Voted London’s best cinema by Time Out readers in 2014, this two-screen independent venue in a former Salvation Army Hall opened its doors in spring 2014 and quickly became a favourite with locals from Crouch End and the surrounding area. The ArtHouse prides itself on being not just a cinema but also a venue offering music, comedy and theatre. Its programme leans towards independent and foreign movies, while the foyer area offers a welcoming bar and café serving an attractive selection of food and drink. Time Out was proud to see copies of its reviews blown up large and stuck on walls for customers to read last time we popped in.
The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete estate of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. The lakeside terrace and adjoining café are good spots to take a rest from visiting the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library within the complex. The art gallery on the third floor stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art. At the core of the music roster, performing 90 concerts a year, is the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). The annual BITE season (Barbican International Theatre Events) continues to cherry-pick exciting and eclectic theatre companies from around the globe. The Barbican regularly attracts and nurtures experimental dance, and the Pit Theatre is a perfectly intimate space. Find out more about the past, present and future of the Barbican with our complete guide to the Barbican Centre.
After a top-to-toe refurb, the Barbican Centre cinemas are back and better than ever. Screen One, inside the main Barbican complex, is a 280-seat auditorium screening the best new blockbusters and high-end arthouse films, while the two smaller screens around the corner on Beech Street have been kitted out with plush, comfy chairs and a friendly, welcoming café-bar serving coffee, cakes, beer, wine and pizza. The programme also includes plenty of festival screenings and classics, many of which are chosen specifically to tie in with art and music events happening elsewhere in the Barbican complex.
Formerly the National Film Theatre, this much-loved four-screen venue on the South Bank in Waterloo became the BFI Southbank in 2007. For film lovers who know their Kubrick from their Kurosawa, this is London's best cinema. Certainly, it's the city’s foremost cinema for director retrospectives and seasons programmed to showcase international work or films of specific genres or themes. It’s the flagship venue of the British Film Institute and plays home each year to the BFI’s London Film Festival and to the BFI’s seasons, such as 2014’s celebration of sci-fi. BFI Southbank also regularly hosts Q&As with some of the world’s leading filmmakers. The venue itself is a hot spot, with two bar-restaurants (one overlooking the river, nestled under Waterloo Bridge), a bookshop (good for DVDs too) and a library.
The jewel in the Picturehouse crown opened in 1992 and has been screening a mix of mainstream releases and independent films from its handy location beside Clapham Common ever since. Like all Picturehouses it’s a super-popular local cinema with a devoted following who come for the snug, anti-multiplex atmosphere and comfy reclining seats. Take your pick from the gut-expanding array of posh snacks and grab a drink at the bar, which has become a destination in itself – and is perfect for a post-film debrief. Plus you can buy a glass of wine to take into the movie.
The Curzon Mayfair is the only cinema where Time Out has ever been told off by a fellow moviegoer for eating popcorn too loudly. Which just goes to show what a classy venue this grade II listed cinema is. The bigger of its two screens is a beauty – a 311-seater still in possession of its two original Royal Boxes. The smaller screen is a snug 83-seater. The programme is as brilliant as you'd expect from the Curzon group, a mix of arthouse films, live events and docs, while the bar is suitably stocked with fancy snacks and wines.
Arthouse film fans have been known to go weak at the knees at the mention of the Soho Curzon, which has some of the best programming in London – a mix of arty new releases and documentaries, often introduced by the filmmakers themselves. Watching a film at the Curzon always feels special, surrounded by film lovers without it being pretentious. The coffee is good, the bar relaxed, and if you’re watching a British film, you’ll likely be seeing the finished product a stone’s throw from where it was edited in Soho. Perfect for whiling away a rainy afternoon.
In May 2014 the Curzon opened this sleek five-screen £3 million cinema, an oasis of elegance on an unlovely stretch of main road in Victoria. Upstairs is a ‘Mad Men’-chic bar, with leather armchairs, film stills on the walls, board games and two widescreen TVs with headphones where you can watch around 40 films from the Curzon’s archive for free. Downstairs is a vaguely Lynchian bar with red velvet curtains, while inside the cinemas you’ll find super-comfortable reclining seats. As with all the cinemas in the Curzon chain, this is luxurious without losing sight of the reason we’re here – to watch brilliant films.
The Electric in Notting Hill is one of London’s oldest cinemas and definitely the most romantic. Owned by the Soho House group, it’s been beautifully restored, with luxurious leather armchairs, footstools, lush cashmere blankets and waiter service delivering cocktails to your chair. What makes the Electric date-perfect is that seats on the front-row have been ripped out and replaced with six luxurious, velvet-lined double beds – ideal smooching. And best of all, it’s on Portobello Road, so you leave feeling like you’re in a Richard Curtis movie.
Formerly known as the Screen on the Hill, the Everyman Belsize Park is now part of the Everyman group of luxury cinemas, which includes the Everyman Hampstead and the Everyman Screen on the Green. Nestled among bars and restaurants in Belsize Park, this is a single-screen cinema with 113 standard seats and 16 premier seats – but the standard seats are pretty fancy too (leather armchairs and sofas). The films are a mix of mainstream and independent, and the food and drink is of the superior kind. This was the first of the luxury Everyman cinemas and so is something of a flagship, alongside its near-neighbour the Everyman Hampstead.
This is the original cinema of the Everyman chain of luxury cinemas – known as the Everyman long before there was ever a group. The venue’s two screens are decidedly upscale: each with armchairs, sofas (as well as a sprinkling of deluxe two-seater sofas in the larger screen) and staff serving food and drinks at your seat. The programming is a mix of mainstream and independent, so you can expect to see big blockbusters here as well as artier British and international films.
Lucky old Whitechapel. They get to have the gorgeous Genesis as their local. Not only is it cheap, but it's also been beautifully renovated in the past two years by guys who design film sets for a living (try knocking the bricks upstairs on the mezzanine level). The end result is pretty much a perfect local cinema, where you’ll find proper old East End ladies drinking coffee next to cool kids on laptops in the café. There’s a bar upstairs, and if you want to fill your face, you’re in for a treat. Choose between crodoughs from nearby 100-year-old bakery Rinkoffs, or the snack bar with a wall of Pick ’n’ Mix or jumbo hotdogs from World’s Wurst (terrible name, brilliant bangers, from £3.90). Book seats in the Studio 5 boutique screening room with armchairs and a cosy bar for a date.
Instantly recognisable by its striking glass and brick exterior (which throws buckets of natural light on to the box office and slender upstairs bar), the Greenwich Picturehouse is the number one destination for film lovers in south-east London to watch a movie. There’s everything you'd expect from a Picturehouse cinema here – plump seats, a decent range of drinks and snacks, a programme mixing top-end mainstream releases with artier films – plus a downstairs bar that doubles as a venue for comedy and music gigs. And if you’re feeling peckish, there’s a little Spanish restaurant attached to the foyer.
The Picturehouse has only been open since 2011, but already it’s impossible to remember Hackney without its four-screen cinema. Downstairs, on the ground floor the bar/café (we recommend the burgers) is always buzzing. The programming is a bang-on mix of top-of-the-range mainstream and artier films – and if you’re after blockbuster bangs, make sure you book for screen one, with its beast of a screen, big sound and steep incline for uninterrupted viewing. On the top floor is the Hackney Attic venue, home to music quizzes, open-mic nights and all manner of live events.
This Wimbledon branch of this arthouse cinema chain is kind of like the high street member of the family, what with it being inside an HMV store. But rest assured they still screen all the cult newbies and oldies, as well as a few blockbusters (well, everyone wants to see James Bond, don't they?).
One of London’s friendliest cinemas, single-screener The Lexi is run mostly by enthusiastic local volunteers, with every penny of profits going to a charity in South Africa. The programme is a mix of everything from recent blockbusters to arthouse and foreign films, plus special events, Q&As and classic movie seasons (a recent run of Francois Truffaut oldies were accompanied by cheese and wine tastings). The chairs are comfy, the sound system is second to none and the bar cosy. The Lexi team is also responsible for the brilliant outdoor cinema Nomad.
Few cinemas evoke quite as much misty-eyed fondness among South London film fans as the PeckhamPlex. It ain’t fancy, and you’d struggle to describe the décor in entirely favourable terms, but this rough-around-the-edges Peckham institution, which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, has character and charm in spades. The only thing you really need to know about this place is that tickets are just £4.99 – or £5.99 if you want to see a film in 3D – all day, every day of the week. That’s it: no nonsense, no frills, no faff. The programme focuses on the latest big releases as well as the odd smaller film, which you can read about on the cinema’s delightfully gif-heavy blog.
The Picturehouse's latest branch, opened in the summer of 2015, sits on the site of the old Cineworld in Piccadilly's Trocadero centre, which has had a stunning revamp. Distancing itself from the old maze that was former cinema entrance, Picturehouse have walled this up and made a clear entrance on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Great Windmill Street. Inside visitors are met with a grand staircase paired with a film themed mural by US artists Patrick Vale and Paul Davis. There's also a ground floor café. Up a level you'll find the box office and the bar, before heading to one of the seven screens. Still in the same theatres the original screens were, these rooms have been overhauled with larger screens and comfy seats with more leg room. Another climb up a level will take you to the gallery space and a members-only bar with a roof terrace that looks out over the busy streets of central London.
The Prince Charles in Leicester Square is the only cinema in London where no one is going to shush you. In fact, it’s all about audience participation. Aca-along to ‘Pitch Perfect’, sing-along to ‘Frozen’ or get on your best jimjams and settle in for a marathon all-night pajama party. The Prince Charles started life as a porn cinema and it’s still central London’s wild card cinema. The programme isn’t quite as sleazy as it might’ve been 40 years ago, but it’s still a fantastic blend of new-ish blockbusters and arthouse titles with heaps of horror, sci-fi and teen-flick all-nighters, double bills and short seasons, often screened from 16mm or 35mm celluloid. Luxurious it ain’t, but it’s comfy, cheap and very cheerful, and the programming is as good as it gets. Voted 'best for fun' in Time Out's cinema awards.
If the new biopic of Hitch leaves you cold head instead to the Desperado, which is showing a different Hitchcock film every day until April 9. There’ll be the great classics from the 1950s, of course: from ‘Strangers on a Train’ (1951) to the unmissable ‘Psycho’ (1960) via ‘Rear Window’ (1954’) ‘Vertigo’ (1958) and ‘North by Northwest’ (1959) – an incredible amount of quality films produced in just one decade. As well as these, expect some of the less well-known earlier films of this master of suspense, like ‘The Skin Game’ (1931) or ‘Number 17’ (1932). This classic selection will be screened in English with French subtitles, an excellent way to wait out the long final weeks until spring. The programme: - Sat 23 March: 'The Wrong Man' (H2) - Sun 24: 'Psycho' (H2) - Mon 25: 'The 39 Steps' (H1) - Tue 26: 'Young and Innocent' (H1) - Wed 27: 'Mr and Mrs Smith' (H1) - Thu 28: 'The 39 Steps' (H1) - Fri 29: ‘Dial M for Murder’ (H1) - Sat 30: ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ (H1) - Sun 31: 'Suspicion' (H1) - Mon 1 April: 'North by Northwest' (H2) - Tue 2: ‘Rear Window’ (H2) - Wed 3: ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (H1) - Thu 4: ‘Number Seventeen’ (H2) - Fri 5: 'Rebecca' (H2) - Sat 6: ‘Strangers on a train’ (H1) - Sun 7: 'Notorious’ (H2) - Mon 8: ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (H1) - Sun 9: ‘Spellbound’ (H1) Schedules: S1 = 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm, 10pm // S2 = 2pm, 4.30pm, 7pm, 9.30pm
Recently saved from threatened closure, Shoreditch's independent cultural centre houses three cinema screens alongside exhibition and performance spaces and a cafe/bar. Run as a charity, it's a vibrant arts hub and any given week could see it hosting an assortment of music gigs, theatre shows, art exhibitions, themed festivals and all manner of workshops. Families are well catered for with weekly parent and baby cinema screenings of the latest films, a family cinema club with affordable tickets and the fortnightly Wiggly Jigglers active play session for under-twos. Local residents with a Tower Hamlets Libraries or Ideas Store card get discounted entry to cinema screenings.
This Dalston cinema opened as the Kingsland Empire in 1915 (although films were shown on the same site several years before in a converted shop). The venue was significantly changed in the 1930s and reopened as the Classic in 1937 – very similar to how it looks today. It became the Rio in 1976 and is now one of the few genuinely independent movie houses in London. A single-screen cinema with a grand, two-floor auditorium, the Rio shows mostly independent and foreign films, with a healthy sprinkling of double bills, classics and films for kids. The foyer is a compact but welcoming place to find food and drink before a film – although you might want to save yourself for one of Dalston’s Turkish restaurants.
The Ritzy is a Brixton institution, much loved for its friendly staff and anti-multiplex atmosphere. One of south London’s oldest picture palaces (it originally opened in 1911), today the Ritzy has still got a little of that grandeur. Its five screens are all comfortable and reasonably sized, while the programme strikes the perfect balance between major blockbusters and independent films, plus late-night shows and classics. There are also two bars, one offering a view across Windrush Square and serving slap-up café food, the other tucked upstairs inside the cinema and playing host to an array of club nights and stand-up shows.
The Riverside Studios has had a long and enterprising history. Starting life as an industrial building in the 1800s, it was bought by the Triumph Film Company in 1933, serving as a film studio until 1954 when the BBC moved in and made Riverside its television station hub. ‘Top of The Pops’ and ‘Dr Who’ were famously filmed here, together with ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ and ‘Playschool’. It wasn’t until 1975 that Riverside Studios received council funding to become a community arts centre and, with playwright Peter Gill at the helm, it launched as a new home for the performing arts. Since then, Riverside has evolved and grown providing visitors with an often ambitious theatre, art, cinema and education programme, as well as a studio space for television companies and a lively bar-cum-restaurant.
The Screen on the Green in Islington is one of the country’s oldest cinemas: it opened in 1913 and has been a single-screen cinema ever since. It was bought by the Everyman chain of luxury cinemas in 2008 and soon after was renamed Everyman Screen on the Green. It offers a mix of standard and premier seats (the latter being ‘luxurious sofas with footrests’), and there’s a bar at the back of the screen. Directors regularly attend the cinema for introductions and Q&As.
An east London branch (further east than the Hackney Picturehouse) of this cinema family that tends to show the big movies. Plus silver screen and kids club groups, vintage film Sundays and discover Tuesdays for those who want to be wowed by something they've never heard of.
Formerly the Aubin, this snug little cinema is now part of the Soho House group (which also owns the gorgeous Electric Portobello). Everything about the Electric Shoreditch exudes luxury, from the leather armchairs and footstools to the cashmere blankets and chic little tables to hold your drinks. We recommend seats in the middle of rows B and C for the best views. And if you’re in need of a manicure or a haircut, this is the perfect venue: it's in the basement of Barber & Parlour, a three-storey preening paradise that opened in October, 2014. On the first floor you can get a mani or up-do at the Cheeky Parlour. On the ground floor, alongside a café selling flat whites, you’ll find barbers Neville.
This gorgeous single-screen cinema in East Finchley can fairly claim to be London’s oldest continuously-open cinema: it was completed in 1910 and opened its doors in 1912. Since 1985 it has been run as a charitable trust and the local community is heavily involved in keeping it going. Programme-wise, the Phoenix shows a mix of independent and foreign films, and its auditorium is rightly prized as one of the most beautiful places to watch a film in London. This is also a great cinema to catch directors introducing their work, late night films and special events.