Architect: Wells Coates, o.b.e.Programme and Presentation: J. D. Ralph and R J Spottiswoode


The Telecinema is the first cinema in the world to be specially designed and built for the showing of both films and television.

The introduction of television into the cinema, and other technical innovations — such as three-dimensional sound pictures — present new problems to the cinema architect. This building, which seats 400 people, illustrates how these problems can be overcome. The film and television projection equipment and the special stereophonic sound apparatus is of the latest British design. Taken together with the kind of programmes that are being shown, these innovations point the way in which the cinema of the future may develop.

One thing which may particularly strike the spectator is the attempt to introduce a heightened sense of realism. This is done by special technical effects which involve the audiences more closely in the proceedings. Among these devices are the “borderless screen” and the use of films with multiple sound tracks, whose sound is reproduced through a series of loudspeakers behind the screen and in the auditorium itself. This makes it possible to “attach” the sound directly to the characters on the screen and move it with them — even above and behind the audience — whenever this would make the action in the film more realistic. This new use of the sound track is called Stereophonic Sound.

In the past, television has been designed primarily for home viewing. Now, for the first time, it has been included as a regular entertainment feature in a cinema programme. While special events televised by the BBC can be received by aerial and relayed by cable to the cinema, the greater part of the programmes, which are based on things happening on the South Bank Exhibition site, come to the cinema direct by cable from the television camera on the spot.

Included in the programme, also, are a number of documentary films specially produced for the Festival of 1951. Britain has led the world in the development of the documentary; and the films that are being shown throw further light on this country’s achievements in industry and the arts.

The projection booth of the cinema has been specially designed so that all the film and television operating equipment can be viewed by the public through a glass screen in the foyer of the building.