BFI Southbank

BFI Southbank (from 1951 to 2007 known as the National Film Theatre) is the leading repertory cinema in the UK, specialising in seasons of classic, independent and non-English language films. It is operated by the British Film Institute.


The National Film Theatre was initially opened in a temporary building (the Telekinema) at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and moved to its present location in 1957, replacing the Thameside restaurant on the site. It opened for the first BFI London Film Festival on 16 October 1957.[1] Later, the Southbank Centre expanded its buildings to meet the National Film Theatre from the south, while the National Theatre occupies the area to the northeast.

On 14 March 2007, the National Film Theatre was relaunched as BFI Southbank in considerably enlarged premises, taking over space that had been used by the Museum of the Moving Image. When it reopened, in addition to the three pre-existing cinemas the complex included a new small cinema (the studio), a médiathèque, a contemporary art gallery dedicated to the moving image[2] (the BFI Gallery)[3], a shop, and a bar and restaurant run by Benugo.

Location and architectural details

BFI Southbank is sited below the southern end of Waterloo Bridge, forming part of the cultural complex on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. The site comprises three cinemas and studio space, as well as cafes and exhibition space. It also has a large bar area in the foyer where smaller performances are sometimes held.

See also


  1. "10-Day London Fest Films Preems Oct. 16". Variety. 9 October 1957. p. 14 via
  2. Fabrizi, Elisabetta (Ed.), 'The BFI Gallery Book', BFI 2011.
  3. Fabrizi, Elisabetta, 'Is This Cinema?', in Balsom, E., Perks, S., Reynolds, L., 'Artists Moving image in Britain from 1989', Paul Mellon Foundation/Yale University Press, 2019

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