BRADFORD’S National Media Museum has secured almost £800,000 in Government funding to upgrade the largest cinema screen in Yorkshire in a bid to keep pace with digital technology and reverse shrinking audience numbers.
The £780,000 loan will pay for a new digital IMAX system, including a new projector and screen, which will dramatically increase the number of new film releases that can be shown.
At present only one or two feature films are shown each year. The new IMAX facility will screen one or two movies a month.
Audience figures have slumped as the number of films that can be shown on the current system has fallen.
Last year only 24,051 people visited the Museum’s IMAX facility, compared with almost 150,000 in 2009-10 which was an exceptional year because of the film Avatar.
Works to improve the theatre will take place over several months and the aim is to have the new upgraded system up and running in the summer.
The theatre will be closed for a period of roughly eight weeks while the work to replace the screen and the projection equipment – installed in 1999 – takes place.
A spokesman said that upgrading to the IMAX Digital Xenon Theatre System will result in more IMAX releases at the Museum and a better big screen experience for audiences.
Just two of the films expected to receive wide release in IMAX theatres this year include the 24th Bond Film, Spectre, and the first film in the new Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens.
In a separate announcement, the Media Museum said its Widescreen Weekend Festival would now take place in October rather than spring.
The celebration of large-screen formats will take place October 15-18. The programme will be announced later this year.
Jo Quinton-Tulloch, director of the National Media Museum, said: “The announcements we’re making today show this Museum’s fundamental commitment to cinema and to the City of Film.
“Upgrading the IMAX theatre is part of our promise to improve the cinema operation at the Museum through our partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas – and crucial to us achieving our ambition to be the place in Yorkshire to see film. The return of Widescreen Weekend is very exciting indeed. It’s a completely unique festival and, with its focus on cinema technologies past and present, one that only this Museum can deliver.”
Gary Verity, of tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “These are exciting plans and they will take the National Media Museum’s IMAX experience on to a whole new level – effectively going from one or two feature films a year to one or two a month.
“This is a clear statement of intent for the long-term development of this iconic and famous museum and forms part of wider plans to move the attraction forward and drive up visitor numbers.”
The improvements to the IMAX theatre are being made possible through a Government pilot scheme to make loans available for museums to invest in approved projects to develop new business. The loan is repayable over five years.
Details of the IMAX temporary closure will be announced shortly.