Oppenheimer poster at the BFI IMAX in 2023
BFI IMAX is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
Address1 Charlie Chaplin Walk
South Bank
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°30′18″N 0°06′49″W / 51.505°N 0.113611°W / 51.505; -0.113611
Public transitLondon Underground Waterloo
National Rail Waterloo; Waterloo East
OwnerBritish Film Institute
OperatorBritish Film Institute (1999–2012, 2022–) Odeon Cinemas (2012–2022)
Capacity498 (plus 2 wheelchair spaces)
OpenedMay 1999; 25 years ago (1999-05)
ArchitectBryan Avery
Website Edit this at Wikidata

The BFI IMAX is an IMAX cinema in the South Bank district of London, just north of Waterloo station. It is owned and operated by the British Film Institute. From 2012 until 2022, it was operated by Odeon Cinemas.[1][2]

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.


Aerial view at night

BFI IMAX was designed by Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects[3] and completed in May 1999. The screen is the largest in Britain (20m high and 26m wide). It has a seating capacity of 500 and a 14,000 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.[4]

The cinema won several awards at the time of opening, including a Design Council Millennium Product Award[5] in 1999 and a Civic Trust Award in 2000.[6]

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 maintained the film programmes, and booking of tickets online and by telephone. This gave customers the opportunity to watch operas on the giant screen. The BFI retained power over the cinema's operation however, including parts of the film schedule, the name and the technical operation.[7]

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.

In June 2022, the BFI announced that its ten year concessions deal with Odeon would end on 19 July 2022, with the BFI regaining control of operations. The cinema closed on this date, with a planned re-opening on 22 July.[8]

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.

Screen size comparative to other London large screens

The BFI IMAX is the largest cinema screen in the United Kingdom. It measures 25.9m (85 feet) wide by 19.8m (65 feet) high with a total screen size of 512.8m² (289m² for a 2.39:1 film, 363m² for a 1.85:1 film, 469m² for an IMAX 1.43:1 film).[9] Before its October 2022 refurbishment it measured 26.5m wide by 20m high, which meant that if showing a film with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, only 293m² of the screen will be in use, or 379m² for a 1.85:1 film, or 491m² for an IMAX 1.43:1 film. The auditorium seats 493, including 4 wheelchair spaces.[10]

Large format screens in London by size
Cinema Screen 2.39:1 area 1.85:1 area Projector Sound
Cineworld (Empire) Leicester Square IMAX 295 m2 380 m2 2 x IMAX Laser (4K each) IMAX 12ch
BFI IMAX IMAX 280 m2 365 m2 1 x IMAX single-laser (CoLa) (4K); 1 x traditional 15/70mm IMAX projector; 2 x Christie 2K projector; 1 x Century JJ 35mm/70mm projector IMAX 12ch; Dolby Digital; DTS
Science Museum IMAX: The Ronson Theatre 247 m2 319 m2 2 x IMAX Laser (4K each); 1 x traditional 15/70mm IMAX projector[11] IMAX 12ch
Cineworld, the O2 Superscreen #11 200 m2 160 m2 1 x Christie 2K or 4K (?)[citation needed] Dolby Atmos
Cineworld (Empire) Leicester Square Superscreen 170 m2 220 m2 2 x Barco DP4K-32B (4K each) Dolby Atmos
VUE Stratford Xtreme Screen #5 140 m2 180 m2 2 x Sony SRX-R515DS (4K each) Dolby Digital 6.1
VUE Stratford Xtreme Screen #17 140 m2 180 m2 2 x Sony SRX-R515DS (4K each) Dolby Digital 6.1
VUE Westfield Xtreme Screen #6 140 m2 180 m2 2 x Sony SRX-R515DS (4K each) Dolby Digital 6.1
VUE Westfield Xtreme Screen #7 140 m2 180 m2 2 x Sony SRX-R515DS (4K each) Dolby Digital 6.1

See also


  1. ^ "Odeon takes over running of BFI IMAX". 17 July 2012. Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  2. ^ "The UK's biggest screen, BFI IMAX, to be operated by the BFI".
  3. ^ "Avery Associates project description". Archived from the original on 9 October 2007.
  4. ^ "BFI IMAX | Waterloo | South Bank London". Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Design Council website". Archived from the original on 9 July 2010.
  6. ^ "Civic Trust Awards website". Archived from the original on 10 August 2006.
  7. ^ "BFI IMAX FAQ". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  8. ^ "The UK's biggest screen, BFI IMAX, to be operated by the BFI". BFI.
  9. ^ "BFI IMAX relaunches following major upgrade". BFI.
  10. ^ "About the BFI IMAX | BFI". Archived from the original on 13 June 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Science Museum IMAX re-opens in December with latest laser technology and original 70mm projector | Science Museum". 25 November 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2023.

51°30′18″N 0°6′49″W / 51.50500°N 0.11361°W / 51.50500; -0.11361