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Film classification

Under the Licensing Act 2003 the definition of film has been expanded to mean any exhibition of moving pictures, including feature films, adverts and trailers. This definition also now covers the showing of video and other visual image media, including non-live digital exhibitions of plays, operas, pop concerts, etc

Where a licensed premises intends to show films, the Licensing Act 2003 requires a mandatory condition to be placed on the Premises Licences or Club Premises Certificates which restricts the admission of children (persons aged under 18) to the exhibition of any film/s in accordance with:

If you intend to only show films classified by the BBFC, there is no requirement to contact the licensing authority. If not, you must contact the licensing authority to obtain a recommendation on the restriction of access of children to the film(s) at least two (2) months before you intend to show them.

Where a premises licence does not authorise the showing of a film, a minor variation can be applied for to add this to the licence for permanent authorisation, or a Temporary Events Notice can be sent to the licensing authority if it is an ad-hoc event.

What information do I need to send to the licensing authority?

In order to recommend an appropriate restriction of access for children, the licensing authority requires the following information to be provided by the proposed exhibitor:

  • a synopsis of the film program(s) must be sent to the Licensing Team two (2) months in advance of the proposed screening date, where possible, giving sufficiently detailed and accurate information on any potentially controversial issues such as – discrimination, drugs, horror, imitable behaviour, language, nudity, sex, theme, violence and in particular anything considered over 18 – R18 for example

  • information on active and thorough child protection policies including any permission processes required to be obtained for children to appear in any film exhibition

  • information on how staff are informed on policies and matters that may be significant at the time of the exhibition

  • information on feedback and evaluation procedures

  • information as to the steps that will be taken to display notices inside and outside the premises so that persons entering can readily read them and be aware of the classification attached to the film.

  • information on the use of sufficient ushers/stewards (minimum 18 years old) to be in attendance at the entrance to the viewing room at all times, to ensure that only children who may view the film or exhibition are permitted access.

How does the licensing authority classify films?

The licensing authority considers the classification system process used by the BBFC and its guidance to be nationally understood. It will therefore use the general principles of their guidance and their processes as its benchmark for determining its recommendation on the restriction of access of children to the film(s).

For more information regarding classification, see the BBFC website for more information.

Unless classified by the BBFC, all films must be classified independently by Tower Hamlets licensing authority even if they must have been classified by another licensing authority.

The licensing authority will write to you advising of the recommendation on the restriction on the age of access for children to the film/s. You will also be advised on the provision of any relevant notices required to be displayed inside and outside the premises along the following lines: 





The processing fee is £37 and in addition £25 per hour or part thereof. This means even if it’s only for 15 minutes for example, you will have to pay for the full hour.

You can pay for your application online via the payments page. Or you can make a payment by telephone on 020 7364 5008.

Please state to the Admin Staff taking the payment; the full amount you are paying and what films they are for and their duration.


The provision of entertainment consisting of the exhibition of a film is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act if its sole or main purpose is to:

  • (a) demonstrate any product,
  • (b) advertise any goods or services, or
  • (c) provide information, education or instruction.

The provision of entertainment consisting of the exhibition of a film is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act if it consists of or forms part of an exhibit put on show for any purposes of a museum or art gallery.