FAQs licensing for film events

You'll need a licence to screen a film for entertainment purposes such as running a film night. But which one's right for your event?

Does the PTA need a licence to screen films at school?

To show a film outside of the home, you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owners in the form of a licence, whether or not you are showing to a paying audience. Owning a film on DVD or subscribing to a streaming service only grants you rights for home use and does not mean you are permitted to show the film publicly.

There are two areas of licensing for PTAs to consider:

Film copyright licence: the licence to show your chosen title. This is required for all screenings outside the home.

Premises licence: required if you aim to generate a profit from tickets being sold.

These two permissions are separate. You may only need one, but you might need both.

How can I get the right copyright licences?

Licensing can be complicated, but a licence for most of the films your PTA might show will be available through either MPLC or Filmbankmedia.

Which kind of licence will we need for a PTA film night?

The type of licence you need depends on how you intend to run your film event. There are several common licences which may be appropriate:

MPLC – MPLC Umbrella Licence is an annual licence with a yearly fee which allows groups and organisations to show unlimited films from the studios, producers and distributors represented by MPLC. You may not charge admission for the screening or advertise to the public, but you can still charge for snacks, drinks or other add-ons. You must use a legal copy of the film.

MPLC – Single Title Movie Licence is issued for one film at a time. You may screen any film from their Rightsholders list. Again, this can be to a paying or free-of-charge audience and you may use your own DVD or legal copy of the film.

Filmbankmedia – Single Title Screening Licence is issued on a per-screening basis. It allows a PTA to screen a film from Filmbankmedia’s online catalogue for indoor, outdoor and virtual events, or a hybrid screening where some of the audience attends in-person and some virtually. You may charge admission to your film night or show the film free of charge and are permitted to promote your event.

Organisers must use a DVD or Blu-Ray they already own, and can show certain films which are not yet released using Filmbankmedia’s special release option. The licence must be in place before any promotion begins, and Filmbankmedia recommends a minimum of two weeks’ notice for special approval titles such as James Bond and Star Wars. Check the special permissions section of the website for the complete list. The website also has a useful licensing wizard to help organisations check they have the correct licence using a series of questions.

You will also need TheMusicLicence to cover the soundtrack, but if your school already has this licence under the CEFM (Centre for Education and Finance Management) Schools tariff, and your event is held on school property, your PTA will be covered.

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How much does a film licence cost?

See MPLC or Filmbank for up-to-date pricing details. For a single title licence to show a film to a paying audience, the fee may vary according to audience numbers.

Do I also need a premises licence or temporary event notice?

A film screening in community premises such as a school hall between the hours of 8am and 11pm which is not for profit (even if an admission fee is charged to cover costs) does not need a TEN or other premises licence. You may charge for additional activities such as refreshments or film talks with a view to making a profit, as long as these are kept separate from admission to the film itself.

Otherwise, you will need a temporary event notice (TEN) If you plan to provide 'regulated entertainment' to the public or to members of your PTA. Showing a film to a paying audience to make a profit is classed as regulated entertainment even if the profit is for charity.

You will also need a licence if you plan to sell alcohol at your event. Contact your local authority to arrange a TEN.

Can anyone help us set up a film club at the school?

The charity Into Film helps schools set up clubs that provide young people with the chance to watch, discuss and review a diverse range of films – feeding their imagination and nurturing their social and intellectual development. Free to state schools and academies, and offering industry visits, live webcasts and a weekly 'review of the week' competition, Into Film is a great way to boost vocational aspirations and inspire reluctant writers. Members of Into Film will still need to check they are covered by the right licences.

When might a licence NOT be required at a school?

Films may be used as part of the curriculum during lesson times without the need for licensing. In all other instances, if the PTA does not obtain the required licence they risk infringing copyright.

Where can I read more about film licences?

For further information, go to The Independent Cinema Office.

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.