The BFI turns 80

It’s 80 years since the British Film Institute was formed.

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The BFI's certificate of incorporation, dated 30 September 1933

The BFI's certificate of incorporation, dated 30 September 1933

Born on this day in 1933: the British Film Institute. On 30 September, after lengthy negotiations with the film industry, the BFI was registered as a private company. Its goal was to provide a source of information on filmmaking and the cinema, to begin a national repository of films, and to undertake the certification of films as cultural or educational on behalf of the government. It would also be a research body, acting as a mediator between teachers and the film industry.

As recounted in The British Film Institute, the Government and Popular Culture, 1933-2000, edited by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Christophe Dupin, the BFI appointed its first general manager in J.W. Brown, formerly Secretary of the British Institute of Adult Education. He would preside over a nine-strong board of governors – three people from the industry, three from the education lobby and three people to represent the public interest. Among the BFI’s first tasks would be to negotiate the takeover of the magazine Sight & Sound, which had been published since 1932 by the British Institute of Adult Education.

So it was that the newly formed BFI would move into its first premises – a stone’s throw from the current offices – at 4 Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury.

Founding document of the British Film Institute, 1933

Founding document of the British Film Institute, 1933

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