The BFI 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 cinemas in London
Seating in the cinema
London has another traditional IMAX cinema at the Science Museum in South Kensington 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 520m². 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.
Despite the cinema having the largest screen in Britain, when showing in the flagship IMAX format (70mm film) at an aspect ratio of 1.43, it does not offer the biggest image. That can be claimed by the Vue Manchester Printworks, which has 11m² more image area than the BFI IMAX in such aspect ratio.
The London IMAX is followed in size by:
The Vue Manchester Printworks IMAX. 26.3m by 18.8m with a total screen size of 495m² (289m² for a 2.39:1 film, 374m² for a 1.85:1 film). Seats 377.
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.(294m² for a 2.39:1 film, 380m² for a 1.85:1 film).Seats 728. It is currently the widest cinema screen in Britain. This screen sits back-to-back with the Superscreen, 20.5m by 11m with a total screen size of 225.5m²
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 Cineworld IMAX, Leeds. 24m by 14m with a total screen size of 336m²
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