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Cinema licensing


Council is responsible for granting licences for premises used for film exhibitions under The Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.  It is an offence to show films in premises that do not have a current cinema licence, unless an exemption applies.


Copyright In addition to the premises licensing requirements under the Order, you should be aware that to screen a film to the public, you need permission from the film’s copyright owner. Usually this is its UK distributor. Permission may be granted in the form of a licence or a film booking. Further information on film copyright and booking is available from the Independent Cinema Office here.


Who needs a licence?

If you want to make use of premises for exhibition of films to members of the public, you will need a cinema licence. This includes any exhibition of moving pictures and would include screening of recorded films, performances or others.

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


There are several exemptions to the requirements for a cinema licence.

A cinema licence is not needed for:

  • Showing films in a private house, to which the public are not admitted, provided the exhibition is not for private gain or the main purpose of the films is advertising or providing information
  • Non-commercial film exhibitions to which the public are not admitted or are admitted without payment, or exhibitions by exempted societies or organisations (provided the exhibition is not promoted for private gain)
  • Occasional and exceptional exhibitions - where premises are used on no more than six days in the calendar year; however, the occupier must give Council, the Fire Authority and the Police no less than 14 days’ notice in writing of his intention to use the premises to exhibit a film and must comply with any conditions imposed by Council.
  • Moveable buildings/structures, where the owner has been granted a cinema licence in respect of the building/structure by the Local Authority in which they ordinarily reside; however, the owner must give the Council, the Fire Authority and Police no less than 7 days’ notice in writing of his intention to use the building/structure to exhibit a film and must comply with any conditions imposed by Council.

If you are unsure if you need a licence, please contact us for advice.


Applying for a licence

Before applying for a cinema licence, you should check with our Planning Department whether you need planning permission for use of the premises to exhibit films.

How to apply

1. Type of application

When applying for an entertainment licence for premises for the first time, you will have to apply for a grant of a licence.

You can also apply to renew or transfer an existing licence; however, for the application to be regarded as a renewal application, it must be received before the expiry date of the existing licence.

2. Application form

Applications must be made in writing using Council’s application form, which may be downloaded here.

The completed application form must be returned to Council’s Licensing section.

The law requires that an applicant gives not less than 28 days' notice of his intention to make the application to Council, the Fire Authority and Police.

3. Fee

Applications for the Grant, Renewal or Transfer of a licence must be accompanied by the appropriate fee.

The current level of fees is as follows:

Type of application Fee

Grant/Renewal of licence for a period of 1 year £150 per screen up to a maximum of £600, where there are four or more screens; or

Grant/Renewal of licence for a

period less than 1 year £30 per month per screen, but not to exceed £150 per screen or £600, where there are four or more screens

Transfer of licence £75

Please note that the application fee is non-returnable if the application is refused.

4. Additional documentation

As part of the application process, you must submit various documentation and certification with your application.

Details of the required items (documents and certificates) are available to download here.


What happens when we receive your application?

1. Processing time:

You should allow a minimum of 8 weeks from the date we receive a valid application for us to process it. However, processing may take longer if objections are received in relation to the application.

2. Validation:

Once we have received your application, we will check to ensure that we have all the required items, a process known as “validation”. After we have checked, we will advise you whether we require any additional items. We will then permit 20 working days for the remaining items to be submitted, otherwise the application may be rejected as being invalid. In such circumstances, you would be required to submit a fresh application.

3. Consultation:

Prior to granting a licence, we are required to consult with the PSNI and NIFRS and we must take any observations they make into account when determining the application. It is important to note that we cannot proceed to the consultation stage until we have received all the required items, so failure to provide all items will delay the processing time.

4. Inspection of the premises:

An officer will carry out an inspection to assess the suitability of the premises.


Can I provide entertainments once I submit an application?

No, tacit consent does not apply. It is in the public interest that Council processes your application fully before a licence can be granted.

Films cannot be exhibited until a licence has been granted for the premises, following proper consideration of the application.

However, the law does provide that where we receive an application to renew (or transfer) a licence before the expiry date of an existing licence, that licence is deemed to remain in force beyond its expiry date until the application is determined.

We endeavour to process applications as quickly as possible, with a target of 8 weeks from receipt of a valid application. If you have not heard from the Council within that period, please contact us.


Cinema licences terms, conditions and restrictions

Entertainments licences are granted for a period of up to 12 months, beginning from the date of issue, on such terms and conditions and subject to such restrictions as Council may determine.

Standard cinema licence hours are Monday to Sunday, 8am - 1am the following morning.

If you want to show films outside these hours you should contact us for advice.

Please contact us if you wish to receive a copy of Council’s current terms, conditions and restrictions for cinemas.

Children’s showings and the British Board of Film Classification

The council recognises the BBFC film classifications U, PG, 12, 12A, 15, and 18.

When granting a cinema licence, we include conditions requiring the admission of children (defined as a person under the age of 16) to any film to be restricted in accordance with these BBFC age ratings.

The council reserves the right to censor or restrict any film showings whether the film is classified or unclassified.


What happens after a licence is granted?

If you are granted a licence, your premises may be inspected to check that you are complying with the terms, conditions and restrictions of the licence. If necessary, our officers can take enforcement action, which may lead, on conviction of offences, to a fine and possibly revocation of the licence.


Appeals against Council decisions

If the grant, renewal or transfer of a cinema licence application is refused or if aggrieved by the terms, conditions or restrictions that a licence is subject to, applicants have the right to appeal Council’s decision to the County Court.


Contact details

Licensing and Safety Advisory Group Derry City and Strabane District Council

  • 98 Strand Road, Derry, BT48 7NN, or
  • 47 Derry Road, Strabane, BT82 8DY

Telephone: (028) 71253253 E-mail: [email protected]

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