Getting kids into cinema

Glasgow Film Festival director Allison Gardner talks about her plans to make films more popular with youngsters.

by Chris Docker

British youngsters are the rich world's worst overall on everything from behaviour and relationships to contentment, at least according to UNICEF's comprehensive report last week. We don't usually think of cinemas as a way of raising youngsters' quality of life, but that is exactly what Glasgow Film Theatre (and current Festival Director) Allison Gardner believes it can do.

"There's a big difference between getting them in the cinema to watching a DVD," she enthuses in the GFT bar, keeping an eye on the door for her partner and two young offspring.

I remember when I was their age. I would meet with several committed friends and we were trusted to be responsible enough to go unaccompanied to a local matinee. "Most kids just want to 'hang out'," says Allison. Going to the pictures, on the other hand, reinforces a certain cultural awareness and interest. Something a bit superior to lounging on street corners.

Allison brainstorming ideas to get young people into the cinema a couple of years ago. "We came up with the ideas but then there was the problem of funding." These days, parents can be as disillusioned as their children and not see the need to contribute to entrance tickets. But Allison's ideas were so convincing that Glasgow City Council eventually stumped up the money.

As we talk, I glance out of the corner of my eye to see a growing queue of enthusiastic but well-behaved children waiting to see Flushed Away. This is the Take Two programme, which includes a range of are family films such as The Devil Wears Prada and each child can take an accompanying adult free of charge. Given the cost of a family outing, this offers a real opportunity for families to get together and bond, as well as empowering their kids.

Teenagers are not left out. They can get free screenings and take part in film discussions under GFT's ScreenDaze programme.

Allison adds: "We don't just go for mainstream. There's even subtitled films."

In my own case, early encouragement to spend Saturdays doing something specific with other responsible children led to a lifelong interest in movies. Some of those kids became my best friends.

Allison agrees: "You get a lot of the same faces coming back," she says. A small step perhaps. But getting the young lounge lizards off panned-and-scanned may be about more than just entertainment.

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