Tim Richards (Courtesy of BFI/Vue)
Richards will take over the role, which is appointed by the U.K. government, from interim chair and BFI governor Pat Butler from Feb. 16 and will serve a three-year term. He takes the reins from former Warner Bros. U.K. boss Josh Berger, who stepped down from the position last year after an impressive 10 years.
The public appointment was made by U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, and revealed on Thursday. Richards has been the frontrunner for the position in recent weeks. It’s understood he was competing with the likes of Caroline Michel, CEO and literary agent at U.K. literary and talent agency Peters Fraser + Dunlop, and Nick Clarry, partner at private equity firm CVC advisers and chair of the board of trustees at London’s Old Vic theater.
Richards — a prominent industry figure who has worked closely with the government during the pandemic to navigate a strategy for cinemas — founded Vue International in 1999. Since then, the cinema operator has expanded to 225 multiplex cinemas across Europe and Taiwan, attracting over 100 million customers a year to screenings. He joined the BFI as a governor in 2013 and has held positions on many industry boards since 2007.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said of Richards’ appointment: “The BFI showcases the great creativity and innovation of the U.K.’s hugely successful screen sectors, which are already bouncing back strongly. I know Tim will be a brilliant champion for the industry and his extensive experience will help ensure the BFI plays an important role in our cultural and economic recovery.”
Richards added: “I am honored and thrilled to have been asked to chair the BFI, especially at such a crucial time for the arts and cultural sector. British film and television have always had a unique power to inspire people globally and I am confident that Britain’s talent and creativity will help lead the screen industries to a great future.”
BFI chief executive Ben Roberts noted: “It’s great news that Tim Richards will be the BFI’s new chair. Having been on the BFI board for 7 years, Tim is already under the skin of our organization, and has been an incredible supporter and champion of the work we do across film culture. His experience and knowledge of the business of film, particularly across exhibition but also across skills and education, will be enormously valuable to the BFI and I am very much looking forward to working closely with him as he steers us into our next exciting chapter.”
Variety's Manori Ravindran contributed to this post.