Love film but aren’t satisfied with a bogstandard multiplex and stale salty popcorn to share? Take advantage of the seriously cool cinemas London has to offer that are so much more than your regular movie theatre.
From fully immersive experiences that transport you into the film itself to chic cinemas that will up your date-night game, here are the eight cinemas offering more than just movies.
What once started as a passion project in someone’s actual backyard, is now one of London’s best-loved film experiences. With a permanent site in Wandsworth and a pop-up venue in the Union Chapel, Islington, the themed cinema continues to wow audiences with exciting interactive backdrops – like heading through a magical wardrobe and enchanted forest to find a bean bag-filled movie theatre at the end. Or a screening of Baz Luhrmann’s iconic Romeo+Juliet set to the sounds of a real life, live gospel choir in an actual church – epic.
At their Wandsworth site you’ll find more than just a cinema. There’s The Studio Bar, with regular live music; The Yard, home to famous street food; and The Annex, a secret tap room with a rotating craft beer menu. Even if you don’t go to see a film, you’re guaranteed a good time.
Backyard Cinema, Capital Studios, Ram Quarter, 13 Wandsworth Plain, London SW18 1ET
London’s worst kept secret, Secret Cinema is set to be one of the summer’s biggest hits yet again. This July, no one is putting baby in the corner as the cult ’80s classic, Dirty Dancing comes to a secret location in the capital. If you’ve not been before it’s essentially an evening of suspense and spectacle as the Secret Cinema team recreate scenes, lines, characters and vibes from the film in question. Add to that food, drinks and music, and the culmination of the film screening at the end, and you’ve got yourself a seriously unique cinema experience.
Previous sell-out films to be brought to life by the Secret Cinema team are Bugsy Malone, Stranger Things (not necessarily a film but you get the idea), 28 Days Later and Back to the Future. Tickets for the Dirty Dancing experience are on sale now.
Cinemas don’t come much chicer than this and it’s no wonder when it’s housed in one of the world’s most famous department stores. The Cinema at Selfridges officially opened a permanent site in 2019 in the Oxford Street flagship after a successful pop-up season.
There are not one, not two, but three cinemas in the complex – one in classic movie theatre red, one in a jewel-hued mustard (for members and private screenings only) and one that’s drenched in cool blue light – each and every one of them is seriously chic.
Movie-wise, expect a mix of blockbusters and independent films. Food-wise, this is no box of salted popcorn and a Coke to share kind of affair. Expect things like a chargrilled rump steak and horseradish mayo choux bun or a crispy tortilla, szechuan prawn and pico de gallo and tasty tipples from the cinema bar. There’s also the best sweet shop we’ve ever seen and a retro, real film photobooth. Can we actually move in?
The Cinema at Selfridges, 40 Duke St, Marylebone, London W1U 1AT
If you’re serious about film head to the ICA on The Mall for some of the best curated selections of independent cinema. As well as the screening room, there’s a brilliant bookstore, exhibitions, a rota of inspiring talks and, the best bit, Rochelle’s Canteen.
Serving lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday and opening until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the originally East London hangout is probably the coolest restaurant/bar to ever be housed in the same space as a cinema.
Choose from curious dishes such as the snail, crouton and oakleaf salad, poached trout with monk’s beard and sorrel mayonnaise or a rhubarb trifle for pud.
The ICA, The Mall, St. James’s, London SW1Y 5AH
If you’re looking for a central London cinema but don’t fancy the crowds of Leicester Square, just up the road on Shaftesbury, you’ll find the Picturehouse.
Their range of films will satisfy any film buff no matter their preference, from mainstream to indie, family hits to foreign language and documentaries.
Plus, if you’re really serious about film take out a membership and reap rewards including special screenings, discounts, the stylish bar and even a roof terrace.
Picturehouse Central, Piccadilly Circus, Corner of Great Windmill Street and Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7DH
Few cinemas trump this place if you want to score date-night points. The iconic building has been a cinema since 1906 but it’s also played host to some of the UK’s biggest music talent when it moonlighted as a studio – we’re talking The Who, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and The Spice Girls to name just a few.
As well as its cool credentials, the cinema also has a great café and dining room, serving homemade, seasonal dishes from morning to late night, seven days a week.
Olympic Studios, Church Rd, Barnes, London SW13 9HL
If you want to impress with your secret London spots prowess, add the Curzon at Sea Containers to your bucket list. The intimate 57-seat cinema plays host to recent titles you may have missed, family films and old classics. Plus, the design is something pretty special, with Tom Dixon-created interiors. Pre or post-film make sure you head up to Lyaness, the cocktail bar from multi award-winning Ryan Chetiyawardana AKA Mr Lyan, for one of London’s best cocktails and stunning views across the River.
When it comes to taste, the Soho House Group can really do no wrong and their cinema offering is no exception. Head to The Electric in Portobello, which has become one of London’s best-loved movie haunts over the past decade, where you’ll find a seriously chic auditorium with its own bar that serves so much more than pic ‘n’ mix and popcorn, or the Electric Diner for American-style dishes snuggled into cosy red leather booths.
Electric Cinema, 191 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2ED