BFI, BBC to digitize royal films

Queen marks National Film Theater's 60th anni


The British royal family’s film collection is to be digitized in a joint venture between the British Film Institute and the BBC.

The BFI National Archive, one of the largest film and TV archives in the world, has looked after the collection since the late 1960s. It mixes films presented to the royal household, including newsreels, and private family films that date back to the 1920s.

The plan to digitize the collection will make many of the films accessible to the public for the first time.

BFI chair Greg Dyke made the announcement Thursday as Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a plaque at the National Film Theater in London to mark its 60th anni.

“The queen’s visit represents a milestone where we look towards the time when we can build a new film center here on the Southbank that has the scale and magnitude worthy of representing the film industry,” Dyke said.

Industry guests at the ceremony, including filmmakers Tom Hooper, James Marsh and Richard Ayoade, watched a 3D presentation of 1953 docu “Royal Review,” about the queen’s coronation tour of the U.K.

Queen Elizabeth was shown the BFI’s state-of-the-art facilities, including the recently opened BFI Reuben Library, and then joined guests for a presentation that highlighted U.K. film and the work of the BFI.

Clips shown included BFI archive footage of “The Derby,” featuring the 1895 Epsom Derby horse race, which was part of the first film screening for the royal family in 1896. Another clip was 1896’s “Scenes at Balmoral,” which captured the first film images of a reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria.

Extracts were also shown from the royal collection, including 16mm home movie footage of the young Prince Charles and Princess Ann with their parents and grandparents, including King George VI.

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