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Permits and licenses to open a cinema

If you want to open a cinema is a very good idea not only for its profitability but also because it is a very entertaining business activity.

But in order to successfully open your business and the assurance that you will manage it in accordance with the law, you must know which permits and licenses you must apply for before opening it.

What permissions and licenses do I need to open a cinema

For opening a movie theater you need to manage certain licenses and permissions that are exclusively for this type of business:

Film License: The film license must be applied for in the local government, as there is a 2003 law that eliminated the need for cinemas to have a separate film license or facilities to have a public entertainment license.

According to the law, you only need to apply for a license from the local authority who will grant you the license for your cinema for films that have been certified by BBFC.

In the case of non-certified films, you must submit them separately to the local licensing authority for local certification.

However, you should not confuse this license with the content license that allows you to show movies, since your cinema must obtain a theatrical license agreement from the distributor for each movie you plan to show.

Non-theatrical license: As a film company or exhibitor in non-traditional theatres, you need to obtain a non-theatrical license.

This type of licence refers to public screenings of films outside the parameters of traditional cinema, for example including clubs, bars, schools, shops, residences, resorts, hospitals and oil rigs.

Because any film screening requires a license regardless of whether it is aimed at a paid audience or not.

Licensing: You should consider two licensing areas:

Copyright licensing: is the license that allows you to show the movie you want.

Licensing Act 2003: is the licence for the screening of the film to the public.

Both permits are considered separately, so if you have one license you must meet the requirements of the other.

Security risks: Before opening your cinema to the public, you should carry out a fire safety risk assessment.

Health and safety: The facility will receive an inspection and a certificate will be issued to you as a specimen of approval. However, please note that the fire department will send an unannounced inspection to the facility to ensure law enforcement.

In fact, local authorities are required to supervise compliance with the law, through the environmental health service, for this reason it is advisable that if you are carrying out a construction permit to involve health and safety inspection from the beginning.

Because you will have to comply with electricity, heating, ventilation, roofing and insurance purchase requirements that you must keep up to date as a condition for obtaining the film license and operating building.

PRS license: This is the license for the playback of music from the soundtrack of movies. You must pay 1% of the net box office in addition to VAT. You may even need the PPL license that allows you to play background music in the auditoriums and lobby.

Restaurant and alcoholic beverage license: You need to obtain this license for the sale of concessions such as the sale of ice cream and popcorn.

Planning permission: The planning permission and a restaurant license will be required if you plan to sell hot food and in the case of alcoholic beverages you will have to submit a license application to the local licensing judges.

Well, if your cinema has a space for the audience to sit down and drink alcohol, you should manage the liquor license, because if the audience can drink alcohol in the auditorium, then you must obtain a separate permit.

Tips for opening a cinema

If you have obtained a license to show a film, you can show the number of times you want depending on that film and the type of license, because there are licenses for a specific film and for a single event.

Keep in mind that the federal copyright law regulates the films shown, so even if you buy or rent a film you do not have the right to show it in the pubic, unless the place of the screening has a license for the public exhibition.

In this sense, the ownership of films and the right to screen them publicly are two separate issues.

Therefore, the copyright holder retains the exclusive rights of public projection.

This is a legal requirement that applies to private clubs, businesses, recreation departments, parks, camps etc. regardless of how films are obtained.

Copyright Resources: The MPAA, American Film Association is the anti-piracy organization dedicated to helping local governments enforce the law to stop film and video piracy including unauthorized public screenings.

Please note that any exposure of a film outside the privacy of the home is considered a public exposure.

If your idea is to open it in a school, you should know that if you borrow it from a public library, you can’t use it as entertainment if you don’t have a license.

Well, if you borrow movies from a public library for the entertainment of unlicensed school students, you are violating copyright law and you will also be involving the public library for non-compliance.

The exclusive providers of the public license are Movie Licensing USA.

Therefore, in order to project a movie outside your home you will always need a license, since the federal copyright law regulates protected materials.

In fact, both rented, lent or rented films on DVD or videocassette carry copyright for public screening of the film outside the home, unless the place where it is used is licensed for exhibition under copyright.


Hispanic entrepreneur with a degree in business administration and experience working in the United States. My passion for business and entrepreneurship led me to launch my own blog where I share information and resources to help other Hispanic entrepreneurs achieve success in their businesses.

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