London’s Best Outdoor Cinemas

By Phil Clarke, Editor of The Handbook website Phil Clarke |
2nd April 2019

Here’s my beef with cinemas, they’re just so indoorsy aren’t they? I mean, that’s all very well in winter time and we’ve definitely got our favourites, but in the summer months who wants to be cooped up in a soulless multiplex, smuggling in your Sainsburys-bought Minstrels to avoid paying £11.50 for them in-house, with the chewing gum trodden into the sticky carpet and the couple noisily making out (or worse) on the second-to-back row? In summer everything is better when it’s al fresco (yes, everything), and that has to start with the movies. The only challenge, to know where to head for some quality films in special locations. Here are some of the best, to make the most of the summer months.

Film4 Summer Screen, Somerset House

Film4 Summer Screen, Somerset House

Somerset House, one of London’s most iconic buildings (and that’s in a city where landmarks jostle shoulders like Northern Line commuters). Summer sees the famous ice rink melt away to be replaced with return of the Film4 Summer Screen. Doors (gates) open at 7pm but the showings don’t kick off until 9pm, giving you plenty of time to scoff down a picnic and down a couple bottles of rosé before the film begins. Summer 2019 also brings with it an extra special evening to celebrate their 200th screening. Bring a cushion!

Films running August 8th-21st

Where: Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA
Website: www.somersethouse.org.uk

The Nomad Cinema

The Nomad Cinema

Would you dare to watch a horror movie in a grave yard? Or Jaws by the lido? If so then Nomad might be for you. The travelling cinema turns familiar spots, like the Hyde Park lido or the errie surroundings of Brompton Cemetery, into temporary open-air film festivals. Locations include Leadenhall Market (okay, technically not open air, but come on), Grosvenor Square, St Paul’s and Queen’s Park among others. Grab a bottle of Prosecco and a blanket and we’ll see you there.

Selected dates from Jun 18th until September 6th

Where: Various locations (coz nomadic)
Website: www.whereisthenomad.com

Floating Film Festival - St. Katharine Docks

Floating Film Festival - St. Katharine Docks

Sit back, relax and float… This summer, St. Katharine Docks will be hosting a festival of floating film screenings filled with all time favourites. Whether you’re wanting to lie back in a deck chair watching an action movie or cuddle up into a bean bag watching your favourite romcom, you’ll feel like you’re floating on cloud nine (nearly…)

Website: www.skdocks.co.uk

Secret Cinema

Secret Cinema

It would be difficult to be more immersed in a film unless you’re actual Leonardo DiCaprio. Secret Cinema take screenings to another level, encouraging fancy dress, hiring in actors and creating incredible sets for their hidden events. Secret Cinema really is an experience, with guests unaware even of the film they’re taking part in, or the location, until the very day of screening. Much of the action takes place outdoors, especially in the warmer months. Just make sure you book early as it’s incredibly popular.

Running June 5th – September 22nd 

Website: www.secretcinema.org

Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema

Backyard cinema is in the backyard. Dominic’s, to be specific. Dominic Davies founded Backyard Cinema quite literally in his back yard when, with the help of friends and neighbours he strung up some festoon lights, bought in a projector and a makeshift screen fabricated from bed sheets and started screenings in his actual back yard. The productions have come a long way, but the spirit remains, with cinemas popping up in various places across town, like Camden’s Roundhouse, Islington’s Union Chapel or an as-yet unnamed site in South London.

July 18th until August 11th

Where: Camden Market (with Honest Burgers + Brooklyn Brewery) and Brick Lane
Website: www.backyardcinema.co.uk

Rooftop Film Club

Rooftop Film Club

Does exactly what it says on the tin, Rooftop Film Club occurs on select rooftops across town. Take a seat on the top of the Bussey Building, Queen of Hoxton or Roof East and enjoy either cult classics (recent films have included Clueless and Dirty Dancing) or else the latest blockbusters. Grab a box of popcorn and, as the lights go up, enjoy the main feature as the sun goes down across London.

Where: Peckham (Bussey Building), Shoreditch (Queen of Hoxton) and Stratford (Roof East)
Website: www.rooftopfilmclub.com

Pop Up Screens

Pop Up Screens

Pop Up Screens do just that, popping up across the capital. Bring your own booze and settle in for an evening of gentle drinking, outdoorsy fun and, crucially, a film to while away a warm summer’s night.

From July 19th 

Website: www.popupscreens.co.uk

Summer On Screen

Summer On Screen

If you’re in the Wembley area and are looking for some Hollywood classics, singalongs, Bollywood blockbusters, and even outdoor screenings of the Royal Opera House live, Summer on Screen is for you. Forget about the price tag for this one because all screenings are completely free allowing you to indulge in some pre-show entertainment, classic cinematic treats and secure your seat.

Where: Wembley Park
Website: www.wembleypark.com/summeronscreen

TimeOut Movies On The River

TimeOut Movies On The River

Normally we’d say don’t bother with Time Out, just come to The Handbook. But if you’re looking for open-air boat-based cinema watching, then we can’t compete. And Time Out have totally nailed it. Their Movies On The River offer sailings with up-to-date films and, if you don’t fancy the film (in which case, why did you book it?) then you can watch London’s riverside whizz by from the comfort of an watery cinema.

June 4th – August 3rd

Website: www.timeout.com

Luna Cinema

Luna Cinema

Luna Cinema are past masters at the outdoor cinema. Putting on screenings at iconic venues across the UK (castles and grand country homes like Chatsworth, Warwick Castle and Harewood House have served as backdrops) as well as familiar London sights/sites like Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace. From Brockwell Lido to Kenwood House, Luna Cinema’s outdoor experiences are seriously on-point and the ideal place to enjoy new releases and classics alike.

Website: www.thelunacinema.com

Herne Hill Free Film Festival

Herne Hill Free Film Festival

We love films, we love free stuff and who doesn’t love Herne Hill? Which is where the Herne Hill Free Film Festival comes in! See wha the last few days have to offer with their free screenings in the centre of this South London enclave, the community project is entirely run by volunteers and the screenings occur throughout May and throughout Herne Hill.

April 29th – June 1st

Website: www.freefilmfestivals.org

Royal Opera House's BP Big Screens

Royal Opera House's BP Big Screens

Fancy some real classics? No, not The Graduate, Four Weddings or Fight Club, but actual classics? If so there’s a screen for that. The Royal Opera House have teamed up with BP to provide big screens in Trafalgar Square throughout the summer. Summer 2019 sees showings of Romeo and Juliet, on 11th June, Carmen on 2nd July and The Marriage of Figaro on 9th July.

Where: Trafalgar Square, Central London
Website: www.roh.org.uk

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