Frequently Asked QuestionsThe most commonly asked questions about Screen Machine
What is your refund policy?
What happens if you cancel a screening or change your programme?
Please note that you book at your own risk as programmes are subject to change and cancellation. This only happens in exceptional circumstances, for example, when very bad weather causes road closure or cancellation/changes to the ferry services. This can cause us to cancel a visit to a community completely, or to make a shorter visit than planned. When curtailing a programme, we will still try to offer the full choice, but it may result in us offering one screening of a film instead of two or more. Or we may not be able to show a film at all, which we understand is disappointing. Due to the unusual nature of the service that the Screen Machine offers, it may be that we cancel more shows than more conventional cinemas.
In these cases, if you have booked tickets, we will process a refund. We will e-mail all of our customers who have pre-booked using the e-mail address you provided to to let you know what is happening.
It is not possible to transfer your booking reference to a different screening, even if it is for the same film. Your booking reference is peculiar to tickets bought for one particular screening.
We will always give as much notice of cancellations as we are able to: via our website, twitter, facebook and e-newsletter.
How can I contact your office?
Where do you go and what do you show? How do you decide?
The Screen Machine regularly visits between 35 and 40 different communities throughout the Highlands and Islands and beyond. That number has increased since the service was launched back in 1998, as funding support has enabled us to include many of the smaller Hebridean islands, and also occasional visits to the Outer isles of Orkney. We aim to achieve at least full four circuits a year, meaning that most communities will see the Screen Machine four times a year.
Scheduling such circuits is a great challenge! We have to take into account a huge range of different factors: drive times; Summer and Winter ferry timetables; changeover of drivers at the end of each two-week shift; delivering new films to the Screen Machine; ensuring popular films are offered to every location on the circuit; making sure we don’t always turn up at the same location on the same day of the week (especially if it’s Monday). Plus we have to schedule in enough time for regular maintenance, annual MOT, etc.
Of course, the communities we visit vary hugely in population size. Some can support a visit of three or even four days, others can only really justify screenings of two different films on the same day. But too many of these ‘one night stands’ in a row can put a real strain on the opening and closing mechanism (and this Screen Machine is now 11 years old), as well demanding a lot of our drivers!
The Screen Machine was originally set up by the development agency HI-Arts to serve the Highlands and Islands. But for several years now it has been owned and operated by Regional Screen Scotland, which has a remit to develop access to cinema provision in under-provided communities across the whole of Scotland. The Screen Machine is a very powerful tool in delivering that remit, and so sometimes we’ll take it out of its normal circuit for a special event elsewhere in Scotland—usually at a time which will cause minimum disruption to that normal circuit.
We face a constant pull between trying to serve as many communities as possible, and trying to visit each of these communities sufficiently often each year. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes we will need to reduce the number of visits to a particular location, or even drop it entirely from the circuit. We also have to bear in mind that, as a publicly-funded charity, we should as far as possible try to avoid drawing audiences away from any existing cinema provision.
The move from 35mm to Digital projection has made life a lot easier for us. With 35mm, films had to be delivered in large and heavy boxes and ‘broken down’ into three smaller reels. The driver would then have to ‘make up’ each film on to a single reel, and then run it through to check for any damage (and that the reels were in the right order!). At the end of each screening the film would have to be reeled back to the beginning, and at the end of the tour each film would then have to be ‘broken down’ before being returned to the distributor. Space restrictions meant we could only carry a maximum of three feature films at any one time.
Digital films come in the form of small and easily transported hard disks, which are then quickly and easily ‘ingested’ by the digital projector’s computer. There’s no need to run them through to check them. The only nerve-wracking part of the process is that, to avoid piracy or uncontracted screenings, the film distributor provides a digital ‘key’ which ‘unlocks’ the film for its contracted number of screenings. Sometimes that key arrives very late and, as it has to be downloaded, in some locations it can be very hard to get a signal to do so.
So, digital projection has allowed us to carry many more films at any one time, thus offering a larger choice, and also to increase the number of screenings we do, because so much time has been saved from making and breaking up reels of film.
But a lot of other factors come into play. Film distributors take a percentage of the value of each ticket sold. The bigger the film, and the closer to its release date that you want to show it, the higher the percentage, which can start as high as 50% of the net value (after VAT) and, several weeks after the release date, drop to 25% or even lower. And film distributors increasingly look to make as much of their money as possible in the first two weeks or so after the film’s release date, when their marketing is at its height, and before word of mouth may have spread that the film’s a turkey! So for big films like a new Bond or Star Wars, distributors will require that it is screened at least once every day, even 3 or 4 weeks after the release date. Indeed, taking their model from multiplexes, the distributors will sometimes insist that the equivalent of an entire auditorium is dedicated exclusively to a new major film. Easy if you’re a multiplex with 8 screens; impossible if you’re running the Screen Machine with just one 80-seat auditorium!
Family films have always been the bedrock of the Screen Machine’s programme, but given how successful they can be, the film industry produces surprisingly few films aimed at a younger audience. Once every “Paddington’ or ‘Frozen,’ which everyone wants to see—sometimes more than once—has finished its run, there will usually be an instantly forgettable title which engenders no enthusiasm in our junior audiences or their parents! Or there may be a superb children’s film which has had very little media coverage, and so ‘pester power’ doesn’t come into play.
We try to get as much feedback as possible from our audiences as to what they’d like to see, and we’ll soon be launching a new way for Screen Machine audiences to get more closely involved with our decision making. It was local feedback which led us to programme ‘The Lady in the Van’, for example, rather than ‘Brooklyn’, and it was requests from several schools which bolstered our intention to show ‘Sunset Sing’, and in both cases that led to lots of sold out screenings.
But even though digital projection does allow us to carry a wider choice of films, and the size of the film’s ‘hard disk’ makes transport somewhat easier, we still have to try to choose programmes that will appeal across the extent of our tour, from Lochgilphead to Lairg and from Barra to Bettyhill. Ultimately, that has to limit the extent to which we can respond to requests from individual communities for particular films. And although we do receive substantial public funding and commercial sponsorship, ticket sales are still a very substantial part of our income, so we can’t ignore the box office! But at the same time, because we do receive significant support from Creative Scotland, we also want to offer our audiences the chance to try something different—something, perhaps, outside their normal ‘comfort zone’.
If you’re frustrated with some aspects of the Screen Machine’s programme, and you’d like to see a wider range of film experiences in your local community, then why not think of starting a film society? There’s lots of help out there for anyone starting up a new group, or running an existing society, and here at Regional Screen Scotland we can give you initial advice and point you in the right directions. And we’re also keen to work with such local film societies to see if we can programme special ‘film fan’ screenings as part of the Screen Machine programme.
Why would you change the Screen Machine circuit?
Many more communities would like the Screen Machine to visit them, than can be included in a regular touring circuit. So we regularly review the circuit and make shorter or longer term changes. No changes are irreversible! There are several reasons why we might stop visiting a particular location:
A drop in ticket sales. This would have to be a trend over two or more visits before we’d consider moving to a different location.
Loss of suitable site. The Screen Machine needs a ‘hard standing’ site (not grass), that’s close to parking and public toilets, and reasonably visible for our audiences.
Proximity to another venue. Perhaps a previously closed cinema has reopened, as in Aberfeldy, or a multi-purpose venue starts doing regular film screenings. We’re only concerned if the other venue is showing a similar programme of films; otherwise we’d hope that the Screen Machine programme can complement, not compete with, film societies and more ‘arthouse’ film programmes.
‘One night stands’. If ticket sales are reducing at a particular location, we might reduce the length of each visit, from three days to two, or two to one. But, operationally, we can’t have too many one night stands in a row, so there can be a knock-on effect from such changes.
Changes in circuit routes. The differences between winter and summer ferry timetables, or other changes to the circuit, may mean that in order to keep our route logical, we may have to rearrange how we visit certain locations, and one or more might simply become impractical.
Funding. We’re fortunate in having a mix of public and commercial funders which enables us to visit many locations, such as some of the smaller Hebridean islands, where otherwise the size of the population, and the travel costs, would make that location impractical.
When we do withdraw from a location, or reduce the length of our stay, we will always aim to inform members of that community of our reasons, and will welcome discussions as to how any issues might be addressed.
How much do tickets cost?
Full Price:Adult £7.50
16-and-under, Senior Citizen (60+), Student, Young Scot Cardholders, Income support – £5.50
All Young Scot cardholders are entitled to buy tickets at the concessionary rate. If you are a Young Scot cardholder and a Child, please buy a Child ticket. If you are a Young Scot cardholder and a Student, please buy a Student ticket. If you are a Young Scot cardholder and unemployed, please book an Unemployed ticket. And if you are a Young Scot cardholder and not a Child, Student or Unemployed please buy a Student ticket. You will be asked for proof of status before admittance to the Screen Machine.
How can I buy tickets?
There are two ways to buy tickets:
– Book on-line here. Again, these are available up to 3 hours before each show, and they are subject to a booking fee of 50p per ticket.
– At least nine tickets for each film will go on sale at the Screen Machine 30 mins before scheduled start time. Pay cash only for these – no cards!
Please note: All 14-and-unders must be accompanied by a parent/21+ guardian for all 8:00/8:30pm screenings.
Proof of age/status may be required when purchasing or collecting tickets.
The operator reserves the right of admission and will not admit latecomers.
Why do you ask for my mobile phone number?
Can I book specific seats?
Do you accept CEA cards?
I have booked tickets, but not received my e-mail confirmation - why?
When you complete your on-line booking, within a couple of minutes you should receive a separate e-mail which confirms your booking, and gives you a booking code. If you do not receive this, there are a couple of reasons why this could be:
1 You did not enter your e-mail address accurately
2 You use as an @btinternet email address. We have noticed that the vast majority of our customers who do not receive their email confirmation use an @btinternet email address. We have been advised that this is because BT is trying to prevent its customers from receiving what they think could be spam. Sit might be worthwhile checking in your spam or junk file, to see if your confirmation code is there.
We recommend that when you complete your booking, you take a note of your confirmation code which will appear on your screen. Just bring that along to the Screen Machine, and all will be well. Or contact us here at the office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. we keep a close eye on such inquiries coming in and aim to help you as quickly as we can.