Family Film Clubs: The Pyramid at Anderston & Robert Burns Centre

At Film Hub Scotland, we’re supporting exhibitors to develop their family programming and creative learning offers. Here we share reports from two of our members who have successfully grown their family audiences over the past year.

(This article forms part of our ongoing Education in Cinema project, supporting exhibitor-led film education across Scotland. The project is funded by Screen Scotland)

Callum Bell recently took part in our New Producers Scheme with a placement at The Pyramid at Anderston. During their time there, Callum helped develop a family programming strand, which they tell us about here in a lovely write up.

Meanwhile, The Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries was one of the first recipients of our new Family Programming and Creative Learning Workshop in March 2024. This free workshop day gives participants the chance to share best practices on working with family audiences, watch some shorts from the Discovery Film Festival Greatest Hits collections, experience a hands on film education session (which they could then deliver), and network with neighbouring organisations. The team at Robert Burns invited us to deliver the workshop as they seek to build on the existing success of their two Film Clubs for young people. Below, Alice Stilgoe gives an overview of their current offer.

Jim Parkyn, an older man with a large white beard, smiles and holds up a small model of Gromit. To his right a smiling young girl with glasses holds up another Gromit model. Jim Parkyn making Gromits in a Pyramid workshop

The Pyramid at Anderston (Callum Bell)

It was my privilege to deliver The Pyramid at Anderston’s film programme over Winter 2023/24 (who run films every winter, and all sorts of community programmes throughout the year). This was as part of Film Hub Scotland and Screen Scotland’s New Producers Scheme. As part of this scheme, community cinema venues like The Pyramid can be funded to have a young adult marginalised due to race, gender, sexuality, age, class, and disability trained on the job to produce film events for Scottish audiences.

The four venues in my cohort provide very various types of cinema, with the Pyramid differing starkly from Alchemy Film & Moving Image FestivalGlasgow Short Film Festival, and Glasgow Film Festival’s curation. At the Pyramid, we put on double-bills, with the first film almost always being a family/kids’ film.

This is chiefly because of The Pyramid’s core-aims of developing community, advancing culture and relieving poverty in a mainly residential and historically underserved city-centre location immediately surrounded by three primary schools, two nurseries and Glasgow Gaelic Secondary School.

In this article, I wish to share our successes and challenges in family film programming, especially so that our experiences might help anyone developing similar community cinemas.

Perhaps best to start with is the family-friendly gem of our season, Aardman Animation workshops led by one of their senior model makers Jim Parkyn, with a Gaelic screening of Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) [Mallachd an Fhir-rabaide]. The screening was included with the workshops, but could also be booked separately by donation.

Some words from Jim:

“The Pyramid is always a great location to hold screenings and workshops and is a highlight of my calendar.

“The audience attending are diverse and enthusiastic which makes for a great experience.

“There is a really lovely level of interaction and I am never left waiting for questions about the films I have worked on and how and why I do what I do.”

Jim can be booked for similar workshops through:

Unfortunately, there were no English subtitles available as the dubbed version has different timecodes. I scavenged the internet, tried to fix the timecodes myself, and asked the relevant organisations before I could confirm this for certain. So, an apology email with opportunity to refund had to be sent a few days in advance for any attendees who weren’t fluent enough in Gaelic.

With some Islay blood flowing in me, this is where something particularly encouraging happened. We still had almost 50 people sit through the entire movie (which was around the size of nearly all of our family audiences, with two exceptions that I’ll mention later).

The fact that we had so many people in Glasgow spend their Saturday sitting through a film understandable only with Gaelic fluency is indicative of what many of the parents at the screening told me – this screening was a rarity, and there’s not nearly enough Gaelic family events in Glasgow.

And this is a city where all of its Gaelic schools now have huge admission queues. Community cinemas, along with probably all of the Glasgow’s events sector, haven’t caught up with this growing gap in the market that’s mainly appeared within the past decade.

A middle aged woman with classes holds up a Shaun the Sheep figurine. To her left, a grinning young boy also holds up a sheep figurine. Shaun the Sheep at the Jim Parkyn workshop

A film that performed a lot less well than we hoped was Chinese animated adventure Monkey King: Hero is Back (2015, dubbed into English with a cast that includes Jackie Chan). I won’t even repeat here how many people turned up, but I will mention what might not have worked!

We put on many foreign films during our season, but this one and Were-Rabbit were the only two that we couldn’t secure a dual-language screening for. We decided on the English dub-version, which may or may not have been a mistake. I got in touch with many Chinese-speaking organisations throughout Glasgow and the Central Belt for this, but it may not have been of interest to many people in this community without any way to enjoy it in its original Mandarin. And a film like this, although a smash-hit in China, is unreleased and hugely obscure in the UK.

This contrasts with The Boy and the Heron (2023) which we also showed exclusively in English (with our standard descriptive English subtitles, as we aim to make our screenings as accessible as possible). Almost 80 people showed up for this, making it our 2nd most popular screening. This hits an intersectional sweet-spot that is worth looking out for when screening family films. Basically, it’s a film that generally-speaking kids, their parents, students, film buffs and anime fans can all enjoy, which from what I could tell represents well our turnout that day. Studio Ghibli having broke the market in the Anglosphere enough to be a household name, their films demonstrably appeal to a massively wide audience demographic.

An incredibly important question flags up here. If The Boy and the Heron was showing at other cinemas all over the city at the same time (and even earlier) than our screening, cinemas that have more money and facilities might I add, then why did so many people show up for our sports hall showing? This same question applies to other family first-releases we put on that were big successes, like Wonka, Wish and Migration.

I’ll offer here my attempt at an answer. Our first releases were £5 per ticket, or by donation (along with more obscure screenings) when we deemed appropriate. We advertised that group discounts were possible on request to account for large families. It’s also worth noting that our average donation was always close to £5, and we even earned more money on some of these because EventBrite takes less of a cut for donation screenings. All of our screenings included a cheap-as-chips tuck-shop that served all of the classics (here’s looking at you, Qwenchy Cups and Freddos), and hot drinks.

On top of that, all of our screenings included the time and space for people to chat.

In a cost-of-living crisis where many families in Glasgow are probably struggling to get by, in a time when people can spend a lot less by streaming the newest films at home, community cinemas have to realise that they here have an implicit advantage over mainstream cinemas.

I’m not saying they can make as much money, because that’s definitely not the case. But what I’m saying is that they can offer now more than ever something hugely meaningful. Cinema, as opposed to mere film, is above all a communitarian art-form. It’s all about people connecting over films. This is why we also included Q&As and event-enhancements wherever possible.

And community cinema is the most democratically-empowering form of this communitarian art-form. It makes the newest and best films available to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to keep up with everything that’s being released.

By providing community cinema aimed at families – with their needs and wants at the forefront of our minds – then we just might reach kids in that bracket enough to inspire them to tell new sorts of stories that will grace our screens in the hopefully fairer world of tomorrow.


A group of 12 people standing at the front of a cinema screen. They are holding up a lattice formed by a length of string stretched between each person. Participants in a FHS Family Programming Workshop at the Robert Burns Centre take part in an icebreaker exercise

The Robert Burns Centre (Alice Stilgoe)

With our Wee Film Club we wanted to create a great first cinema experience for very young children, so in 2015 we set up a regular Saturday morning short film screening. After the pandemic, we struggled to revive the Wee Film Club, so changed the format to half an hour of a sing-along followed by an half hour screening of short films or TV episodes for really wee ones.

Wee Film Club is best suited to pre-school age children, but older and younger siblings are welcome and we find that they enjoy it just as much. To date, most sessions have been delivered by Emily Murray, an experienced singer and musician, and Scottish folk singer Emily Smith, both based in Dumfriesshire. Both Emilys create a joyful and relaxed atmosphere, engaging their audience with nursery rhymes and songs thoughtfully themed around the film.

We feel very proud of this strand to date, quantitively as well as qualitatively. Audience numbers are mostly strong and we have a good number of full or nearly full houses, and anecdotal feedback is very positive.

We feel very lucky to have Emily Murray leading these sessions for us, and when she is unavailable, Emily Smith steps in. Both are fantastic musicians, and brilliant at engaging joyfully and playfully with young children.

Due to the popularity of the Wee Film Club, when the cinema is full, or even half full, it can feel quite busy and a bit overwhelming for children who thrive better in quieter settings. Therefore this year we are starting to offer sessions where the audience is capped at 20 people so that we are able to accommodate all families with different needs.

We have also started to extend this strand by working with nurseries and schools throughout the year. Before Christmas, we put on a programme of two short film adaptations of Julia Donaldson books (The Stick Man and The Gruffalo’s Child). It exceeded our expectations and we had to put on additional screenings to meet demand and feedback from nursery managers was very positive. We would like to develop this by offering screenings twice a year (before Christmas and at the end of the school year) and broadening and enriching the programme. For example, by showing less mainstream content and instead show shorts programmed by the Discovery Film Festival or using our Wee Film Club format of half an hour interactive movement and song followed by the film.

A group of nine people stand beside the entrance to the Robert Burns Centre, a stone and brick building. In the backgrouns is a wide river passing under a stone, arched bridge Family Programming Workshop participants outside the Robert Burns Centre

We also launched a film monthly club for tweens in May last year. Our aim for the Tween Film Club is to inspire a love of film in young people and an enthusiasm for discovery in an exciting, safe and comfortable environment. Young people are welcome to come unaccompanied and all tickets cost £3.

The Tween Film Club has got off to a good start and there is clearly an audience for this slot. We would like to develop this strand in two ways: by growing the audience and for the group to have a greater role in selecting the films and deciding the future of the club.

Our target audience for our Tween Film Club is 9 – 12 years / 8 – 13 years, but we are not prescriptive about the exact range. While our aim is to create a safe environment so that young people feel comfortable to come unaccompanied, there are absolutely no restrictions or regulations around admission.

Many thanks to Callum and Alice for their contributions. If your organisation would be interested in learning more about receiving our free Family Programming and Creative Learning Workshop, please contact