The BFI 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.[1]

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.

London IMAX cinema 2
BFI IMAX is located in Greater London
AddressCharlie Chaplin Walk
London, SE1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°30′18″N 0°06′49″W / 51.505°N 0.113611°W
Public transitLondon Underground Waterloo
National Rail Waterloo; Waterloo East
OwnerBritish Film Institute
OperatorOdeon Cinemas
Capacity498 Seated (plus 2 x Wheelchair Spaces)
OpenedMay 1999
ArchitectBryan Avery


BFI London IMAX at night
Aerial view at night

The BFI IMAX was designed by Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects[2] 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.[3]

The cinema won several awards at the time of opening, including a Design Council Millennium Product Award[4] in 1999 and a Civic Trust Award in 2000.[5]

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.[6] 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

IMAX 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.[7]

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.[8]
  • 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
  • The National Science and 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.
  • 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 Giant Screen at Millennium Point, Birmingham (closed in 2015). 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.
  • The Cineworld IMAX, Sheffield. 21.3m x 12m, total screen size of 255.6m². Seats 691. (Screen 7)
  • The 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).[9][10][11]
  • The Odeon IMAX, Milton Keynes Stadium. 18.5m by 10.32m with a total screen size of 191m².(143m² for a 2.39:1 film, 185m² for a 1.85:1 film) Seats 387 [12]
  • The VueXtreme screen at Vue Westfield London, 18m by 10m with a total screen size of 180m².[13]
  • The Rheged Centre, Penrith Cumbria. 18m by 14.63m with a total screen size of 263.34 m2.(144m² for a 2.39:1 film) Seats 262 [14]
  • The Liverpool One Odeon IMAX, Liverpool. 17.99m x 9.76m for a total screen size of 176m². Seats 288[15]
  • The Cineworld IMAX, Nottingham. 18.9m x 9.1m, total screen size of 172m². Seats 425. (Screen 10) [16]
  • 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.[17]
  • 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.[18]

See also


  1. ^ "Odeon takes over running of BFI IMAX". 17 July 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Avery Associates project description". Archived from the original on 2007-10-09.
  3. ^ "BFI IMAX | Waterloo | South Bank London". Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  4. ^ "Design Council website". Archived from the original on 2010-07-09.
  5. ^ "Civic Trust Awards website". Archived from the original on 2006-08-10.
  6. ^ "BFI IMAX FAQ". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  8. ^ "Vue - Cinema Listings & Latest Movies - Book Film Tickets". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
  10. ^ "Sky at The O2". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  12. ^ "ODEON Milton Keynes Stadium - View Listings and Book Cinema Tickets Now!". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Vue Westfield: London's Newest Cinema with Time Out Film". Time Out London. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Rheged Centre - Cinema". Rheged. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  15. ^ "ODEON Liverpool ONE - IMAX Cinema - View Listings and Book IMAX Tickets Now!". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Work starts to install first Imax". 14 November 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ [2]

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′18″N 0°6′49″W / 51.50500°N 0.11361°W

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