1. Strategy
  2. Our ambitions
  3. Diversifying our audience

Diversifying our audience

By 2033, we will have transformed our relationship with the public, and be widely known as an open house for the discovery and enjoyment of film and the moving image.

We want to welcome new and occasional audiences into a year-round and lifelong relationship with screen culture and the BFI. We want to encourage audiences to experience a thrilling sense of discovery of new and historic voices, technological advancements and different forms of screen storytelling.

We will take a more egalitarian approach, making our online and physical spaces welcoming and inclusive for all. We will ensure anyone can afford to seek out something different.

Why now?

In recent years we have worked hard to broaden our programme and build a growing online audience.

  • BFI Player has doubled the number of subscribers in recent years, and enables people across the UK to experience our programmes.
  • The BFI London Film Festival welcomes close to 290,000 people each year. They enjoy a vibrant range of fiction, documentary, experimental digital art, horror, drama, thrillers, science fiction, immersive XR and VR, television and games.
  • Over 25,000 people came to BFI Flare in 2022, the biggest LGBTQIA+ festival in Europe – the majority of whom were new to the festival.
  • Several partnership-led programming initiatives have widened the focus of our programming. This includes strands like BUG, African Odysseys, Woman with a Movie Camera, and MK3D; and partnerships with The London Indian Film Festival, Underwire, Film Africa, Refugee Week, Queer East and The Chinese Visual Festival.
  • The BFI IMAX attracts an audience with an appetite for the mainstream and big-screen experience to the BFI. By bringing its programming in-house we have an opportunity to be more expansive and playful with the programme mix. We will supplement its programme with a mix of Bollywood nights, cult classics, fan favourites and more.
  • The BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) boasts a membership of over 1,500 UK independent cinemas, film societies and community venues. This grew considerably through its role in the administration of the UK Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England. We therefore have an opportunity to build on this legacy and support culturally diverse programming in more UK venues.
  • We have a steady number of loyal members and subscribers: our BFI Members, Sight and Sound subscribers, 25 & Under audience, and our Champions and Patrons.

We want these audiences to develop a wider, year-round relationship with the BFI, and to see us as a gateway to discovering a wider screen culture.

We are still perceived by many as a home for cineastes, students and academics of film. Diversifying our audiences will mean challenging and expanding the traditional canon of film and TV. Western film history has privileged and prioritised particular voices, placing the achievements of some on a pedestal.

These voices have tended to be white and male and clearly represent neither the true past nor present of cinema and screen culture. We aim to provide a platform for the filmmakers – and the genres – that connect with a variety of audiences and tastes. We want everyone to feel welcome and represented.

How we’ll do it

Over the next 10 years, we want to fully open up the BFI and celebrate the true diversity of creators and content across screen culture. We will forge a wider relationship with the UK public, and grow our year-round audience.

Our goals are:

  • To grow and diversify our community of lifelong audiences and members across our cultural programmes. Our audience will be more reflective of the UK, guided by our Inclusion Targets, and everyone will feel welcome.
  • To give a platform to a broader range of editorial voices and perspectives, working as enablers, not gatekeepers. We will involve more people – including audiences – in our writing, presenting and programming, and we will expand our community of host partners.
  • To balance cultural and commercial success and achieve robust results in both.
  • To realise a fully multi-platform programme that links different areas of the BFI and is available across the UK.
  • To deepen our relationship with partner organisations across the UK – including the BFI Film Audience Network. We will ensure our programmes and seasons are widely available.
  • To maintain funding for the BFI London Film Festival and support its continued growth as one of the world’s leading festivals for film, TV and the moving image. This includes through the continued expansion of audience access across the UK.

In the first three years, we will:

  1. Introduce a new and flexible membership strategy that offers year-round benefits to audiences across the UK. This will include tiered access to all our programmes and platforms including Sight and Sound, BFI Southbank, BFI Player and BFI IMAX, with the possibility to include partners UK-wide.
  2. Challenge and expand the established ‘canon’ of filmmakers so that all our audiences can see themselves, their aspirations and their histories reflected on screen. This also means celebrating the full breadth of cinema and its audiences. From international classics to Bollywood films to mainstream Hollywood, we will ensure a wider approach to form and format.
  3. Place a greater emphasis on contemporary and classic British storytelling. We will engage audiences at home and abroad with the full breadth of cultural diversity and narratives in UK society. This will help us understand ourselves and each other better.
  4. Work with the UK Government to establish a sustainable funding model for the BFI London Film Festival to ensure its continued success and delivery across the UK.