INEOS out as Picturehouse cinemas breaks off sponsorship deal with the petrochemical giant

In a significant win for the campaign against fossil fuel sponsorship, the Picturehouse cinema chain has confirmed that it has ended its sponsorship relationship with the oil, gas and petrochemical company INEOS – just a few months after the controversial deal was announced.

The partnership had come in for particular criticism as Picturehouse cinemas hosted numerous high-profile screenings of a series of environmental films as part of its ‘Green Screen’ programme, with audiences and film-makers then urging the chain to drop the sponsorship during post-film panel discussions and on social media.

James Marriott from the art, activism and research organisation Platform, and the executive producer of The Oil Machine has said:

‘We are delighted to hear that Picturehouse has ceased its sponsorship with INEOS. A corporation such as INEOS should have no place in the provision of the arts in the UK. The long campaigns against Shell, BP and others have revealed that oil & gas companies must cease using culture and science institutions as billboards to promote their brands. The fossil fuel companies need to go the way of the tobacco companies as we move towards a society beyond the oil machine. We are delighted that films such as The Oil Machine and Finite may have helped Picturehouse to think again and we salute the courage of the cinema team in taking this bold step.’

The deal, announced in November, gave INEOS publicity in Picturehouse’s magazine PictureHouse Recommends and “filled” cinemas with its branded handwash and sanitiser. 

With INEOS misleadingly described as a “soap brand’, readers were told: “Hands really are such amazing things and it’s therefore essential that we keep them clean…” 

But there was no mention of INEOS’ role as one of the world’s largest oil, gas and petrochemical companies: Grangemouth in Scotland, its largest facility, emitted over 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, and Ineos continues to advocate for shale gas fracking in the UK.  INEOS’ planned Project One plant in Antwerp, using fuel from fracking in the US, is facing a legal challenge from campaigners who warn “the biggest petrochemical plant to be built in Europe in 30 years” is a “carbon bomb” that threatens human health and the environment.

The webpage celebrating the partnership has since been removed from the Picturehouse website, but an archived version can be accessed here.

Picturehouse confirmed in April that the deal, which had been due to last one year, had ended, with the announcement coming after pressure from campaigners and audiences at its events.

Films hosted as part of Picturehouse Green Screen programme included ‘The Oil Machine’ and ‘FINITE: The Climate of Change’. Audience members and panellists had used discussions after the screenings to question the deal and its compatibility with Picturehouse’s commitments on sustainability to “take our planet and the climate crisis seriously.”

One panellist, Amelia Womack, former deputy leader of the Green Party, wore an #OUTEOS t-shirt  to expose the partnership, writing on Instagram that: 

“Coincidentally, I was speaking at an event for an amazing film called ‘the oil machine’, which you should definitely watch to understand the oil economy in the UK. During the film some of the rigs discussed as major polluters are INEOS rigs. 

There is no place for oil and gas in arts. Let’s see INEOS out of the Picture House.”

INEOS relationship with Picturehouse was the latest move in the company’s investment in high-profile sponsorship deals as part of a cynical attempt to burnish its brand and boost its public profile. Its most prominent sponsorship investments though are in sport, from cycling team the INEOS Grenadiers to a 6-year sponsorship deal with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, and from the INEOS Britannia sailing team to owner Jim Ratcliffe’s bid to take over Manchester United.

Juliette Daigre, Co-Director of Culture Unstained said:

“INEOS’ partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas barely made it out of the starting block, having been quietly wrapped up just a few months into a planned one-year term, thanks to public pressure from Picturehouse audiences. Picturehouses joins a host of leading cultural organisations in rejecting fossil fuel sponsorship.

All eyes must now be on sport, where INEOS is making a concerted effort to buy itself legitimacy through major sponsorship deals across cycling, football, rugby, running and sailing. Our cultural and sporting institutions shouldn’t be helping companies like INEOS to launder their reputation and deflect attention from their climate-wrecking business – it’s time to end the greenwash.”