The founder and chief executive of cinema chain Vue has been named as the new chair of the British Film Institute (BFI).
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden today confirmed that Tim Richards will take up the position from next week and serve a term of up to three years.
Richards founded Vue in 1999 and has grown it into one of the UK’s largest cinema chains, with 225 venues across Europe and in Taiwan.
He has already served on the BFI board for seven years, meaning the usual four-year term as chair has been reduced to three.
The appointment comes despite concerns about a potential conflict of interest as his role at Vue could impact the BFI’s decision-making over issues such as streaming and theatrical releases.
Concerns were also raised about how it would come across if Vue was forced into a radical restructuring plan as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sky News reported.
But the government insisted its choice followed a “fair and open” recruitment process”, adding that all appointments were made on merit and political activity played no part in the selection.
Richards will replace interim chair Pat Butler, while the post was previously held by former Warner Bros studio executive Josh Berger, who served a full 10-year term on the board.
The BFI, which has charitable status and is governed by a royal charter, is one of the UK’s key cultural institutions.
The appointment comes at a key time for the industry, which is battling the impact of the pandemic.
However, BFI figures released last week showed the sector had proved relatively resilient, with UK production spend falling just 21 per cent despite six months of disrupted filming schedules.