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The London Film Museum is located near Westminster Bridge on the South Bank of London's River Thames. It sits in the shadow of the London Eye on the first floor of County Hall, which used to be the home of the Greater London Council. As such, it's a very ornate building and seems an unusual setting for a film museum. It struck me as a little strange to see horror and science fiction movie props set in miles of wood-panelled walls and sculpted high ceilings but I guess they're using the space available. That's to be applauded.
The museum opened in 2008 as The London Movium and changed its name to the London Film Museum in 2010. Having a museum dedicated to film props is a great idea and one that I've seen in several magnificent movie museums in America. Perhaps visiting those institutions had spoiled me or raised my expectations...
The seemingly endless corridors of the LFM cover a huge area and there are lots of small side rooms to explore. The problem is that much of it is empty or sparsely populated. And, sadly, much of what there is on show is distinctly second division. For example there's a huge dinosaur skeleton in a prominent position. Could it be from 'Jurassic Park' or a similar big epic movie? No, it's from 'Night at the Museum'. Sorry, it's worse than that. It's from 'Night at the Museum 2'. That sort of set the tone really. There's a life-size sci-fi submarine that turns out not to be from a Hollywood blockbuster but the legendary flop live-action version of 'Thunderbirds'. There's a beautiful set from 'Sherlock Holmes', but it's from the ITV television show, not the Robert Downey Junior movies. And there's a large exhibit about Charlie Chaplin showing some of his more famous costumes. Only they aren't his, they're from Robert Downey Junior's biopic of Chaplin. There's even a Dr Who TARDIS and a couple of Daleks on display. But they're not from the TV show, they're from the mostly forgotten films starring Peter Cushing.
Everything here is good, but much of it is not quite as good as it could be.
In most museums these days there's a big reliance on interactivity. Visitors must (apparently) always be able to do something with the exhibits, to become involved with them in some way. To become "engaged" (shudder). But not here. You can take as many photographs as you like but don't touch. It's very much an 'old-school' museum with exhibits surrounded by information boards. There are LOTS of information boards everywhere, telling you everything that you could ever want to know about the British film industry. Strangely though quite a few of the exhibits are unlabelled which is very frustrating. Or - as in the case of the over-eighteens-only "Horror" room for example - it's simply so dark that you can't read anything.
The best bit is without doubt the 'Star Wars' area. There are Stormtroopers, R2D2 and C3PO robots, original prop weapons and spaceships and a suitably scary Darth Vader suit. But here, as with many of the other exhibits throughout the museum, much of the information provided is very vague about the item that it's placed alongside. Now maybe it's just me being suspicious but that did make me question the validity and provenance of some of the items on display. For example a sign saying "Storm trooper costume used in 'Star Wars: A New Hope'" is pretty conclusive. You know instantly that it's the genuine item used in the movie. But one that just states "Han Solo was frozen in a block of carbonite" placed next to a black slab which may or may not have been the Harrison Ford statue used in the films is much more dubious. You can buy near-perfect replicas of this item quite cheaply online.
For older sci-fi fans there's a small collection of Ray Harryhausen models too. Best of these are miniature and large models of the "Talos" bronze statue that comes to life in 'Jason and the Argonauts'. He really did look as if he could come to life at any moment and I spent quite some time studying the intricacies of the model work. I could have taken as long as I wanted.
We went on a weekday morning in the school holidays. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the place was empty. Not just sparsely populated but totally empty. We were the only paying customers in there. Even the two or three staff that we saw looked surprised to see us. When I bought our tickets the man on the desk even said, "You know that this is for the London Film Museum?" as if he were shocked that we'd bothered to go. It was great for us having the entire place to ourselves but the lack of other visitors robbed it of any atmosphere, of any shared thrill with other like-minded film fans.
If you're not too good at walking I would suggest that accessibility might be a problem. There are quite a few steps to negotiate and many, many long, empty corridors to walk down between display rooms. To be fair though they say that they can provide step-free access if you let them know in advance and a free helper's ticket is provided for all disabled visitors.
After saying all this, the organisers have made a worthy effort and should be congratulated for it. At £13-50 for adults and £11-50 for children (as at July 2013) it's one of London's cheaper attractions too. And the eyes of all visitors of a certain age will light up when they see the original J Arthur Rank gong and hammer that was used to introduce all those old films. That alone has got to be worth the entrance fee.
But if you find yourself in London and you want to see lots of quality film props that you'll recognise , then honestly I'd suggest that you'll be better off going to the Planet Hollywood restaurant. It'll cost you around the same price, you'll be much happier with what you see and you'll get a meal thrown in too.
Based in the Riverside building, County Hall, London adjacent the London eye is a lovely relatively new museum that opened in 2008 by Jonathan Sands, the majority of the museums exhibits are from his private collection. The London Film museum is a collection of film memorabilia from numerous film blockbusters covering all generations of TV. The London Film museum is the only museum in Britain that is devoted to the film industry in all its splendour.
Whether you like the old Sinbad films or you'd rather watch a more recent Harry Potter or the Borrowers, there is something here for you.
The museum itself seems to be endless corridors with rooms coming off them, with each corner comes a new exhibit. There is a wonderful Sherlock Holmes exhibit; it is a room set up just like the Sherlock Holmes set and a timeline of all the films and show including all the actors who have played this iconic character. Also they have an animation studio where you can watch animators drawing.
There are costumes from the Harry Potter films and props from the film The Borrowers, which you can hold and have pictures taken with. My son loved driving through London; they have a car with a screen in front so you can see London images behind you as you drive through. There is a lot to see. My son went picture mad; his favourite was the Dr Who tardis and darlek and the many alien exhibits.
I liked having my picture taken with the night at museum dinosaur and Marilyn Monroe posing for the seven year itch statue. Both my kids liked sitting on the Simpsons sofa to have pictures taken. There is a little kid's area with dinky tables and chairs and drawing materials so you can always give the little ones a break in there.
You are permitted to take picture throughout most of the museum, although they do request that there is no photography in the Ray Harryhausen Exhibition and the Star wars set. Although you can purchase a photograph of yourself posing in the Star wars set with a light sabre. However when we visited you received one picture as part of your admission. My son loved the "photo shoot"...lol!
Before entering the museum you can take in the amazing views of Westminster and Big Ben on the opposite side of the river and also the imposing London eye which towers above you. The museum does not have very good disabled access as there are three steps just to enter the building. Then the museum is on the first floor which is accessed only via two flights of stairs. However online it does state that if access is required to call in advance, so maybe there is a back lift entrance, I'm not sure.
You buy your tickets just at the bottom of the stairs and all the staff are very friendly and helpful, even offered to help with the buggy up the stairs. They have disabled toilet facilities and baby changing facilities which are very clean.
The prices are:
£13.50 - Adults.
£11.50 - Concessions (purchase at door)
£9.50 - Children (up to 15 years of age)
Under 5s are free of charge. An essential carer is admitted free of charge with any paying disabled visitor. This I think is great!
We used buy one get one free tickets from the train station.
The museum is open every day except Christmas day.
Autumn and winter opening:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-10am-5pm
Last entry is one hour before closing.
The museum shop is located outside opposite the London eye; there is a very charming selection of souvenirs and trinkets. Although as you would expect this is not the cheapest.
On the ground floor there is a lovely little cafe that sells a selection of sandwiches, tea, coffee and biscuits, all very tasty looking. We had a muffin and a cup of tea each and the boys had a soft drink, which came to over twenty pounds, so they are quite expensive. The muffins were very tasty though! There is also a restaurant opposite the cafe; however we did not go in. Just outside and past the sea life centre is a Mc Donald's, so there are plenty of places to eat.
There are also street entertainers along the bank which entertained the kids whilst we walked there.
London Film Museum
Riverside Building, County Hall, London, Greater London SE1 7PB, United Kingdom
020 7202 7040
The nearest underground stations are Waterloo, Embankment and Westminster.We usually go to Westminster and walk across the river which is very nice.
Westminster and Waterloo underground stations both have disabled access.
Waterloo is on the Bakerloo, Northern and jubilee lines and Westminster station is on the circle, district and jubilee lines and Embankment is on the circle and district lines.
Although this museum is quite small, if you love films then this is for you. You can get so much out of this museum. Although my oldest son who is nine loved this museum, my little one who is only twenty months old did get restless at times and you can't really let little ones wander around this museum.
Overall a nice day out, but not that cheap!
My husband and I recently spent a weekend in London, at the Fan Fest convention. This was a two-day event featuring actors from the James Bond films and the venue for this was the London Film Museum, so while we were there, we had a look round the museum (as it was included in our £35 event tickets).
It is a relatively new museum, having been opened by Jonathan Sands in 2008. It is situated on the first floor of the County Hall, which is on the Southbank, so is easy to find. It is right near the London Eye and across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament. It costs £12 for adults and £10 for concessions and is open from 10am to 5pm in the week, 10am to 6pm on weekends.
The museum was ideal for the Fan Fest event, as there were two large rooms they used for the signing sessions and a lot of space for the dealers to set out tables of books and memorabilia in the corridors. The Question and Answer sessions were held in the Debating Chamber, which used to be the home of the Greater London Council and it is a beautiful room with high-backed chairs and a wonderful atmosphere.
The museum itself is quite spread out and it seems that every time you turn a corner, you find another corridor with some display there or an entrance into another room. There are toilets dotted around too and these were clean on both days.
There are many models around the corridors including one I liked of Marilyn Monroe in the famous Seven Year Itch dress scene. There are also Star Wars characters, transport, chairs from films and scary statues. I took some photos of these, but was unclear how much photography was permitted. I only saw one 'No Photography' sign, but this appeared to be just in one corridor. Anyway, plenty of people saw me use my camera in various parts of the museum and no-one told me off!
There is an interesting permanent exhibition in the museum called Charlie Chaplin - The Great Londoner, which has a life-size statue of the familiar figure at the beginning of it. There are cabinets of original documents, a video of some of his films and many interesting items. The rooms are well designed with plenty of space to walk around too.
I was especially interested in seeing Chaplin's autograph (being an autograph collector myself) and the display cabinet of dolls and little Chaplin figures from several decades. My husband enjoyed watching some original film footage, as it was the first time we had heard Chaplin's voice!
I also loved the video footage provided by the Chaplin family. It was amazing to see him as an old man, playing with his grandchildren and walking through gardens. He looked so different from the iconic image of Chaplin in black and white with his bowler hat and little moustache!
There are a lot of original props and costumes from films dotted around the museum. These include Little Nellie (the Gyrocopter used in James Bond), a TARDIS and a Dalek from Doctor Who, monsters from the Alien films and my favourite was a full-size dinosaur (Rexy) from A Night at the Museum 2, which I stood near for a photo - only to find that it moves and roars, so watch out for that!
Along the corridors are various boards with photos and information. These range from the rather boring (biographies of famous actors like Kate Winslet) to the more interesting history of British film studios - Bray, Pinewood, Ealing and so on. These were relevant to me, as I love British films and I enjoyed seeing the videos of the films in each display. (I think I had seen all the Hammer films they were showing on the Bray Studios film!)
There are rooms dedicated to Thunderbirds (including some of the models used), Star Wars and Sherlock Holmes amongst others. I had a look at all these and thought the Sherlock Holmes room was beautifully done, as part of it is like a film set or the stage of a play and I enjoyed seeing all the details used.
Along another corridor, there are themed rooms featuring different genres such as comedy, war, horror, musicals and so on. Each one has costumes, props and figures relating to each genre. I was pleased to find the costume worn by Kenneth Williams in Carry On Don't Lose Your Head in a glass case in one of these rooms.
The horror room is rated 15 and is definitely not suitable for little ones. The items in here include a very realistic severed head, a decomposing mummy and a chimpanzee being operated on.
There are various exhibitions which have a brief stay at the museum. The one there when we went was a visiting exhibit of the Clash of the Titans. This featured five original costumes from the recent film release and was there for six weeks. These rotating exhibitions mean you are almost certain to see something different each time you go.
While we were there, they announced that an exhibition of Ray Harryhausen's work is coming up in June, to celebrate Harryhausen's 90th birthday. We were lucky enough to hear him talk and to see some of the models he used in such iconic films as Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films and the original Clash of the Titans. I got to meet him and get his autograph too. I hope to be able to return to see the exhibition.
I liked the educational aspect of the museum too, with various activities aimed at children. (There was a Spy School taking place during Fan Fest.) The museum's official website even has downloads of Charlie Chaplin worksheets for Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 and offers group discounts for schools. (Sadly, the end of their 'education' section on the website concludes with this sentence - "Shoul teachesr require the ansers sheets please contact us on..." [sic]. Oh dear!
On the ground floor of the building, there is a nice café called the Zen Café, which sells sandwiches, wraps, paninis, cake, crisps and so on for reasonable prices (though not cheap). Their coffees are very good too! If you want something more substantial, there is a Chinese place next door and if you fancy something a bit sweeter, just outside are ice cream vendors and over-priced waffles (£6.20 for a waffle with strawberries and cream on!!!).
Transport links are good with the museum being in such a central location. We got the Tube in and it was just a few minutes walk round the corner from the Waterloo station.
Overall, I would definitely recommend a visit to the London Film Museum if you are a movie fan. You could easily spend a couple of hours here and I think it is worth the entrance fee.
If you want to read my review of the Fan Fest convention and see the photos of who I met, check out my blog -
More information on the London Film Museum and a video tour is available on the website -