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Cinema Licence

In terms of the Cinemas Act 1985 cinema premises require to be licensed by their local authority. This licensing scheme is administered by the Council's Licensing Team.

The Team are able to provide general guidance on the scheme but cannot assist you to complete your application form or provide legal advice on whether a licence is required. You should seek legal advice from a solicitor or advice centre if you are unsure as to whether you require a licence.

Which premises require a cinema licence from the Council?

In terms of Section 1 of the Cinemas Act 1985, a licence is required where premises are to be used for a film exhibition.

A film exhibition is defined as "any exhibition of moving pictures which is produced otherwise than by simultaneous reception and exhibition of:-

  • Television Programmes broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation or by the Independent Broadcasting Authority, or
  • 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".

In addition to the requirement for a licence, where it is intended to organise a film exhibition at premises wholly or mainly for children, you will have to obtain the Council's consent.

Are there any exemptions from requiring a cinema licence?

A licence is not required for:

  • exhibiting films in a private house, to which the public are not admitted provided the exhibition is not for private gain
  • non-commercial film exhibitions to which the public are not admitted or are admitted without payment or exhibitions by exempted societies or organisations.
  • occasional and exceptional exhibitions - where premises are used on no more than six days in the calendar year.
  • mobile cinemas (other than for where the owner of the mobile unit resides)

Additionally, a licence is not required for:

  • video games
  • screening of television programmes at the time they are received.
Which organisations are exempt from the need to obtain a cinema licence?

There are further exemptions from the need to obtain a licence which extend to exhibitions which are given by exempted organisations holding certificates granted by the Secretary of State.

An exempted organisation is a society, institution, committee or other organisation with respect to which there is in force at the time of the exhibition in question a certificate given by the Secretary of State certifying that he is satisfied that the organisation is not conducted or established for profit.

How do I apply for a licence?

If you want to apply for a licence you must submit an application form along with the required documents and the appropriate fee.

Application forms which have guidance notes attached to them and a list of fees are available from the Related Documents section of this page. You should read the guidance notes carefully before completing your application form.

There are two separate application forms. One is for persons applying for a licence as an individual and the other is to be completed by applicants who are companies, partnership or organisations.

If you wish a temporary licence for a particular event your application should preferably be made at least 3 months before the event to allow time for the application to be processed. Applications must be received at least 28 days in advance of the date of the event. 

All applications are copied to the Council's advisors who can recommend that conditions in addition to the standard conditions detailed on this page are attached to the licence when granted. If you do not want to accept any recommended conditions then the application would be referred to the Licensing Committee for a decision to be made regarding which conditions will apply to your licence. Mandatory background checks will be carried out on all applicants by Police Scotland and applicants' details will be retained on computer. You will be contacted once vetting is complete.

How will my application be decided?

Applications which do not attract any adverse comments/objections are granted by the Chief Solicitor under delegated powers. All other applications require to be referred to the Licensing Committee for determination. You will be advised if your application is being referred to the Licensing Committee. The Committee meets on a monthly basis.

How long will my licence be granted for?

A cinema licence is issued for a period of 1 year for both the grant or renewal of a licence. Alternatively if your application is for a temporary licence, the licence will be granted for 1 month.

What standard conditions will be applied if my licence is granted?

Standard conditions that are applied to cinema licences can be found in the related documents section of this page.

How do you complain about a licence holder?

Complaints regarding the conduct of licence holders may be made to the Licensing Team. These should be made in writing by email or letter providing full details of the nature of the complaint.

Complaints regarding unlicensed cinemas should be made to Police Scotland by calling 101.