In its stated aim of “creating cinemas not supermarkets,” the Small Cinema project voiced its alterity to the recent redevelopment of Liverpool’s city center and those of other former industrial cities throughout the Midlands and the north of the UK. These regeneration projects addressed the problem of a shrinking manufacturing base by replacing them with service industries, a move which has entailed the privatization of vast tracts of public space. Conversely, the building, functioning, and general praxis of the Small Cinema project suggests a mode of practice that more accurately fits within the paradigm of a collaborative commons than a capitalist marketplace. The project’s exemption from market criteria grants it the freedom to pursue public over private goods, thereby constituting a point of resistance to the ongoing neoliberalization of the city and changes to government policy that make it increasingly difficult for non-profit projects to exist.
Historically speaking, cinemas have been accessible to the working class in a way that other artistic media have not. However, while the history of film as a tool for political subversion is well documented, less attention has been paid to the physical construction of independent cinematic space, its programming/running, and its potential as a node of resistance to neoliberal colonization. This paper uses the case study of the Small Cinema project in Liverpool as a means by which to understand how cinematic spaces can counteract the effects of policies that continue to have such a detrimental impact on the arts and education, as well as social health and well-being.