The National Film Theatre, Britain's most famous cinema and one of the defining landmarks of London's South Bank, could be moved next door to Tate Modern in a radical revision of its £35m expansion plans.
The British Film Institute is considering abandoning the NFT's decades-long base alongside the Royal Festival Hall, The Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, and moving half a mile along the Thames.
The move has been proposed amid increasing exasperation at delays to the "masterplan" for transforming the South Bank Centre, which has been in architectural limbo for a decade.
A BFI spokesman confirmed last night that, while the latest South Bank proposal was "still under consideration", a move to a site nearer Tate Modern was one of several other options on the table.
"The BFI continues to be in partnership with the South Bank Centre, and Rick Mather's master-plan is still under consideration," he said.
"However the masterplan has been subject to some delays and so understandably we have been exploring a variety of options."
Plans to replace the NFT, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, with a hi-tech film centre designed by the award-winning architect David Chipperfield were outlined in detail last April.
At the time, the site earmarked for the building, which will contain five cinemas and the world's biggest film and TV library, was a car-park a short distance from its current home under Waterloo Bridge.
However, the continued absence of a concrete timetable has encouraged BFI directors to look elsewhere.
Any move to break away from the South Bank Centre would come as a huge blow to its new chief executive, the former Sydney Opera House supremo Michael Lynch.
A spokesman for the centre said : "We are proceeding with our project as planned, and as far as we are concerned the film centre is an integral part of that plan."
The film producer Lord Puttnam last night gave a cautious welcome to the Tate Modern proposal, saying: "I've been going to the NFT for over 40 years, and for years it's been known as the 'cinema under the bridge'. It's never been a much-loved building. There's a kind of anorak affection for it that's hugely based on nostalgia.
"London isn't set in stone, and if they can make a go of it near Tate Modern, good luck to them."
Wherever it is based, the new film centre will not be built for another five years. As a short-term measure, the NFT will begin renewing its interior this September.