Victorian IMAX experience announced as Archive Gala at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show will project Britain’s earliest films at their grandest scale (almost four times the image size of regular 35mm film) on the nation’s biggest screen, the BFI IMAX.

Me and My Two Friends (1898)

Me and My Two Friends (1898)

The 62nd BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® is delighted to announce this year’s Archive Gala: The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show on 18 October at the BFI IMAX.

Sweeping away the veil of time, this Archive Gala will project Britain’s earliest films at their grandest scale (68mm, almost four times the image size of regular 35mm film) on the nation’s biggest screen, the BFI IMAX. Festival-goers will be astounded by the sheer clarity, scale and spectacle of these incredibly rare surviving fragments of our first films, preserved by the BFI National Archive. Breathing new life into these filmic ghosts, superbly restored from the 68mm original nitrate prints under the meticulous and painstaking supervision of the BFI’s Conservation Centre, these films will be presented digitally in their fully fleshed, large format, high-definition glory for the first time in over 120 years.

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show will reveal the quality, scope and scale of their technical ambition in developing a new media, combined with their avid curiosity in the world opening up around them. It also showcases the drive and media savvy of the showmen and film pioneers who sold audiences this new perception of reality. This unique opportunity promises to show the Victorians in a whole new light, blowing the lid off any preconceptions of our forebears and dispelling the image of the stuffy, stoic, stern Victorian for good.

In a night not to be missed, this one-off gala event will transport the audience back to the end of Victoria’s long reign, a time when competing showmen were projecting their moving picture shows in London’s great West End theatres. Among the frontrunners was the peerless William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, whose British Mutoscope and Biograph Company enjoyed a long residency at the Palace Theatre of Varieties (now known as the Palace Theatre on Cambridge Circus, home to a different magician in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). Of Scottish heritage, Dickson, who had worked for Thomas Edison, arrived in London in 1897 with his own very special USP: large-format films – the IMAX films of their day – aiming to outgun his rivals with his high quality pictures.

At only a minute or so long, these films range in date from 1897-1901, serving up an eclectic spread of subjects, from gorgeous panoramic vistas to dizzying ‘phantom rides’, from music hall turns to the pomp of royal pageantry, from the bustle of the Victorian street to genuine dispatches from the Boer War. The night has been programmed by and will be presided over by BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon, with music from composer/pianist John Sweeney and his Biograph Band.

BFI Head Curator, Robin Baker says:

“The quality and clarity of these new restorations is extraordinary. They offer an immediacy and connection with the Victorian period that I have never felt before. You almost feel as if you can reach out and touch the past. The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show provides audiences with an exclusive first look at some of the 700+ Victorian films newly digitised by the BFI National Archive that we will launching online in 2019 to mark the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth.”

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show features films by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Prestwich and Gaumont all restored in 2018 by BFI National Archive in collaboration with EYE Filmmuseum and Haghefilm. The restoration of the films was supported by The Eric Anker-Petersen Charity. With additional support from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and the John S. Cohen Foundation.

The 62nd BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® takes place from Wednesday 10 October-Sunday 21 October 2018. The full Festival programme will be announced on Thursday 30 August 2018.

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