The Arts Council is to award the British Film Institute Pounds 15 million from its National Lottery fund to put towards building London's first Imax cinema.
The new development at the South Bank, which will cost up to Pounds 19 million to build and equip and is expected to open in 1998, will be constructed on the Bullring - nicknamed "cardboard city" because of the number of homeless people living there. Lambeth County Council will find accommodation for the these people.
The glass-domed, 500-seat rotunda will be the largest state-of-the-art cinema to be built by manufacturers Imax in Britain and the second largest in Europe, with a screen 10 times bigger than the conventional size. It will measure 65 feet high and 95 feet wide, producing an image equivalent to the size of a seven-storey building.
Loudspeaker banks, controlled by an 18,000-watt, six-channel sound system, will give out a realistic surround-sound effect. The system, designed especially for Imax cinemas, will keep the volume and sound quality consistent so that all members of the audience will hear good quality sound regardless of where they sit.
The cinema will be able to show films in 2-D and 3-D as well as 35mm, 70mm, super-70mm and video formats and will be one of the few venues in the UK able to screen such big film classics as Lawrence of Arabia in its full glory.
The BFI hopes it will draw more visitors to the South Bank, which has a dowdy reputation. Improvements will be made to the walkways, enhancing safety and accessibility, especially for disabled people.
The BFI Imax will be integrated with the Museum of the Moving Image, which is on the South Bank. The cinema will have space for educational exhibitions curated by the museum to illustrate cinematic history and the work of the BFI.
The cinema will be open seven days a week, all year round and screen about 49 shows a week.