British Film Institute

British Film Institute

The British Film Institute (BFI) is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to::encourage the development of the arts of film, television and the moving image throughout the United Kingdom, to promote their use as a record of contemporary life and manners, to promote education about film, television and the moving image generally, and their impact on society, to promote access to and appreciation of the widest possible range of British and world cinema and to establish, care for and develop collections reflecting the moving image history and heritage of the United Kingdom. [Citation|url=|title=British Film Institute: Royal Charter|author=Elizabeth II|date=18 July 1983, amended 19 April 2000|publisher=Charity Commisioners for England and Wales|accessdate=2008-10-06]

BFI activities


The BFI runs the BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre (NFT)) and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London. The IMAX has the largest cinema screen in the UK, and shows popular recent releases and short films showcasing its technology, which includes 3D screenings and 12,000 watts of digital surround sound. BFI Southbank (the National Film Theatre screens and the Studio) shows films from all over the world particularly critically-acclaimed historical & specialised films that may not otherwise get a cinema showing.


The BFI runs the annual London Film Festival and London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.


The BFI offers a range of education initiatives, in particular to support the teaching of film and media studies in schools [ [ BFI | Education ] ]


The BFI maintains the world's largest film archive, the BFI National Archive, previously called National Film Library (1935-1955), National Film Archive (1955-1992) and National Film and Television Archive (1993-2006). The archive contains more than 50,000 fiction films, over 100,000 non-fiction titles and around 625,000 television programmes. The majority of the collection is British material but it also features internationally significant holdings from around the world. The Archive also collects films which feature key British actors and the work of British directors.

Other activities

The BFI publishes the monthly "Sight and Sound" magazine as well as DVDs and books. It runs the BFI National Library, a reference library, and maintains the SIFT (Summary of Information on Film and Television) database, which contains credits, synopses and other data on global film and TV. It also has a substantial collection of around 7 million film and TV stills.



The institute was founded in 1933. Despite its foundation resulting from a recommendation in a report on "Film and National Life", at that time the institute was a private company, though it has received public money throughout its history - from the Privy Council and Treasury until 1965 and the various culture departments since then. The institute was restructured following the Radcliffe Report of 1948 which recommended that it should concentrate on developing the appreciation of filmic art, rather than creating film itself. Thus control of educational film production passed to the National Committee for Visual Aids in Education and the British Film Academy assumed control for promoting production.

The institute received a Royal Charter in 1983. This was updated in 2000, and in the same year the newly-established UK Film Council took responsibility for providing the BFI's annual grant-in-aid (government subsidy) and acting, alongside the Charity Commission and the Privy Council, as its regulator.

In 1988 the BFI opened the London Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) on the South Bank. MOMI was acclaimed internationally and set new standards for education through entertainment, but subsequently it did not receive the high levels of continuing investment that might have enabled it to keep pace with technological developments and ever-rising audience expectations. The Museum was "temporarily" closed in 1999 when the BFI stated that it would be re-sited. This did not happen, and MOMI's closure became permanent in 2002 when it was decided to redevelop the South Bank site. This redevelopment was itself then further delayed.


The BFI is currently managed on a day-to-day basis by its director, Amanda Nevill. Supreme decision-making authority rests with a chairman and a board of up to 14 governors. The current chair is Greg Dyke, who took office on 1 March 2008. He succeeded the late film director Anthony Minghella, who was chair from 2003 until 31 December 2007. The chair of the board is appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who receives recommendations from the UK Film Council. Other board members are co-opted by existing board members when required. These appointments are subject to ratification by the UK Film Council.

The BFI operates with three sources of income. The largest is public money allocated through the UK Film Council from the funds given to it by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2007, this funding amounted to approximately £16m. The second largest source is commercial activity such as receipts from ticket sales at BFI Southbank or the BFI London Imax (2007, £5m), sales of DVDs, etc. Thirdly, grants and sponsorship of around £5m are obtained from various sources, including National Lottery funding grants, private sponsors and through donations (J. Paul Getty, Jr. donated around £1m in his will following his death in 2003).

The BFI also devotes a large amount of its time to the preservation and study of British television programming and its history. In 2000, it published a high-profile list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, as voted for by a range of industry figures.

The much-delayed redevelopment of the National Film Theatre finally took place in 2007, creating in the rebranded "BFI Southbank" new education spaces, a gallery, and a pioneering mediatheque which for the first time enabled the public to gain access, free of charge, to some of the otherwise inaccessible treasures in the National Film & Television Archive. The mediatheque has proved to be the most successful element of this redevelopment, and there are plans to roll out a network of them across the UK.

The BFI has operated with the same level of government subsidy for the last four years (a cut in real terms). Despite that, it has achieved considerable success (for example, it is easily the most effective of any comparable national institution at engaging with people other than the usual white middle class beneficiaries of state-subsidised culture)Fact|date=November 2007. Its work at the National Film & Television Archive, though severely reduced by inadequate funding, is world-leadingFact|date=November 2007. Its innovative digital and mediatheque strategies are achieving some success in making the archive accessible to other than a tiny group of researchers, policies which are supported by its active DVD production work.

There are some signs that government is recognising this: an announcement of a £25 million capital investment in the National Archive Strategy was made by Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport at the opening night of the 2007 London Film Festival. It is expected that the bulk of this money will pay for long overdue development of the BFI National Archive facilities in Hertfordshire and elsewhere. The BFI itself is lobbying for the award of £200 million for the creation of a brand-new Film Centre, to replace the near-life-expired facilities at the National Film Theatre.

Chairs of the BFI's Board of Governors

George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 5th Duke of Sutherland (1933-1936)
Sir Charles Cleland (1936-1937)
Sir George Clerk (1938-1939)

William Brass, 1st Baron Chattisham (1939-1945)

Patrick Gordon Walker (1946-1948)

Cecil Harmsworth King (1948-1952)
S. C. Roberts (1952-1956)
Sylvester Gates (1956-1964)
Sir William Coldstream (1964-1971)
Sir Denis Forman (1971-1973)
Lord Lloyd of Hampstead (1973-1976)
John Freeman (1976-1977)
Enid Wistrich (Acting) (1977-1978)

Sir Basil Engholm (1978-1981)
Lord Richard Attenborough (1982-1992)

Jeremy Thomas (1993-1997)
Sir Alan Parker (1998-1999)

Joan Bakewell (1999-2002)

Anthony Minghella (2003-2007)
Roger Laughton (Acting) (2008)

Greg Dyke (2008- )

BFI Directors

J. W. Brown (1933-1936)
Oliver Bell (1936-1949)

Denis Forman (1949-1955)

James Quinn (1955-1964)
Stanley Reed (1964-1972)
Keith Lucas (1972-1978)

Anthony Smith (1979-1987)
Wilf Stevenson (1988-1997)
John Woodward (1997-1998)
Jon Teckman (1998-2002)
Adrian Wootton (acting, 2002-2003)

Amanda Nevill (2003- )

ee also

* List of film institutes
*Screenonline, a history website run by the BFI
*BFI Top 100 British films
*"100 Anime", a BFI guide to 100 Japanese animated films and television programs
* Independent Cinema in the United Kingdom


External links

* [ BFI homepage]
* [ Research Project on the history of the BFI]
* [ BFIwatch: Independent blog about events affecting the BFI]

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