While most people think of Leicester Square with its chains of Odeon, Vue and Cineworld when they think of cinemas in London, the city is home to an array of historical, beautiful and secretive cinemas that really every film-goer should visit at least once. Here is a list of ten of the most distinctive cinemas in the city that you will certainly want to visit after reading this.
The Electric Cinema – Portobello Road
Tickets from £18
Being over 104 years old, The Electric Cinema boasts history and class with sixty-five leather armchairs, all complete with footstools and side tables, providing comfort beyond your average cinema experience. It additionally has three 2-seater sofas at the rear of the theatre (£30) and six double beds in the front row (£45), providing a unique cinema experience. If the accompaniment of individual cashmere blankets doesn’t draw you in, then maybe its retro-chic American-French diner will.
Hot Tub Cinema – Shoreditch
£35 individual tickets or £190 for a 6 person hot tub.
Bikinis, hot tubs and drinks are a great way to spend an evening with friends, but throw in a cult film and you’ve got yourself a one of kind cinema! So far Hot Tub Cinema has covered films of the 80s and 90s and is now moving into the 00s, with screenings of The Hangover, Finding Nemo, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Dodgeball and Team America this past month alone! Not only do they show films, but they play music of the era post-screening and host fancy dress competitions at the event. Held at the top of Shoreditch’s Rockwell House, there’s also the skyline to view alongside the film. Keep the summer feeling coming and dip in to the Hot Tub Cinema!
Cine Lumiere – Kensington
For a cinema maybe more appealing to film or French students and film enthusiasts, the Cine Lumiere, named after film pioneers The Lumiere Brothers Auguste and Louis, takes audiences into the heart of cinema history without leaving London. It is a fully functioning commercial and art house cinema, so even audiences with no knowledge of the significance of The Lumiere Brothers are still encouraged to visit. Held at the Institut-Francais, Student membership for £35 allows audiences to use the cinema and La Médiathèque – the largest French library of DVDs, books and magazines in the UK. For those looking for more than just a trip to the cinema, the cultural exchange of the Cine Lumiere is awaiting.
Rooftop Cinema – Shoreditch, Stratford and Peckham Rye
London is a beautiful city and with the extended summer experienced this year, the Rooftop cinema makes the most of these sights while showing films that range from classics, to rom-coms and contemporary releases. Grab some popcorn, a friend and take a seat in their surprisingly comfortable deckchairs and make the most of alfresco viewing.
The Secret Cinema – Everywhere and anywhere
So it’s not so secret after all, but once a month you can be part of a ‘Secret audience. Secret film. Secret locations. Secret worlds.’ Beyond being secretive, The Secret Cinema is also immersive. Audiences must dress up as the characters or of the era of the film, getting to interact, have food, drinks and generally mingle with other spectators (and the actors) – living in the world of the film, before settling down to watch the chosen film. The events are often in held in venues which also accentuate the film. Register online to receive the secret email for which film will be next…
The Coronet Cinema – Notting Hill
The Coronet Cinema is a twin screen cinema, first opened in 1898 as a theatre and then exclusively as a full time cinema from 1923. It was one of the first venues in London to show films during the First World War. Once sound arrived in 1930, a cinema ticket cost around 2p. It is currently undergoing renovation and is therefore unsurprisingly more expensive now. It also famously featured in Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. It additionally houses theatre from The Print Room. If you want the spectacle and scope of the theatre, as was the original film exhibition experience, then the Coronet cinema is a must see!
The Lexi Cinema – Kensal Rise (North-West London)
The Lexi Cinema is a digital art-house cinema, offering both world cinema and mainstream films. What’s different about The Lexi Cinema is that all of its profits support a sustainable living project in South Africa, making it the city’s first ‘social enterprise’ art-house cinema. While it only has a capacity of 80, The Lexi also hosts special screenings for festivals, Q&As and fundraising events, which are often accompanied by parties. For a more intimate experience, The Lexi offers film-goers a little bit of everything.
The Edible Cinema – At The Electric Cinema
They describe themselves as ‘a unique way to experience a film: through aroma, texture and taste. Each guest is supplied with a tray of numbered mystery boxes containing a bite-sized tasting menu tailored to specific moments in the film.’ For a variation on popcorn, or really just an excuse to eat and watch a film, The Edible Cinema experience is a great night out and lets you tick two off this list in one! ‘Once the film begins, food-matched moments are signalled by a screen-side light box, which illuminates the package number that should be opened’. While it may seem expensive, the food and drinks are made by some of the finest mixologists and experimental chefs in London, plus it’s at the Electric cinema, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth! From past servings of Juno, Romeo and Juliet and Pan’s Labyrinth, get yourself a ticket and enjoy film through a whole new delicious approach.
The Rio Cinema – Dalston
The Rio Cinema opened in December 1937, after having been designed by renowned cinema architect F. E. Bromige. It is now a grade II listed building, preserving Bromige’s trademark of sweeping curves, art-deco and rich colours. It shows current mainstream films, as well as art and foreign films, however its deep proscenium arch will add an element of history and elegance to whichever film you decide to see here.
The Screen on the Green – Angel
While part of the Everyman independent chain of cinemas, Screen on the Green is a unique single screen cinema opposite Islington Green. It has been in continuous use as a cinema since 1913 and holds an audience of 125, through both standard seating and luxurious sofas. It also has a bar behind the screen for winding down before and after the film. Its distinctive neon-lit front also adds to its allure, even if you don’t want to see a film, it’s worth walking by!