A film society is a membership club where people can watch screenings of films which would otherwise not be shown in mainstream cinemas. In Spain, Ireland and Italy they are known as "Cineclubs," and in Germany they are known as "Filmclubs". They usually have an educational aim, introducing new audiences to different audiovisual works through an organized and prepared program of screenings.
Editorial output reinforces the work of these organisations, as they produce hand-programmes, brochures, schedules, information sheets, and even essays, supporting the significance of their exhibitions. A common feature that may characterize a film society screening is that they either begin with an introduction of the film to the audience and/or end with the promotion of a debate / discussion about the film, where assistants, organizers and sometimes the filmmakers themselves, exchange their views.
There are networks in many different countries, and these are organized into federations, councils, collectives, and local networks. Famous film societies include Amos Vogel's Cinema 16, Cinémathèque Française, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City.
The film society movement originated in France in the time between the two world wars (see below). The international body for film societies is the International Federation of Film Societies. This international association was set up in 1947 in Cannes (France) among groups of film societies in countries throughout the world and this association is called Fédération Internationale des Ciné-Clubs (F.I.C.C.).
The beginnings of Canadian film education may be traced to the relatively late arrival of the film society movement. While the earliest film societies were formed in Paris in 1924 and in London the following year, it wasn't until 1935 that Donald Buchanan assembled a sufficient number of film enthusiasts to launch the National Film Society of Canada. That organization, largely modelled on the British Film Institute, took as its mandate the establishment of a genuine film culture. Within a year, the society opened branches in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
After a wartime hiatus, the Canadian film society movement enjoyed what may now be seen as its golden age. The National Film Society, renamed the Canadian Film Institute in 1950, became a clearing house for a growing number of societies across Canada. It was soon a victim of its own success as the groups broke away in 1954 to form the Canadian Federation of Film Societies (CFSS). Spearheaded by Dorothy Burritt, CFFS member societies programmed ambitious retrospectives often accompanied by lengthy and erudite program notes.
There are a number of active local societies with one of the currently active ones being Pulpmovies.
The term "film club" appears for the first time in April 1907 with the creation of Edmond Benoit-Lévy's "Film club." Located at the 5 Montmartre boulevard in Paris, it is to preserve and place at the disposal of its members all the cinematographic documents and productions existing. It is also equipped with a room of projection.
The Italian film theoretician Ricciotto Canudo who had been living in Paris since 1921 founded one of the first film societies.
In 1930 Jean Vigo founded the first film club in Nice, les Amis du Cinéma. In 1935 Henri Langlois and Georges Franju founded the film society Cercle du cinéma which became the Cinémathèque française in 1936 to show and to preserve old films.
After the second world war the movement of ciné-clubs boomed. In 1945 the film society of Annecy was founded from which originated the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. In 1948 André Bazin together with Jean-Charles Tacchella, Doniol-Valcroze, Astruc, Claude Mauriac, René Clément and Pierre Kast founded the avantgarde film society Objectif 49. Jean Cocteau became its president. This film society became the cradle of the Nouvelle Vague. Objectif 49 organized the Festival du Film Maudit which took place in Biarritz in 1949.
François Truffaut has depicted vividly Bazin's engagement in the cinéclub-movement:
"During the first days of our friendship - it was about 1947 - I had the chance of accompanying him at his film presentations and observing him who he projected two short films of Chaplin - first in a dominican monastery and two days later to the workers in a metal factory in their short break between their lunch and their return to their workbenches. At both occasions he managed to inspire his audience and to draw everybody into the discussion."
The first French film society exclusively women was founded in the 1970s in Toulouse.
Im 2005 the Musée Dapper in Paris founded the first film society entirely concentrating on the cinema of Africa, the Caribbean and the African-American diaspora - the occasion being the celebration of 50 years of African Cinema.
The first film clubs developed in Germany after 1945 upon the suggestion the British and French after the Second World War, in order to promote non-political strictly cultural exchange and democratic consciousness. In the 1950s, the decade of the flowering of the film club movement, gave it a wave of reestablishments, also in the Soviet occupation zone and/or later German Democratic Republic. The film clubs became either independent associations or worked under a carrier, which itself education and culture had used up. From them important impulses for the German film landscape proceeded, for example the establishment of film festivals as from International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg.
In the German Federal Republic however the number of the film clubs decreased to such an extent that in 1971 the Federal association dissolved. For the 1970s stepped in many places local cinemas to the place of the film clubs. With the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, many East German film clubs lost the financial and organizational basis, succeeded also here unite the step to the local cinema.
There are two national bodies for film societies in Germany who are members of the International Federation of Film Societies, the Bundesverband Jugend und Film e.V. and the Bundesverband kommunale Filmarbeit.
In Hungary, there is quite a vivid cine-club life with involving hundreds of viewers and dispute partners week by week... The first Hungarian film club is dated back to 1956, as you can read here:
Filmmaker Satyajit Ray founded the first Indian film society, the Calcutta Film Society in 1947. In 1959, Federation of Film Societies of India was formed as a central organization combining the film societies of Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay (now Mumbai), Madras (now Chennai) and Patna. Satyajit Ray was elected President. In Chennai, in 1981 Chennai Film Society was started by serious film buffs and film institute graduates. Sivakumar was its founder secretary and Sasikumar was its founder president. It was active for 15 years with screening of international films, meeting up with film makers and anniversary film festival. It ran a film magazine in Tamil called Salanam for five years. With the advent of DVDs, satellite television channels,and many of its society organizers got active in film making, the Chennai film society slowly disappeared.
The first film society in Kerala was formed in Trivandrum in 1965. It was formed by the celebrated and award winning director Adoor Gopalakrishnan. It paved the way for a new Malayalam cinema. http://www.cinemaofmalayalam.net/malayalam_his_4.html
The Hyderabad Film Club, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India and ICA Foundation, Chennai has been conducting an annual international film festival, Chennai International Film Festival (CIFF) - www.chennaifilmfest.org, an annual event since 2003.
According to film scholar Amrit Gangar it is necessary for a member to be at least 18 years old as film societies are allowed to show uncensored films being exempt from censorship laws. yadharthaa is a Film society functioning from 04-12-1978 in Madurai Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu Children Film Society organising Madurai International Children Film Festival from 2004.
The Irish Film Theatre operated as a film club in Dublin from 1977 to 1984. It offered audiences art and international films not usually shown by commercial cinemas, and the venue was unusual in showing uncensored films. Irish censorship law only required films that were shown to the general public to be submitted for censorship, and films screened by clubs were exempt from censor review, and cutting or banning.
There are two federations of film societies in Spain representing Catalonia and Galicia, the Catalan Federation of Film Societies  (Federació Catalana de Cine Clubs) and the Federation of Film Societies of Galicia (Federacion de Cineclubes de Galicia).
The first film society was established in London in 1925 by a group of left-wing intellectuals interested in films from Europe which could not be shown in public cinemas for political reasons. It was called the Film Society but is often referred to as the London Film Society as it was followed by many others in the next fifteen years. These included the Edinburgh Film Guild (1929, still in existence), the Salford Workers Film Society (1930; this became the Manchester & Salford Film Society, still in existence), and many others.
The national body for film societies in the UK is the British Federation of Film Societies (BFFS). Most university and college students' unions have film societies, including the Warwick Student Cinema at University of Warwick and the St. John's College Film Society at St. John's College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge. In 2006, FILMCLUB was launched by BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Beeban Kidron and educationalist Lindsay Mackie to open up the world of film to primary and secondary school children in the UK.
United States of America
"From 1946 until 1954, 'Art in Cinema' presented programs of independent film to large audiences at the San Francisco Museum of Art and at the University of California, Berkeley." Inspired by film projections which Maya Deren had organized, Amos Vogel and his wife founded Cinema 16 in 1947.
Other film societies in the United States include:
- Film Society of Lincoln Center based in New York City
- Tallahassee Film Society
- North Country Film Society, which represents upstate New York
- Rehoboth Beach Film Society in Delaware
- Case Western Reserve Film Society in Ohio
- Desert Film Society based in Palm Springs, California
- Austin Film Society (AFS)
- Columbia Film Society in Columbia, South Carolina
- Park Circle Film Society in North Charleston, South Carolina
- Article Film Education in: The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0011487 (viewed February 16th, 2009)
- François Truffaut, "André Bazin, Literat des Kinos" in: André Bazin, Was ist Film?, Berlin: Alexander Verlag, 2004, pp. 17-28, citation p. 18
- Heredia, Shai (2011). "Film Societies: When Godard Rode the 17:05 Borivli Local". Experimenta. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- An Irishman's Diary Irish Times, 2006-07-07.
- "Manchester & Salford Film Society: History". Manchester & Salford Film Society. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- Davis, Ben: Beginnings of the film society movement in the U.S. Film & History 24 n3/4 (1994): 6-26.
- Art in Cinema: Documents Toward a History of the Film Society (Wide Angle Books), ed. by Scott MacDonald, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006, ISBN 1-59213-425-4
- MacDonald, Scott: Cinema 16: Documents Toward a History of the Film Society. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003 ISBN 1-56639-924-6
- International Federation of Film Societies
- National bodies for film societies
- British Federation of Film Societies
- East End Film Society
- University of Evora Film Society
- Portuguese Federation of Film Societies
- Sarasota Film Society
- Rehoboth Beach Film Society
- North Country Film Society
- USA Film Societies
- DesertFilm Society
- Films Australia
- Australian Council of Film Societies (ACOFS)
- Film Society Movement discussion forum