Careers Service

Dan Ellis

Dan Ellis

Jam Jar Cinema

Jam Jar Cinema is a single screen high street cinema, community arts hub and education provider. We converted a derelict job centre with the hope it could be a space for all our local community to enjoy and be inspired by. Over the past 2 years we have expanded to develop a regional to national reputation in the film exhibition and fringe performance sectors. In August 2015 we installed the latest Digital Cinema package. We are now able to screen latest releases, classics, and the best of foreign language and indie films.

What made you decide to start up your own business?

I'm a firm believer that if you can't take a job, it’s your job to make one. For the last 10 years I always had the same career aim: to earn a living wage in the arts/creative industries because I knew it would make me happy. Unfortunately, in the midst of the mid recession paid arts roles and opportunities were fairly limited. I was working a fairly miserable job to support my studies and I had nothing to lose, so I stuck my neck out at a time when many others weren't prepared to.

Tell us about your journey so far

There is no rule book for opening a cinema and there certainly isn't one for transforming a derelict office into one. It was a genuine challenge at first: I had no knowledge, money or contacts. After winning a business plan competition I took a start-up loan which I managed to get matched with a local young people's grant which gave us the seed capital to start the cinema. We had about a third of what we actually needed and had significant trouble raising finance. I called in every favour and, as did my mentor and we had over 80 people pitch in to help open the cinema. We could only afford builders for 2 days. Fortunately, they did a very good job and we managed to open September 2013.

We have had more than 60 people regularly volunteer with us and we are programmed and run by, with and for the people of North Tyneside. Until our upgrade work earlier this year we did fairly well but after securing finance for a full digital cinema compliant system the business has really taken off. We are now looking for a bigger and better venue and exploring opportunities of opening other venues in different towns, or a franchise model.

What impact have you achieved to date?

My key achievements include:

Awarded the Prime Minister's Points Of Light Award, the international highest award for volunteering.

Awarded the Whitley Bay Town Cup for outstanding contribution to my home town.

Shortlisted North East Young Executive of the Year 2015.

Grown attendance to 30,000 a year at the cinema.

Secured project funding for education and young people's projects in excess of £40,000.

In 2 years contributed over £800,000 to our local economy by additional spend from patrons, job creation and sourcing our goods locally (96% of expenditure excluding copyright is spent within 10 miles of us).

Worked alongside many charities, community groups and organisations to raise over £60,000 for good causes.

Currently delivering and supporting 12 young people thorough a level 3 arts qualification.

Hosted over 2200 events, screenings, activities, groups.

What is your key tip for Newcastle University students and graduates currently in the process of setting up a business?

There are two types of people in the world, astronauts and astronomers. Live without regret and get away from the telescope.


Dan Ellis

Company Details

Dan Ellis, Jam Jar Cinema C.I.C

Course: MA Arts, Business and Creativity 2011

Business Start Date: 13/12/2013

No. Employees: 4 (and 30+ volunteers)