Today, Time Out, the global media and hospitality brand that helps people explore and experience the soul of the city, reveals its list of the 50 best cinemas in the UK and Ireland. The top ten features the Iconic BFI Southbank, not one but two historic picturehouses in Edinburgh, and an art deco Dublin theatre.
With the majority of UK and Irish cinemas reopen again and big blockbuster releases on the horizon, Time Out’s global film editor Phil de Semlyen curated the ultimate guide to local cinemas to make it even easier for moviegoers to get back out and escape to another world for a couple of hours.
“The temporary closure of cinemas has left a huge gap in our lives over these past months, so we’ve set out to celebrate the moviegoing experience in all its variety,” said Phil de Semlyen, global film editor at Time Out. “There are close to 1000 cinemas in the British Isles and we’ve scoured them all, taking into consideration everything from pricing to programming, history to hospitality – and all with an eye for cinemas that connect deeply with their local communities. From cosy indies, to ultra-luxe modern picturehouses, to colossal multiplexes, to art deco one-screeners, these 50 cinemas represent the very best of British and Irish movie houses.”
The cinema topping the list is The Stella Cinema in Dublin’s buzzy suburb of Rathmines, which was the largest cinema in Ireland when it opened in 1923. Now sympathetically restored, it features midnight screenings and a cocktail bar straight out of The Great Gatsby. For Dubliners, The Stella offers a heady mix of past and present: a time capsule back to cinemagoing of days gone by, kitted out with all the latest in creature comforts – it’s a genuinely dreamy place to watch a movie.
Here is the full ranked list of the 50 best cinemas in the UK and Ireland, and below is the top ten.
1. The Stella Cinema Rathmines, Dublin
Swish art deco details, outlandishly comfy seating (and beds), a destination cocktail bar, and the ever-friendly staff make this seriously seductive Dublin cinema our number one pick.
2. Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow
The first purpose-built arthouse cinema to be built outside of London back in 1939, the GFT is still flying the flag for indie moviegoing in Scotland, priding itself on its 35mm and 70mm presentations and diverse programming – including as a base for the annual Glasgow Film Festival.
3. BFI Southbank, London
The official home for British cinema is a Thameside haven with four screens, two bars, a library, a shop and an ever-flowing river of film lovers revelling in its expertly curated seasons and festivals.
4. Filmhouse, Edinburgh
Elegant on the outside, buzzing within, Edinburgh’s Filmhouse is a three-screen indie gem whose sibling, Aberdeen’s Belmont, also makes our list. The vibrant programming and focus on accessibility are just points of pride here.
5. Hailsham Pavilion, East Sussex
This charming, quietly opulent yet cheap-as-chips 100-year-old picture palace has emerged from difficult days (it has sat unused and been a bingo hall down the years) with the help of a National Lottery grant to become a true south coast treasure.
6. Odeon Luxe Leicester Square, London
Britain’s single most famous screen is found within this newly fabulous’ed cinema in Leicester Square. The no-expense-spared refurbishment has turned it into a viewing experience fit for royalty – and, sure enough, the Royal Box awaits for anyone with pockets deep enough.
7. HOME, Manchester
This gleaming arts hub in central Manchester does a lot more than screen movies but as a place to watch them, it takes some beating. Open since 2015, it offers cutting edge sound in its five ultra-modern screens and a true 21st century moviegoing experience.
8. The Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh
This grand, old-school cinema has been an Edinburgh institute for more than a century. These days it’s run by cinema chain Picturehouse with an eye for modern creature comforts and respect for a legendary bar and original architectural touches that make a visit feel like a trip back in time.
9. Zeffirellis, Ambleside
This Lake District gem is named after the great Franco Zeffirelli. The Italian filmmaker never visited but the likes of Bruce Robinson and Ken Russell, both locals, have premiered films in its five state--of-the-art screens. The Italian theme extends to a pizzeria offering killer dinner-and-a-movie deals.
10. Prince Charles Cinema, London
The John Carpenter of cinemas: culty yet welcoming, and with a deep love of films of all stripes, the PCC is a one-of-a-kind West End temple for movie lovers.