a service to people. One is simply delivering a film-going experience. The other is providing a wider service within the community on the basis of film exhibitions, such as collaborations with other societies, helping local charities and listening to people.

A poster from Film Unit

“We celebrate and promote others within the community, attract people from outside the University of Sheffield and even of Sheffield, and ultimately give something back to the community that supports us.

“We are entirely supported by the local community and we want to show our gratitude through supporting local charities like SHIFT and Project Buzz.”

On March 8th, Film Unit had a special show to celebrate International Woman’s Day. People could watch the movie, The Help, for free. This film raises awareness of International Woman’s Day.

On May 9th, Film Unit is going to putting on a Charity Screening of The Woman In Black to raise money for the West Pokot Education Project, which has been set up by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography.

In order to show a wider range of films, they have decided to update their technology by replacing the current 35mm film projector with a digital one, which will cost around £40,000. See details of Film Unit’s fundraising campaign here.

Supported by the community and serving the community is what Film Unit is all about.

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