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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK


Big-movie moment for Charles

Advanced design: IMAX cinema lights up London's South Bank

The Prince of Wales has officially opened the UK's biggest cinema screen on London's South Bank.

The British Film Institute's 10-storey Imax cinema shows 2D and 3D films on the screen, which is more than 20 metres high and 26 metres wide.

The prince, the BFI's patron, attended the world première of The Old Man and the Sea, a new large-format film based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway.

[ image: Prince Charles will see the world première of The Old Man and the Sea]
Prince Charles will see the world première of The Old Man and the Sea
The cinema's screenings are reckoned to be so convincing that audiences are being given pre-viewing instructions, in case the experience makes them feel unwell.

Lottery funding of £15m helped pay for the drum-shaped building, where the special projector needed for 3D films is the size of a small car.

This special film is projected onto a screen which extends beyond the viewers' peripheral vision, giving them the impression of being in the middle of the action.

The screen is so big a whale can appear life-size.

But the projection technology is not the only advanced part of the cinema: the building was constructed using the latest techniques.

[ image: Imax uses film 10 times bigger than regular cinema film]
Imax uses film 10 times bigger than regular cinema film
From the outside, passers-by can see the glass gallery, which at night will light up the South Bank area.

Because the building, next to Waterloo Bridge, is located in the middle of one of London's busiest traffic junctions and over the top of a busy network of underground train tunnels, special thought was given to maintaining sound quality within the cinema.

To prevent noise and vibrations from seriously damaging the cinema experience, the cinema's auditorium is suspended from above and cushioned from below by a complex system of springs.

The walls are 750mm thick to stop traffic noise and to contain the sound provided by the cinema's 11,600-watt digital surround sound system.

The complex opened to the public in May, but Friday's event marked its official launch.

More than 80 2D and 3D large-format films are currently in development or production, including one commissioned by the BFI to star Stephen Fry. It has a working title of London.

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