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Reference > Media law & regulation > UK media laws > Cinema and film > Cinemas Act 1985

UK media laws: Cinema and films


1985 c.13
An Act to consolidate the Cinematograph Acts 1909 to 1982 and certain related enactments, with an amendment to give effect to a recommendation of the Law Commission. 
[27 March 1985]

Control of exhibitions.

1.—Licence required for exhibitions.
   (1) No premises to be used for film exhibitions,
   (2) without a licence,
   (3) which must prohibit admission of children to showing of designated works.

2.—Consent required for exhibitions for children.

3.—Grant, renewal and transfer of licence or consent.
   (1) On at least 28 days' notice of application,
   (2) after consultation with the fire authority and chief police officer,
   (3) whose views shall be taking into consideration,
   (4) licence shall be granted and remain in force for up to a year
   (6) and pending application for renewal/transfer,
   (7) on payment of 82.00 a year or 27.50 a month to maximum of 82.00, or 16.50 for a transfer;
   (8) these sums may be varied by the Secretary of State
   (9) by statutory instrument.

 4.—Regulations by Secretary of State.
Film exhibitions must comply with any regulations about safety provisions and 'health and welfare of children in relation to attendance at film exhibitions' made by statutory instrument.

Exempted exhibitions.

5.—(1) Exhibition in a private dwelling-house to which the public is not admitted
   (2) and which is not promoted for private gain, or is to demonstrate any product, to advertise any goods or services or to provide information, education or instruction,
   (3) need not be licensed nor, if on licensed premises, subject to any regulations.

 6.—(1) Any other non-commercial exhibition to which public are not admitted or are admitted free, or is given by an exempted organisation [see (6)],
   (2) and meets conditions in 5(2) above,
   (3) need not be licensed nor, if on licensed premises, subject to any regulations, unless affected by regulations made under s.4 above.
   (4) Exemption does not extend to exhibitions for children by bodies whose principal object is showing films, (unless in a private house or as an activity by educational or religious institution),
   (5) or where premises have been used for film exhibition on more than three of last seven days.
   (6) For a 'reasonable' fee, Secretary of State can grant certificates to exempt non-profit organisations from licensing
   (7) but not to organisations whose activities involve film exhibitions for private gain, nor to those 'the objects of which do not appear to [the Secretary of State] to consist of or include the giving of film exhibitions to the public'.

 7.—Exhibitions in premises used occasionally.
No licence needed for premises used for film exhibitions on no more than six days in any calendar year, provided occupier gives fire authority and chief police officer at least seven days' written notice of intention and complies with any regulations under s.4 above and with conditions imposed by the licensing authority.

 8.—Exhibitions in movable buildings, etc.
Need not be licensed if owner is licensed by the local authority where he ordinarily resides and gives fire authority and chief police officer of the place where the exhibition is to take place two days' written notice and compiles with any regulations under s.4 and any imposed by the appropriate authority.

9.—Exhibitions on Sundays.
Not an offence under Sunday Observance Act 1780 (21 Geo.3, c.49) to show films on Sundays but no one may work who has been employed on each of the six previous days. Does not extend to Scotland.


Failure to acquire or breach of a licence, and contravention of regulations imposed.

11.—Penalties and forfeitures.
    (1) On summary conviction for using unlicensed premises a fine of up to 20,000; otherwise fine at level 5 on the standard scale.
   (2) Any thing related to the offence may be produced in court and ordered to be forfeited,
   (3) unless 'a person claiming to be the owner of or otherwise interested in it' has had an opportunity to show why it should not be forfeited.

12.—Revocation of licence or consent. Possible on conviction under s.11.
13.—Powers of entry. By police, licensing authority or fire authority with 'reasonable cause to believe' an offence has been or will be committed. Fire authority may enter on giving at least 24 hours' notice to check fire precautions. Authority must be shown if required by occupier to do so.
14.—Powers of arrest and seizure.
15.—Offences by bodies corporate.
16.—Appeals against decisions of licensing authority. May be made to Crown Court in England and Wales, or to the sheriff in Scotland.
17/18.—Special provisions relating to Greater London, for provisional licences for new or changed cinemas and variation of licences under s.1 above.

Miscellaneous and general.

19.—Music and dancing licences not required. Includes interval music up to a quarter the running time of the film programme.
20.—Meaning of promotion for private gain.
    "child" means a person under the age of sixteen';
   "film exhibition" means any exhibition of moving pictures which is produced otherwise than by the simultaneous reception and exhibition of—
        (a) television programmes broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation or the Independent Broadcasting Authority, or
        (b) programmes included in a cable programme service which is, or does not require to be, licensed under section 4 of the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984'.
22.—Amendments resulting from Fire Precautions Act 1971; see Sch.1.
23.—Transitional provisions.
24.—Consequential amendments and repeals.  Specified in Sch.2 and Sch.3.
25.—Short title, commencement and extent.
        Cinemas Act 1985, coming into force three months from the day it is passed [ie: on 27 June 1985], does not extend to Northern Ireland.

Sch.1: Amendments of Act which have effect on coming into force of section 12(11) of the Fire Precautions Act 1971.
Sch.2: Consequential amendments.
Sch.3: Enactments repealed. Including whole of Cinematograph Acts 1909 and 1952, Sunday Cinema Act 1972, Cinematograph (Amendment) Act 1982.

1991/1462: The Cinema (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. Applies similar regulations to cinema exhibition in Northern Ireland as those tha apply in the rest of the United Kingdom.
2002/1903: Cinematograph (Safety)(Amendment) Regulations 2002 Amends the Cinematograph (Safety) Regulations 1955 by reducing the age of responsibility from 21 to 18.
2003/144: Cinematograph (Safety)(Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2003 Amends the Cinematograph (Safety)(Scotland) Regulations 1955 by reducing the age of responsibility from 21 to 18.

Cinema and film laws.
Alphabetical list of statutes.

Page created 22 February 2004
David Fisher