Arena Group’s UK & Europe division was once again asked to design and build a temporary cinema in central London for the BFI London Film Festival, 4th– 15th October 2017.
Using the I-Novation structure, two divisions of the company – Arena Structures and Arena Seating – built the 829-capacity cinema in Victoria Embankment Gardens close to the Thames, with Tim Elliott from People, the live creative agency overseeing the project on behalf of the BFI.
Arena UK & Europe supplied a one-off bespoke cinema last year for the BFI’s 60th anniversary celebrations which proved so successful that the BFI looked to the specific event expertise and state-of-the-art infrastructure from People and Arena UK & Europe once again.
This year the London Embankment Cinema welcomed more than 25,000 visitors to view the latest independent films and international premieres.
Over the course of a week and a half, our crew worked in shifts in the environmentally sensitive gardens to build the main cinema, box office and other facilities such as toilets and a VIP hospitality area, all of which were within the main structure.
Arena Structures project manager Phil Bish co-ordinated the delivery and construction of the temporary I-Novation structure which spanned 25mx35m, was based on 40mm solid walls and wrapped in the latest BFI branding.
To create the feel of a permanent cinema, the structure was fitted out to extremely high standards with all floor surfaces carpeted. A Kingspan panel with a metal exterior and foam interior was dressed with heavy black wool serge drapes to offer soundproofing between the main auditorium and the rest of the building and exterior.
A red-carpeted 5m x 25m walkway ran along the front of the building leading to a 5m x 10m covered VIP media reception structure which in turn connected to the box office and the hospitality area. The latter was built using a 15m x 20m Arcus structure.
Phil Bish commented: “We were pleased with how the build went on what is a very challenging site in central London with limited access. Working in an area close to residential apartments meant noise issues were paramount and we were careful not to carry out any noisy work after 8 pm.”
Audiences were sat in cinema-style fully upholstered Diplomat seats, which came complete with drinks holders and armrests. The tiered seating was built on a reinforced substructure to add to the feeling of permanence. Arena Seating also constructed the projection platform above and behind the last row of seats, taking care to ensure no vibrations from the audience seating interfered with the projection quality.
Dave Withey, who project managed the Arena Seating element, said: “We met with the client after last year’s event and looked into further creative improvements to build on the success of the 60th anniversary. We reconfigured the seating to make access and egress easier for the audience and also improved the sightlines from the seats nearest the staircases.
“A benefit of these changes was that we were able to fit in 40 more seats than the previous year.
“It is a challenging site because once the footprint of the cinema is laid out there is very little other space to work with, but when you are partnering with a client as good as People it makes the whole thing run smoothly.”
Over the course of the 12-day film festival, audiences were able to enjoy 45 different screenings in Embankment Gardens.
Commenting on the build process and finished structure Tim Elliott, founding director at People, said: “The on-site teams from Arena Structures and Seating were a pleasure to work with, as always. They worked tirelessly to deliver the desired product in what was a challenging and restrictive site.
“The cinema saw more than 25,000 people flow through it during the London Film Festival, which we are very proud of.”