Victorian cinema celebrated in IMAX

BFI announces archive gala of rare film at LFF

by Amber Wilkinson

Me And My Two Friends (1898) will be among the films screening
Me And My Two Friends (1898) will be among the films screening Photo: Courtesy of BFI
London Film Festival is thinking big with its archive gala this year - presenting The Great Victorian Moving Picture show in IMAX.

Some of the BFI's earliest film's will be projected at 68mm - almost four times the image size of regular 35mm film - from restored nitrate prints.

The one-off gala event aims to celebrate a time when competing showmen were projecting their moving picture shows in London’s 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. 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.

The films range in date from 1897 to 1901 and feature everything from panoramas and Boer War dispatches to 'phantom rides' and music hall turns. 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 said: “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 festival, which runs from October 10 to 21 has previously announced that it will open with the international premiere of Steve McQueen's Widows, starring Viola Davis, and will close with the world premiere of Stan & Ollie, starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. It will also host a gala screening of Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz

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