The BFI (British Film Institute) is a film-focused charitable organisation founded in 1933 created to promote and develop the art of film and television throughout the UK. The institute runs the BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre), where four cinemas, the Mediatheque and the gallery can be found, as well as the BFI Imax cinema, which boasts by far the biggest screen in Britain. The BFI also runs the London Film Festival and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, respectively the biggest and the third largest film festivals in the UK. It also ran the BFI production arm until the late 1990s, launching the careers of Peter Greenaway (The Draughtsman’s Contract), Derek Jarman (Caravaggio), Sally Potter (The Gold Diggers) and many more.
The BFI also runs the National Archive, the biggest film archive in the world, containing nearly 1 million titles (approximately 250,000 film titles and 750,000 TV titles). The BFI has recently made a drive to make as much material accessible to the public as possible, via touring film programmes, the BFI YouTube channel and the opening of regional Mediatheques. The BFI also releases Sight & Sound magazine, and runs a reference library and a stills collection of over 7 million images. In 1988 the BFI opened the Museum of Moving Image, which received acclaim upon its opening but, due to lack of funding, was closed in 1999. The site was reopened as the BFI Southbank in 2007.
The BFI also runs a highly successful DVD label. As well as a number of popular international titles (including many titles by Jacques Tati, Jean Renoir and Pier Paolo Pasolini), the label also seeks to promote lesser known British films from the archive, such as the British Transport Films, rarely seen artists’ films, and compilations focusing on a particular subject, such as sex education movies and films from the National Coal Board.
In 2008 Greg Dyke took over as BFI Chairman, following the death of previous incumbent Anthony Minghella. In late 2009 a possible merger between the BFI and the Film Council was mooted, a move which could completely change the landscape of the British Film Industry in the years to come.