BFI to digitise Royal film collection

image captionJonathan Ross and BFI Chair Greg Dyke presented the Queen with a selection of archive footage from The Royal Collection during her BFI visit

The BFI has announced it is digitising The Royal Collection, including royal home movies dating back to the 1920s.

The film body's archive also contains a selection of films presented to the royal household, such as newsreels.

The announcement was made as the Queen visited BFI Southbank in London to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the site, the BFI's first permanent cinema.

She unveiled a commemorative plaque and met with special guests including The King's Speech director, Tom Hooper.

image captionQueen Victoria was the first British monarch to be captured on film, at Balmoral in 1896

Actor and Submarine director Richard Ayoade was also among the guests, along with Jonathan Ross who presented the Queen with a special screening of rare royal items from the BFI National Archive.

The handpicked selection featured King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Charles as small baby, as well as the first film to feature a monarch - Queen Victoria, Scenes at Balmoral (1896).

The BFI National Archive has looked after the Royal Collection since the late 1960s and is working with the BBC to digitise the films.

'A milestone'

The Queen also met with BFI staff and school children from Telferscot Primary School, Lambeth, who showed her animated films they have been making based on the Jubilee year.

BFI Chair, Greg Dyke hosted the Queen's visit, which he called "a milestone".

"Given that the moving image wasn't invented until the end of the 19th Century I find it extraordinary to think that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for more than half the time that film has been in existence," said Dyke.

He added: "When we built BFI Southbank, it was a temporary structure in a less than ideal location under Waterloo Bridge. Who could have predicted then that, 60 years on, film would become one of the world's greatest and most accessible art forms, supporting a huge industry."

image captionThe Royal Collection includes footage of the royal family and films which were presented to them at home

The big screen presentation also featured rare silent films from the archive, showing major innovations in early British cinema.

The Derby, released in 1895 featuring the climax of that year's Epsom Derby, was one of the first British films made by pioneer Birt Acres.

The 1926 film The Open Road was the first to show locations across Britain in colour.

The Queen was also shown the restoration work that the BFI carried out on nine surviving silent films from Alfred Hitchcock, which were screened there this summer as part of the London 2012 Festival.

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