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."

The BFI takes a global view of cinema, programming films from all over the world at its venues: it runs the National Film Theatre and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London. Whilst the IMAX shows popular recent releases and short films showcasing its technology, the NFT shows critically-acclaimed historical pieces that would not otherwise find a showing. It publishes the monthly Sight and Sound magazine and hosts the annual London Film Festival and London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. It is also maintains the world's largest film archive, the National Film and Television Archive, containing in total about 500,000 works of television and film. It also publishes DVDs and books; and runs the BFI National Library, a reference library. It maintains the SIFT (Summary of Information on Film and Television) database, which contains credits, synopses and other data on global film and TV. It has a substantial collection of around 7 million film and TV stills.

The BFI is currently managed on a day-to-day basis by its director, Amanda Neville. Her activities are directed by a Chairman and a board of up to 14 trustees. The current chairman is Anthony Minghella. The chairman of the board is appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who receives recommendations from the Film Council. Other board members are co-opted by existing board members when required. These appointments are ratified by the Film Council.

The BFI operates using three sources of income. The largest source is public money allocated through the Film Council from the funds given to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2003, this funding amounted to approximately 15m. The second largest source is commercial activity such as receipts from the National Film Theatre and IMAX theatre (2003, ~10m). Finally grants of around 5m were obtained from various sources, primarily National Lottery funding grants, but also 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 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 the institute should concentrate on developing the appreciate on the films 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.

In 1988 the BFI opened the London Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) on the South Bank. It could not make a success out of it, and the Museum was 'temporarily' closed in 1999, a situation that became permanent in 2002.

The institute finally received a Royal Charter in 1983. It was updated in 2000, when the Film Council was created to govern its activities.

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