The BFI London IMAX is an IMAX cinema in the South Bank district of London, just north of Waterloo Station. It is owned by the British Film Institute and since July 2012 has been operated by Odeon Cinemas.
The cinema is located in the centre of a roundabout junction with Waterloo Road to the south-east, Stamford Street to the north-east, York Road to the south-west and Waterloo Bridge to the north-west.
The BFI London IMAX was designed by Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects and completed in May 1999. The screen is the largest in Britain (20m high and 26m wide). It has a seating capacity of just under 500 and a 12,000 Watt digital surround sound system. Although the site is surrounded by traffic and has an underground line just four metres below, the architects and engineers accounted for this in their design and the entire upper structure sits on anti vibration bearings to prevent noise propagation.
In 2012, the screen was replaced and a digital IMAX projector was installed alongside the existing 70mm projector. In July 2012, the BFI announced that Odeon Cinemas had been selected to operate it for the next five years, with the option of termination after three years. Odeon will maintain the film programmes, and booking of tickets online and per telephone. This also gives customers the opportunity to watch Operas on the giant screen. The BFI will retain a great deal of power over the cinema's operation however, including parts of the film schedule and the technical operation. The name will remain the same.
To start this move to mainstream cinema, the BFI London IMAX theatre celebrated by having sold 66,000 pre-booked tickets for The Dark Knight Rises in just 5 weeks, giving a total sale in tickets of £1,000,000 even before the premiere of the movie.
Other IMAX in London
London has another traditional IMAX cinema at the Science Museum in South Kensington/Albertopolis and in December 2008 gained IMAX digital cinemas at Odeon cinemas in Greenwich and Wimbledon. In 2011, a digital IMAX screen was also opened at the Odeon in Swiss Cottage. Digital IMAX screens are inferior to traditional film IMAX screens, being much smaller and not offering the same image resolution as 70mm film.
Screen size comparative to other UK large screens
The BFI London IMAX is the largest cinema screen in Britain. It measures 26m by 20m with a total screen size of 540m². However if showing a film with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, only 283m² of the screen will be in use, or 365m² for a 1.85:1 film. The auditorium seats 485.
The London IMAX is followed in size by:
- The Odeon IMAX, Manchester. 26.3m by 18.8m with a total screen size of 495m² (seats 377) (289m² for a 2.39:1 film, 374m² for a 1.85:1 film).
- The Glasgow Science Centre IMAX. 25m by 18.9m with a total screen size of 472m² (262m² for a 2.39:1 film, 338m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seats 382.
- The Empire, Leicester Square IMAX, London. 26.5m by 15.6m with a total screen size of 413m². Seats 728. It is currently the widest cinema screen in Britain.
- The London Science Museum IMAX. 24.3m by 16.8m with a total screen size of 408m² (247m² for a 2.39:1 film, 319m² for a 1.85:1 film).
- The National Media Museum, Bradford. 20m by 16.5m with a total screen size of 330m² (167m² for a 2.39:1 film, 216m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seats 270.
- The Sky Superscreen at the Cineworld O2, London. 22m by 9.2m with a total screen size of 202m² (157m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seats 776 (Screen 11).
- The Giant Screen at Millennium Point, Birmingham. 21.3m by 12.6 with a total screen size of 268m² (190m² for a 2.39:1 film, 245m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seats 385.
- Pepsi IMAX Cinema at the London Trocadero (closed in 1999) 19.8m by 15.8m with a total screen size of 313m² (164m² for a 2.39:1 film, 212m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seated 300.
- The Odeon IMAX, Cardiff. 16.8m by 7.9m for a total screen size of 133m² (118m² for a 2.39:1 film, 115m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seats 209.
- The Odeon IMAX, Kingston. 15.2m wide x 7.23m with a total screen size of 110m² (97m² for a 2.39:1 film, 97m² for a 1.85:1 film) Seats 428.
- "Avery Associates project description".
- "Design Council website".
- "Civic Trust Awards website".
- Avery Associates Architects
- British Film Institute
- IMAX Corporation
- ODEON IMAX London
- Map showing location