As a film lover, one of my favourite things to do when visiting a new city or town for a weekend is to check out the local cinema scene. Thankfully the UK is home to some brilliant old-school and independent picture palaces. From century-old cinemas to an adorable pizzeria-turned-picture house, read on for our edit of the coolest cinemas in the UK. 

The Kinema In The Woods, Lincolnshire

One of the most unique settings on our list nestled amongst trees, this little village cinema dates back to 1922 when Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall purchased the ruins of a former hotel and opened it up as a cinema. 

From the outside, it doesn’t look like your typical cinema and has more of a village-hall vibe, featuring old-school, retro signage. Inside you’ll find four cinema auditoriums, including a larger 169 seater with a giant rippled curtain and comfortable seats and an intimate 21 seater perfect for private hires and special screenings. 

Coronation Road, Woodhall Spa, LN10 6QD

Campbeltown Picture House, Campbeltown

Visiting Scotland soon? Bookmark this beautifully designed cinematic destination. One of the first purpose-built cinemas in Scotland, the building dates back to 1913 and features an art nouveau exterior and rich, theatrical interior. 

The cinema screening room here feels like it’s been plucked from a theatre set, with Tudor-style buildings located on both sides of the screen. It helps add to the drama showcased on screen.

26 Hall Street, Campbeltown, PA28 6BU

Ritzy Cinema & Cafe, London

Dating back to 1911, The Ritzy is one of the UK’s most iconic cinemas. In the 1970s it closed and came close to being demolished, however, Lambeth Council and the management came together to reopen it into an artsy cinema. It’s since grown in strength and size, with now five screens, a bar and café area. 

Owned now by Picturehouse, it’s still famed for its iconic Edwardian-style exterior and main auditorium. We love the old-school cinema signage featuring the latest films on the big screen.

Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW2 1JG

Duke Of York’s, Brighton 

One of the oldest cinemas still open in the UK, this Brighton institution dates back to 1910. Over the years it has gone from being known as the ‘fleapit’ to one of the city’s best landmark destinations. It’s now recognised for its iconic black and white legs sitting atop the Grade II-listed building. 

It was taken over by Picturehouse in 1994 and has been restored to its former glory, with the giant auditorium seating up to 274 film fans. There’s even an array of balcony seats with sofas. Plus, it’s home to Brighton’s cosiest, hidden outdoor terrace that overlooks Preston Circus.

Preston Road, Brighton, BN1 4NA

Magic Lantern Cinema, Tywyn 

Over in Tywyn, Wales, the Magic Lantern Cinema has been screening films since the early 1900s. It started out being built as the town assembly rooms, featuring a range of variety performances, before going on to screen its first film in approximately 1900. 

The auditorium is one of the funkiest we’ve seen, with green velvet seats and curtains, purple accents and giant murals spread across the walls.

6a Corbet Square, Tywyn, Wales, LL36 9DF

The Northern Light Cinema, Derbyshire 

You would be forgotten if you mistook its exterior for an independent store or office, but inside you’ll find a whole world of film-fuelled possibilities await. It’s rich with history and is housed on the ground floor of an 18th-century Malthouse, filled with classic seats, all salvaged and restored from The Savoy Cinema in Nottingham. Choose between a luxury seat or a comfy sofa for two for the ultimate cinematic experience.  

Its interiors are entirely unique, with exposed brick walls and candle-esque lighting, and a mix of royal red seats or funky textiles and cushions. This boutique cinema is home to a 1920s Art Deco-inspired bar, with a range of drinks and snack options available helping to enhance your visit.

13A North End, Wirksworth, Derbyshire, DE4 4FG

The Little Theatre Cinema, Bath 

Dating back to 1935, this historic building was first set up by theatre lover Consuelo de Reyes and her husband and began life as a news theatre, showing regular documentaries and newsreels. It transformed in 1939 with its first film screening, showing Peg of Old Drury starring Anna Neagle, followed by Will Hay’s Oh My Porter. 

As many independent cinemas closed across Bath, The Little Theatre Cinema survived on local support. Now owned by Picturehouse, the cinema features two screens, including a balcony in its main auditorium.

St Michaels Place, Bath, BA1 1SF

Electric Cinema, London

Dating back to 1910, Notting Hill’s Electric Cinema is one of London’s most iconic movie theatres. The first-ever film to be screened here was the 1911 silent film, Henry VIII. 

This Grade II-listed building is still as bustling and beautiful as it was when it first opened, with an ornate domed auditorium, stunning detailing and a rich red curtain hanging across the screen. There’s a host of cosy sofas available, perfect for snuggling up with on a date. Its management has changed over the years but is currently managed by Soho House.

191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2ED

The Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford 

For a classic cinema experience, look to The Ultimate Picture Palace. Dating back to 1911, this Oxford landmark still boasts its original box office window that looks out onto the street. 

While its management and screenings have changed over the years, the space and community spirit have remained the beating heart of the local area. In 2022, the cinema even became community-owned after being purchased by over 1,200 dedicated film lovers. 

Expect an array of new releases and independent screenings on offer daily.

Jeune Street, Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1BN

The Pavilion, Hailsham 

Set in the old market town of Hailsham, The Pavilion is a fully independent cinema. First set up in 1921, its exterior, complete with doming and intricate detailing, remains the same as it was over a century ago. 

Inside, the interiors have been fully restored, paying homage to the ‘Golden Age’ of cinema and theatre entertainment. The auditorium is of course the highlight, with plush red velvet seats, gold detailing and classic theatre-style curtains across the screen.

George Street, Hailsham, East Sussex, BN27 1AE

Zeffirellis, Cumbria 

Fancy a side of jazz and pizza with your cinema experience? That’s exactly what you can expect from Ambleside’s Zeffirellis. 

The independent cinema features a cosy pizzeria serving up Italian-inspired dishes, from cheesy pasta to thin, crispy base pizzas. It’s also home to a live jazz bar, with performances running every Friday and Saturday. On the cinematic front, the movie theatre screens the latest releases inside its rich red auditorium.

2 Compston Road, Ambleside, LA22 9DJ

Sol Cinema, Moving Location

Is this the smallest cinema in the solar system? Sol Cinema certainly thinks. This moving cinema pops up in various locations around the country and can be hired out for private events. It’s housed inside a vintage caravan that’s powered entirely by solar energy and seats up to eight adults or ten children. You’ll likely find them popping up at festivals, from Britfest to Glastonbury.

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