Shock over Museum of Moving Image closure

Story by Jack Foley



PLANS to move London's leading film museum, the Museum of the Moving Image (Momi) to a location near Jubilee Gardens, next to the London Eye, in 2007, have been scrapped, it was announced on Friday (October 4, 2002).

The shock revelation, made by the British Film Institute, means that Momi, which has been closed since 1999 to make way for its refurbishment and relocation, will now never re-open.

It will be replaced, instead, by a new Film Centre for the Jubilee Gardens site, described by the bfi as 'a dynamic, innovative centre for film and TV culture'.

A statement issued on Friday confirmed: "Although we do not intend to recreate Momi in exactly the same way - as a separate paying attraction - we will provide a range of changing exhibition areas in the centre which will display our 2D and 3D collections."

The news has come as a blow to many supporters of film (and the arts) in London, and prompted a warning, from Anthony Smith, the former head of the bfi, that it could deter investors from putting money into the arts. Describing the decision as 'a terrible tragedy', he added that it was also 'a terribly dangerous thing to do' and said he wanted to know why no one had tried harder to keep it open.

In its heyday, Momi offered visitors the chance to see early cameras and a huge collection of film footage. It was also interactive, with attractions including the chance for visitors to fly over London, Superman-style, by lying in front of a blue screen.

Guests could also read the News at Ten, take part in an interview with film critic Barry Norman, or appear in a Western and create their own animation.

The chairman of the BFI, Broadcaster Joan Bakewell, the chairman of the bfi, has said very little on the matter, except pledging that elements of Momi will survive once the Film Centre - which would also replace the National Film Theatre and house the BFI's headquarters - opens in 2007 or 2008.

At one stage, Momi was one of London's most popular tourist attractions, with about 500,000 visitors per year, but dwindling numbers prompted bosses to start charging for entry in a bid to raise revenue.

Attempts to get the government to intervene in the closure, however, have so far proved futile, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport saying that it had 'no plans to intervene' in the situation, as it was a matter for the bfi.