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50 best cinemas
Photograph: Time Out

The 50 best cinemas in the UK and Ireland

From dreamy picture palaces to historic art houses to wallet-friendly multiplexes – the most fantastic screens in the British Isles

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Written by
Phil de Semlyen
Contributor
Isabelle Aron
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What makes a great cinema? For some, it’s cheap tickets and a friendly vibe, while others are happy to pay extra for a sense of indulgence that comes with posh snacks, sofa seating and tiny tables to plonk a cocktail on. There are purists who will always make the case for 35mm projectors and surround-sound powerful enough to shake their insides loose. Film buffs might get an extra buzz from knowing their local picture palace once screened Chaplin movies back when the Little Tramp was the biggest thing at the box office.

Whatever you love in a cinema, there are loads across England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland to provide it. And despite a tough year-and-a-bit, they’re still out there providing that unique big-screen experience. What better time, then, to celebrate them in all their variety? We sent our local experts out across the British Isles to find 50 of the very best kinos – and share what makes them special. 

Written by Chris Waywell, Isabelle Aron, Huw Oliver, Katie McCabe, Phil de Semlyen, Alim Kheraj, Rosie Hewitson, Joe Mackertich & Chiara Wilkinson

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The UK and Ireland’s best cinemas

Can a cinema be any more picturesque? The available scientific metrics – our eyeballs, admittedly – say no. Quirky and characterful, this old converted Methodist chapel in the coastal village of Lynton in Devon feels a bit like a time capsule, taking you back to a time of Pathé newsreels, Ealing comedies and the once-romantic fug of cigarette smoke hanging over the stalls. Not that you’ll find any of those things these days. Instead, you’ll be pulled out of the reverie by the Dolby sound and modernised interior, with a 68-seat screen showing the latest releases to movie-hungry locals and holidayers. If you’re ever in the area, proprietor Bill Pryor promises the warmest of welcomes. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Lynton lays claim to being the smallest town in England with a full-time cinema.

How to support Lynton Cinema: Head to Devon and book a ticket.

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Housed above a ridiculously posh supermarket that sells too many varieties of olive oil, this bijou local cinema, opened in 2016, might not have the biggest screens around, but as the saying goes: size isn’t everything. It feels like an extension of your living room, comfortable and inviting red armchairs offering up velvet loveliness for your trip to the pictures. Even when it’s packed it feels intimate. The bar is lush, too, its mood lighting, wooden flooring, luxe seating and art-deco decal transporting you from east London to the Golden Era of Hollywood. Alim Kheraj

Put it on the poster: Originally opened in 1913, the Castle has been a cinema, a bingo hall, a shoe factory, a snooker club and back to a cinema again. 

How to support The Castle
: Buy a year’s membership for £29.

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A minute’s stroll from Dingle harbour in Ireland’s County Kerry, the Phoenix is the most westerly cinema in the British Isles – and possibly its most friendly. It’s the kind of place where you’ll get a warm welcome on the way in and a thank you on the way out. Tuesday night’s ‘Art Film’ club screenings come with free tea and biscuits. You can tell it’s run by a family, albeit a family of film nuts who charge €8.50 for an evening screening but would probably let everyone in for free if it was remotely viable. And the 150 seats in its single screen are so comfy it’s no wonder film-loving locals are always here in numbers. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Dingle has a rich cinematic past: David Lean filmed Ryan’s Daughter there in the late ’60s, while a scene in The Last Jedi was also shot there.

How to support the Phoenix: Follow it on Facebook for the latest news.

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Aberdeen’s sole indie cinema (there are two Cineworlds and a Vue), this three-screen local hero has a proud curation policy: anything and everything goes, basically. You might catch the latest A24 release, or Casablanca, or an Antonioni, or a Ghibli at a Filmhouse Junior screening – or even a microbudget effort from a local filmmaker. Like its sister cinema, Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, it’s been run by Scotland’s cinema charity Centre for the Moving Image since 2014. Barring a period when it was used as a warehouse, films have been screening there since 1898 – these days you can catch them from as little as a fiver. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Belmont may be haunted! There have been several sightings in the building by staff of a little boy ghost.

How to support Belmont Filmhouse: Become a member here

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This art-house kino in east London’s Shoreditch, that was founded in 2005 with the aim of making film culture and history more accessible, is a place of pilgrimage for film buffs. As well as a 40-seater cinema programmed with classic films that have shaped the history of the art form, it also houses an independent coffee shop, the long-running and prestigious film journal Vertigo and a massive library of more than 20,000 books and titles, from early films and classics to world cinema, experimental pieces and video art. Rosie Hewitson

Put it on the poster: Nostalgic for your childhood Blockbuster? Close-Up’s library runs one of London’s last physical video rental services. 

How to support Close-Up: The £10/month membership scheme secures a 50 percent discount on tickets, loans from the library and other perks.

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The regulars at Premiere don’t come with a tonne of expectations – ‘Snacks are very cheap, staff are friendly and the film plays,’ notes one TripAdvisor review – and sure, the frills are limited, at least relative to the shinier end of the multiplex spectrum. But then, the most expensive tickets to the latest movies come to an eye-watering... £4 (four pounds). Premiere’s Cardiff and Romford multiplexes also offer a family ticket for £14, allowing you to get four family members into a brand new movie without needing to sell a single body part. And if all that doesn’t woo you, there’s frosty Tango Ice Blasts on tap too. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: In 1965, The Beatles played one of their last ever UK gigs in what’s now the Premiere Cinema building – back then, The Capitol Theatre.

How to support Premiere CinemasPop along and pick up a £3.50 ticket (an additional post-lockdown discount is in place).

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Catching a movie at the Phoenix is as much of a north London rite of passage as a mooch in Camden or seeing a single snowflake and then immediately heading to Hampstead Heath with a toboggan. It’s been a fixture in East Finchley since 1912 and now operates as a charity-run cinema that keeps the local community in the latest releases, kid-friendly screenings and live theatre and opera simulcasts. Memories of its first ever screening – a film about RMS Titanic – are now consigned to the cinema’s history book, but there are plenty around here who can remember when it was used in Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire and The End of the Affair. There’s movie lore in every cornice of this gilded old picture palace. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Phoenix’s starry roster of patrons includes Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Kermode, Mike Leigh and Michael Palin.

How to support Phoenix Cinema
: Become a friend of the Phoenix.

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South Yorkshire’s most renowned indie cinema, the Showroom has turned an old 1930s car showroom opposite Sheffield’s train station into a transit lounge for top quality movies of all stripes. As well as a buzzy cultural hub and the first home of the renowned Sheffield DocFest (it remains one of the main venues), it’s just a great place to watch a movie without setting fire to your bank account. The ‘take two’ offer, for example, gets you two main courses, a bottle of wine and two cinema tickets for £40 (and if you want to take someone with you, also fine). The four screens allow eclectic programming – and if you need a tip on what to see, the friendly, knowledgeable staff are always on hand. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The video for Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Leave Before the Lights Come On’ was filmed on the roof.

How to support Showroom CinemaThere are a few handy ways to support it, from memberships to gift vouchers to getting your name on a seat.

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With a bewitching bar, knowledgable staff and a particularly sexy French brasserie directly opposite, Everyman’s single-screen Islington outpost has a lot going for it. And let's talk about that façade, shall we? It’s a dinky but delicious neon throwback to cinema’s golden age. This is one of the UK’s oldest continuously running cinemas and it feels like it. In a good way! Joe Mackertich

Put it on the poster: Screen on the Green was the venue for the Sex Pistols’ first gig with Sid Vicious in 1976.

How to support Screen on the GreenPick up a gift card or buy a membership.

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Rio Cinema, London
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A head-turner of an art deco picture palace, the ever-popular Rio bathes London’s Kingsland High Street in its blue glow every night with the promise of top new movies, the odd throwback gem and a ridiculously curvy interior. The Rio prides itself on being a community hub and a figurehead of sorts for London’s independent film scene, helping East Finchley’s Phoenix with programming and providing guidance for a brand new Acton cinema, while generally finding ways to stay relevant in the post-pandemic world. A new laser projector and plans for a fancy bar to replace its main lobby concession are typical of a cinema with sleek 1930s lines and a constant eye on the future. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Rio is a publisher too. A stash of old slide photos found in one of its filing cabinets have been transformed into this hardback history of ’80s Hackney.

How to support RioBecome a member – or gift membership to a friend – for £30.

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This gem occupies what was once a Victorian train station in the Yorkshire town of Richmond, and if you look closely you can still spot part of the old platform beneath one of its screens. The last train passed through in 1968, and since reopening as a cinema in 2007, it’s the movies that do the transporting. Inside, you’ll find a keen sense of film history and a purist’s approach to the medium, with 35mm presentations and French film fests, as well as the latest releases in 7.1 Dolby surround sound. It’s very much a something-for-everyone kind of place. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Homaging its locomotive past, the Station has run The Polar Express pyjama parties at Christmas (with train-shaped biscuits, obvs). 

How to support The Station Cinema
: Pick up a gift voucher here.

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You know what you’re going to get with Everyman: fancy nibbles, bougie cocktails, sofas you’ll want to take home with you, smart programming – and all with prices to match. But this one on the site of the old ABC Buildings in the heart of Manchester has serious game even by the boutique chain’s high standards. With its chic bar and cosy nooks, posh burgers and a build-your-own-sundae menu, it’s the kind of place you’d happily hole up in without even venturing into one of the three screens. Helpfully, staff will bring food and drinks straight to your seat (though you’ll have to get there yourself). Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Thirsty filmgoers can order a monster G&T for two for £28. Do not attempt to finish it before the trailers. 

How to support Everyman St John’sPick up a gift card or buy a membership.

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Keeping this corner of the Scottish Highlands supplied with Hollywood staples, this new two-screen cinema is a far-flung jewel in the country’s cine-crown. It’s the brainchild of local entrepreneur Angus MacDonald, who set about restoring a picturehouse to his home town in the style of a bothy (or Highland shelter). The corrugated roof and wood-burning stove lend a satisfying sense of history; the whizz-bang laser projectors and sound keep things cutting edge on screen. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The main screen has an unusual feature: the front half of a Lotus Elan, pimped out with a pair of cinema seats. This quirky feature was inspired by Cinema Paradiso in New Zealand.

How to support Highland Cinema: Membership cards and vouchers are available online. Locals will be able to apply for a free discount card soon too (follow on Facebook for news on the scheme).

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This veteren picture palace – Liverpool’s oldest surviving indie cinema – nearly didn’t make it past Pirates of the Caribbean 2. The swashbuckling blockbuster was the final movie shown when the shutters went up in 2006. Thankfully, a local entrepreneur came to the rescue, reopening the single-screen cinema less than a year later, just in time for its eightieth birthday. The pandemic threatened permanent closure a second time but, like an old slugger that won’t go down, the art deco favourite is still standing – with a little help from local fundraisers. With its classic interiors and trademark intermission during every screening for punters to re-up at the ice-cream kiosk, it’s easy to see why it’s so cherished by Liverpudlians. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The cinema was used in 2009 John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy – John gets taken to the cinema by his mum to watch an Elvis Presley newsreel.

How to support Woolton Picture House
: Follow the cinema on Facebook for news of its reopening date.

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Okay, the name is a bit misleading. Broadstairs’s Palace Cinema is not very palatial (it seats just 111 – 23 on the balcony, 88 in the stalls), but it is a great place to see a film. It’s on a narrow street leading down to the harbour, and you could walk past its Victorian flint exterior without even clocking it as a picturehouse. Inside, though, it has all the intimate magic of a screen in Montmartre. This seaside cinema has held its audiences spellbound since 1965. Chris Waywell

Put it on the poster: The 2018 romcom Juliet, Naked was partly filmed at the Palace. Chris O’Dowd and Rose Byrne’s characters visit to see Lost in Translation.

How to support The Palace Cinema: Sign up for the email newsletter here.

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Funding worth £500k from Arts Council England in 2019 has gone on smartening and modernising a Nottingham venue that was already something of a shrine to cinema in the city. The fresh brush extends to two bars, a screen and a tjuzy new foyer – all given a modern redux with a ’50s edge – as well as a huge painted eyeball that welcomes back regulars (Shane Meadows, for one) with the promise of eye-expanding programming and an unquenchable passion for movies. Once a Wesleyan church, this Broad Street edifice welcomes a different kind of worshipper these days. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Yes, those are Paul Smith seats. A Nottingham local, Sir Paul designed screen four and curated the artwork in the corridor outside.

How to support Broadway Cinema: You can make a donation to the charity or become a member for £27.

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Not just a cracking independent cinema but a charity and local mainstay too, the lovely Lexi has a ton going for it – including the resilience that all cinemas need these days and that has helped it bounce back from a disastrous fire in 2020. Less than a year later and it has unveiled a 30-seat second screen inside a new extension called the Lexi Hub. Expect more of the same focus on community events, finger-on-the-pulse programming, team-ups with Black History Studies, a Lexi Docs strand and even a film club. Under-26s can score a £14 annual membership with big discounts on tickets, so it’s multigenerational as well as multi-faceted. Phil de Semlyen

Stick it on the poster: The Lexi is Britain’s only social enterprise cinema – all of its profits go to the Sustainability Institute in South Africa.

How to support the Lexi
: Volunteer to lend a hand at the cinema, become a member or sign up for one of its film school screenings.

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The Cube is so Bristol it hurts. This small, volunteer-run ‘microplex’ is so much more than just a cinema: it’s an ‘adult creche, independent museum and progressive social wellbeing enterprise’ too. And what exactly does that mean? Variety, basically. Not only is the film programme the most avant garde you’ll find in the West Country, there’s also comedy and performance art, kids’ workshops and drone gigs, homemade cola, and Cube coffee shipped in from Central America. It’s gloriously homey and artsy and admittedly a little shabby. But with staff so lovely and cinema tickets so cheap, it’d be ninnyish to complain. Huw Oliver

Put it on the poster: The cinema was originally founded in 1998 by a filmmaker, screenwriter and two stilt-walkers who had been running an underground (and mostly illegal) film screening event called Club Rombus. 

How to support the Cube: Keep in touch with its film events here.

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Not many of Belfast’s pre-war cinemas have lasted the course. Thankfully, this art deco building is one of them. Originally opened in 1935, when 1,170 punters packed in to watch Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes, its nautical design paid tribute to the Harland & Wolff shipyard down the road. Since 2013, it’s been a mixed art space, with theatre, gigs and community events sharing the stage with a four-screen cinema serving up to diverse fare to moviegoers paying £6 (at most). With a thriving role at the heart of the local community and plans for a modern refurb, things are still pretty shipshape at the Strand. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: During the ’80s, the centre had a brief spell hosting such light entertainment gods as Little and Large, and Keith Harris and Orville the Duck.

How to support Strand Arts Centre
: Make a donation or buy a Strand gift card.

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This Hertfordshire cinema opened its doors in 1936 with a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire musical (Follow the Fleet) and has been wowing locals with classics, old and new, ever since. For senior citizens, it’s heaven sent: ticket prices are reduced and the best seats in the house are reserved for wheelchair users and their carers. Broadway is a vintage cinema that takes good care of its vintage moviegoers, and there are also art exhibitions and theatre for culture vultures of all ages looking to branch out. Angela Mayes

Put it on the poster: The cinema’s exterior was used for pub eight in Edgar Wright’s The World’s End: the school-disco-tastic The Mermaid. 

How to support Broadway Cinema:
Become a Broadway Plus member.

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This swanky seven-screen complex opened in 2015, becoming the jewel in Picturehouse’s already quite bedazzled crown. Situated in Piccadilly on the site of the old Cineworld Trocadero, its eye-catching decor features a hundred lightbulbs hanging above its grand staircase and a giant mural depicting a century of cinema. The programme encompasses all the latest releases, from blockbusters to indie flicks, as well as Sundance London, which shows an exclusive selection of top picks from the annual film festival across the pond. Elsewhere in the building you’ll find a spacious open-plan café, a three-storey members’ area and a fancy first-floor restaurant serving up dishes a little more sophisticated than the usual hot dogs and nachos, from Moroccan pulled lamb to wild boar ragu. Rosie Hewitson

Put it on the poster: Londoners go mad for a roof terrace bar, but the one at Picturehouse remains a pretty well-kept secret despite offering spectacular views over the West End.

How to support Picturehouse Central
: Become a member here.

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Run by the not-for-profit Falkirk Community Trust, this friendly seaside cinema keeps half an eye on its past. The original oak panelling and other original features are still in place, and there’s a popular annual silent film festival, HippFest, to take things back to when the place first opened in the 1910s. A £1.8m renovation in the mid-2000s is the cherry on the cake for a beloved fixture that even has its own fan page on Facebook. Alongside those golden-age flicks, expect to see the latest indies and mainstream movies. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Hippodrome lays claim to being Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema.

How to support The Hippodrome: Support Falkirk Community Trust here or get involved in HippFest silent film festival.

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With tables sporting awesome-terrible punny names (Quentin Tabletino, Catherine Seater Jones), a big quote attributed to John Lennon etched on the balcony, and a dog-friendly vibe, this little coastal cinema in Wales wears its lovely quirkiness on its sleeve. It’s been showing films since 1901, a run that nearly came to an end with a funding crisis in 2019. But a successful campaign to save it, complete with Twitter support from Michael Sheen, means it goes on keeping the local community in movies, big and small. Oh, and the quote? ‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.’ At the Magic Lantern they’re just getting started. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The cinema is currently putting a book together on its 120-year history and are looking for memories, recollections and old pics. Go here to help.

How to support The Magic Lantern
: Join the mailing list or pop along for a movie if you’re in the area.

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Truffaut and Varda addicts flock to this South Ken cinéma for classics on a daily basis to re-up on. As you’d expect from a place that takes its name from cine-pioneers the Lumière brothers and is run by the Institut Français, it’s a home-from-home for French cinema – and French cinema lovers – in the UK. It’s also freshly refurbished, with a mini second screen (the 35-seat Ciné Lumière II) added in 2019. It’s not all French language flicks here, though: world cinema and art-house cuts are ever-present on the programme, and it’s a great place to take in a Q&A with an up-and-coming director or stop by the café-restaurant to chat poetic realism over a coffee. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Ciné Lumière was opened by Catherine Deneuve in 1998.

How to support Ciné Lumière: Head here for info on how to support the cinema.

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‘Classic cinema, as it should be’ is what this grand old seaside movie temple in Worthing prides itself on. It first opened in 1911 and walking up to its olde-worlde ticket booth, it could still be the 1910s. Back in those days it was called The Kursaal (the name was changed during World War I due to local anti-German feeling) and the owner used to accompany silent movies on the piano. The piano has gone but the cinema is still keeping local movie lovers entertained. If you’re looking for the 2021 luxe treatment, grab a sofa in 41-seat screen three. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Dome features prominently in 1987 comedy-drama Wish You Were Here. Up yer bum!

How to support Dome Cinema
: Buy a gift voucher here.

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Dartington Trust, an arty utopia which the Barn Cinema is part of, was created to bring progressive ideas to this hushed corner of Devon. Iconic artists and thinkers, from Igor Stravinsky to George Bernard Shaw, have worked or studied here, and when the medieval barn needed converting into a theatre they could call on Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius to design it. In true Bauhaus style, it’s a perfect marriage of form (fourteenth-century outbuilding pimped out with cosy red seats and a whacking great screen) and utility (watching cool movies). Films have been screening here since the ’60s, though these days they’re augmented by a podcast, a film club, and a streaming service. Time only feels like it’s standing still in these parts. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The building comes with theatrical history, too: The Chekhov Theatre School, set up by future Oscar nominee Michael Chekhov in the ’30s, used the barn as a performance space. 

How to support the Barn Cinema: Sign up for Dartington membership.

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Your local cinema may have great seats, fancy sound and artisanal popcorn. But does it have a meadow? This East Sussex gem does – and very nice it is too. Once you’ve sauntered through the wild flowers, inside are three screens, a café-bar and restaurant. It opened its doors four years ago, transforming an old brewery depot building into a thriving cultural hub. As well as new movies, there are always courses and classes going on. It’s a great place to learn photography or get deep into film noir. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The eco-minded Depot won a prize at the Creative Green Awards in 2020. 

How to support the Depot: Sign up for a course or subscribe to the free newsletter for the latest info.

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Got a few hours to spare in central Dublin? If you’re vaguely into movies, you may want to hit up the Irish Film Institute (or IFI). This Temple Bar complex is a film fan’s first port of call for domestic releases in the Irish capital. It also shows international independent productions that often aren’t screened anywhere else in Ireland, and hosts film festivals, retrospectives and curated seasons. There are three screens, an archive of Irish films and a shop, plus a large café in which you might spot Irish film industry players. Huw Oliver

Put it on the poster: The IFI is based in an old eighteenth-century Quaker meeting house.

How to support the Irish Film Institute
: Sign up for one of its loyalty schemes, become a member or name a seat.

📍Looking for other things to do in Dublin? Check out our guide to this gem of a city

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With its art deco frontage and two-tiered auditorium, the Rex is the 1930s handiwork of cinema architect David Evelyn Nye. A devout man and a teetotaller, he’d have swerved the bar at the back of its single screen – but for regulars, it stays open during screenings, with the bar staff on stealth mode to keep distraction to a minimum. Affordable prices, leg-room fit for a giraffe and a 35mm projector (as well as the digital kind) have helped the cinema build a devoted following. With the broad programming ethos and nightclub-style seating, it’s the kind of place you can watch Cabaret and feel like you’re in it all at once. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Rex’s longest-running film is The Motorcycle Diaries, which screened regularly for two years.

How to support The Rex
: Buy a gift voucher or become a member here.

In Peckham, they hold their local movie heroes close – as you would when they’re Olivia Colman and John Boyega. Both are regulars at another local movie hero: this beloved six-screen indieplex. With ticket prices that never venture north of a fiver, a grabby colour scheme (call it ‘John Waters pink’), cheap snacks, community events and even the odd old-school queue for tickets (online booking is available), it’s no wonder Londoners will travel to join SE15 locals in catching a new movie here. Boyega swears by the McDonald’s across the road for a post-film debrief. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: When the Peckhamplex was threatened with redevelopment in 2017, two local ad creatives made a fake movie trailer to ‘Save the Plex’.

How to support Peckhamplex
: Sign up for the newsletter for the latest info from the cinema.

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They’re big into gaslighting at the Hyde Park Picture House, though only in the sense that it’s still lit by gas lamps. It’s a unique touch that gives this cinema half an hour’s walk from Leeds city centre a timeless feel (look out for the external ticket booth and stained glass window, too). They don’t stand still around here, either: lockdown saw the start of a raft of improvements, boosting wheelchair accessibility around this Grade II-listed building and adding a second screen in the basement, leaving it temporarily closed. Until it reopens in 2022, its ‘On the Road’ programme will take it to venues across Leeds, keeping cinephiles in the city in smartly-programmed films. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: An elephant was borrowed from the circus and tethered outside the cinema to promote 1959 film The Big Hunt

How to support The Hyde Park Picture House: Head here to find out how to support the cinema while it remains closed for refurbishments.

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East London is blessed with an abundance of great indie cinemas. This former theatre on the bustling Mile End Road is very possibly the best-loved of them all, boasting five plush auditoriums screening a reliable mixture of blockbusters, themed seasons, indie offerings and classic cinema. Refreshments-wise there’s also plenty of variety on offer, from stonebaked pizzas and hot dogs to cocktails named after local lads, the Kray twins. And at just £5.50, midweek tickets are cheaper than your average London pint. Rosie Hewitson

Put it on the poster: Head down for a screening and you might bump into a certain Danny Boyle. The Slumdog Millionaire director lives locally and is a huge fan and regular visitor to the cinema.

How to support Genesis Cinema: Buy a gift voucher or become a member.

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For film lovers in Oxford, the Ultimate Picture Palace is pretty much exactly that. The city’s only independent cinema, this cosy spot may only have one screen – and it may be a little way out of the city centre – but every showing reliably fills up super-fast. Entering through the Grade II-listed neoclassical façade also lends a sense of ceremony to proceedings, no matter what you’re here to see (expect a good mix of mainstream, foreign-language and classic films). And just as crucially, there’s a brilliant nearby pubs waiting for your post-movie debrief. Huw Oliver

Put it on the poster: In the mid-’90s, the cinema was taken over by squatters and renamed Section 6. It briefly became a countercultural hub hosting live music, community events and free screenings.

How to support Ultimate Picture Palace: Membership is £25/year and comes with two free tickets, discounted prices and a free drink.

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Aldeburgh has all the things you’d expect of a seaside town on the Suffolk coast: fish and chips, cosy pubs and, you know, a beach. But it’s also big on culture, and you’ll find plenty of it at the Aldeburgh Cinema on the high street. Established in 1919, it’s run as a charity and supported by more than 1,000 ‘friends’. There’s a cosy screening room upstairs and a main auditorium that seats 253. You’ll find everything from new releases and big hitters, to films with a local interest. It also hosts events and has hosted the likes Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes and Lenny Henry for Q&As. Here’s to another 101 years. Isabelle Aron

Put it on the poster: The cinema’s first owner, Walter Hill, owned a draper’s shop across the road and was mayor of the town.

How to support Aldeburgh Cinema: Become a friend of the cinema here (£30 per person, £55 for two).

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Once a Jimmy Spices restaurant but since 2018 one of the best cinemas in the west country, the Tivoli is a dreamy night out at the movies. Walking up the stairs and in through the schmick bar area, you’d think you were entering a Soho House rather than an offshoot of indie multiplex chain Empire Cinemas. It prides itself on feeling like a private members club for everyone: a place to grab a cocktail and posh snacks and kick back for a movie in one of the four comfy screens. It’s a ridiculously good-looking addition to a city that already scores straight tens. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: You can hire out the 12-seat mini screen for £300 and pick any of the films currently showing for the ultimate movie night. 

How to support Tivoli: Buy a gift card online.

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This Dublin institution is owned and run by proper movie buffs Element Pictures – the production company behind The Favourite and Normal People – and you can absolutely tell. The programming is smart and bold, with film fests, including the Dublin International Film Festival, rubbing shoulders with new releases and repertory screenings. Like its neighbours in Dublin’s hip Smithfield district, it’s a place with a vibe, too: the interiors are airy and art-gallery-esque, the four screens are ultra-modern and the regulars are clued-up Dubliners. How clued-up? Well, it’s where Saoirse Ronan goes to the cinema. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Every June 16, Light House celebrates Jeff Goldblum’s Day with a big-screen Goldblum-athon. 

How to support Light House Cinema
: Sign up for the newsletter or pick up a gift card from the online shop.

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A cinema with legs – figuratively and literally – Duke of York’s has been keeping seasiders entertained since 1910, when it first opened on the site of an old brewery. Those trademark 20-foot legs dangling off the roof are a more recent addition: they were acquired from Oxford’s now-closed Not The Moulin Rouge Theatre in 1991 and have been can-canning merrily here every since – a typically bohemian touch in a cinema that marries its Edwardian heritage with a sense of culty fun that’s tailormade for Brighton. Like its sister cinema across town, Duke’s at Komedi, it’s run by Picturehouse with an eye for art house as well as mainstream programming. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Duke of York’s was built by actress and theatre owner Violet Melnotte-Wyatt for the princely sum of £3,000.

How to support Duke of York’s PicturehouseBecome a member here.

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If you live in Cornwall – or have been there during a particularly rainy holiday – the chances are you’ve been to a Merlin Cinema. The chain owns six in the county – of which the Savoy is the first and loveliest. It first opened in 1912 and has been running continuously since then, with a expansion in 2017 to add two more screens in the adjacent brewery, but the old Georgian features remain in place. The original ceiling is visible – and restored – to hark back to the days when the Savoy was once dubbed ‘the handsomest picture palace in the country’ by the press. Okay, the line was caveated with ‘outside the West End of London’, but then it doesn’t cost £8 to see a film in the West End. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Savoy partners up with the neighbouring Penwith Film Society to screen cult and recents arthouse hits.

How to support Savoy Cinema: Pick up a gift card here.

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Perched unassumingly on the Shaftesbury Avenue beneath an office block, this legendary cinema is a subterranean sanctuary that offers up a diet of arthouse hits and international discoveries to knowledgeable Londoners. The progamme is curated by the devoted cinephiles at Curzon (whose own distribution arm, Artificial Eye, released Parasite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire), while the intimate but buzzy downstairs bar feels it might once have hosted a key scene in a Mike Nichols movie. The threat of Crossrail closing it down seems to have subsided for the time being – though if they ever tried it they’d have an army of militant movielovers to deal with. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: You can play ‘spot the arthouse classic’ in basement bathrooms that are covered head to toe in film posters. 

How to support Curzon Soho
: Become a member.

This campus-based venue started life in 1968 with a pair of second hand projectors, a screen and a DIY ethos that have helped turn an old uni lecture theatre into a world-renowned cinema. Fifty-odd years later and it’s still a haven for movie lovers in University Square Mews of Queen’s University, who come for smart foreign language, documentary and art house fare. And not just students (though obviously they make up a big part of audiences) because the QFT packs in punters from far and wide. And film folk, too: David Lynch, Alan Parker, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach have all stopped by for a Q&A. If cinemas could get degrees, this one would get a first. Phil de Semlyen

Stick it on the poster: The 2018 half-centenary, QFT50, included a screening of Brigitte Bardot movie Viva Maria! – the first ever film to screen at the cinema.

How to support Queen’s Film Theatre: QFT membership is available for £42/year. Gift cards are available online, and there’s an adopt-a-seat scheme too (look! Kenneth Branagh’s done it).

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From Lord of the Rings all-nighters and a fancy dress Cats Jellicle Ball to quote-along Elf screenings at Christmas, the West End’s last indie cinema is treasured for its cult programming, raucous atmosphere and far cheaper tickets than nearby chains. And it’s not all classics and seasonal favourites that are shown across its two screens; you can often catch recent blockbusters and indie hits long after they’ve stopped being screened in most cinemas, making it the perfect destination if you’re the type that always misses the final weekend of the latest Oscar nom. Rosie Hewitson

Put it on the poster: If you paid a visit to the PCC in the late ’90s, there’s a chance you may have been sold tickets by a teenage Pete Doherty, who worked at the cinema for several months before being fired. 

How to support the PCC: Buy gift vouchers online or purchase an annual (or lifetime) membership.

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This gem at the northern tip of Lake Windermere is named after Franco Zeffirelli and has a sister cinema across town called Fellinis. There’s no direct link to the Italian maestros – neither was known for taking boating holidays in the Lake District or availing themselves of Ambleside’s lovely little boutiques – except for a shared love of cinema, a sense of occasion and Italian nibbles. Zeffirellis has a pizzeria offering dinner-and-a-movie deals, but if you want to cut to the chase, the five modern screens (and their comfy seats) have your back. And by night, Zeffirellis sticks on a tux to welcome jazz fans to live gigs from big names like Zakir Hussain and Dave Holland. Bellissima! Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Withnail & I director Bruce Robinson debuted his locally-set cult classic at Zeffirellis, while Ken Russell was a local and premiered several of his flms here. 

How to support Zeffirellis: Buy a movie and dinner deal online or sign up for the newsletter for regular news from the cinema.

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If you’re wanting a grand, old school picturehouse, Cameo is your best bet. Born as King’s Cinema in 1914 and more recently taken over by Picturehouse, this is one of the oldest cinemas in Scotland and its bar is an institution in itself. Although it has a deceptively modest entrance, inside you will find intricate architectural details like an ornamental ceiling, columns, and fancy floor tiles (the B-listed interior is protected by Historic Scotland). With a reputation for showing the hottest indie films, it’s a landmark cinema that will transport you right back to the roaring twenties. Chiara Wilkinson

Put it on the poster: Author Irvine Welsh opened the UK premiere of Trainspotting at Cameo back in 1996. 

How to support the Cameo
: Become a member here.

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Not to be confused with London’s short-lived megaclub of the late ‘90s, though equally high-concept, Manchester’s HOME is a one-stop-shop for lovers of movies, music, art and theatre. Its address – 2 Tony Wilson Place – is a nod to the city’s past, while its list of patrons, including Danny Boyle and Asif Kapadia, hints at its current cachet within movie circles. Since opening in 2015, when it took over from much-loved Cornerhouse, it has welcomed 2.9m people through its glass doors. Inside, there are five movie screens, ranging from 227 seats to a cosy 36-seater, all with cutting-edge sound. In short? HOME cinema > your home cinema. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: There are two beehives on the roof to help bring biodiversity to the city centre. You can tune into their buzzy activities via live beecam.

How to support HOME
Become a HOME Friend, become a member for £30/year or buy a gift voucher.

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The Church of England has Westminster Abbey, English football has Wembley, and Odeon has this grand old temple to cinema in Leicester Square. This Tetris-shaped edifice recently got a massively expensive do-over, emerging in 2018 with a winning blend of modernist and original touches. With its 800-seat main screen and thunderous Dolby Atmos, watching a film here is a truly maximalist experience. Though the top ticket prices may make actual tears come out of your wallet. For a cheaper option, check out screens 2-5 – once part of the adjacent Odeon Mezzanine but now rolled into one cine-icon. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The upstairs bar, Oscar’s, is named after Odeon founder and cinema trailblazer Oscar Deutsch.

How to support Odeon Luxe: Sign up to MyOdeon for the latest offers.

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Hailsham Pavilion, East Sussex
Photograph: Hailsham Pavilion

5. Hailsham Pavilion, East Sussex

Despite the elegant façade, this picture palace wasn’t an immediately popular addition to the Sussex market town of Hailsham. A few locals grumbled about this ‘new fangled upstart’ as it opened with Chaplin’s The Kid back in 1921. You won’t hear locals grumbling now, with its comfy 203-set main auditorium hosting new releases, autism-friendly screenings and event screenings – with £8 tickets. Its story is typical of so many British cinemas: early glory days followed by a few tough decades (it became a bingo venue and then sat dormant and in disrepair). Happily, a National Lottery grant gave it new life. It’s not an upstart here anymore – more a beloved old-timer. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: A scene in Sherlock Holmes drama Mr Holmes was filmed in the Pavilion (Ian McKellen sat in seat F15, fyi).

How to support Hailsham Pavilion
: Follow the cinema on Facebook for the latest news.

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Home to the Edinburgh International Film Festival and sibling cinema to Aberdeen’s Belmont, this three-screen indie has a global reputation for its vibrant programme of events and curated screenings. Everything about it just oozes cool: it’s set in a former church in the city centre, showing everything from niche arthouse pictures to the latest family crowd-pleasers. Born in 1976, it’s also widely recognised for its efforts in accessibility and regularly hosts screenings with audio descriptions. Chiara Wilkinson

Put it on the poster: Edinburgh Film Festival is currently working with the council to gain planning permission to add another five screens to the cinema. Plot twist: they’ll be underground.

How to support Filmhouse
: Buy membership or pick up a voucher from the online shop.

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Quite possibly London’s most famous cinema, thanks to its starring role as host of the London Film Festival, the BFI’s flagship venue opened in 1957 as the National Film Theatre. Screening a massive choice and variety of films seven days a week, it also hosts a wealth of great annual events including LGBTQ+ film festival Flare, the Future Film festival for emerging filmmakers and a television festival in partnership with the Radio Times. As well as four screens, its eye-catching building is also home to the world’s largest film and TV archive, a library, gift shop, bar and picturesque riverfront restaurant overlooking the Thames. Rosie Hewitson

Put it on the poster: Don’t go telling everyone, but the BFI’s Reuben Library is a lovely quiet central London spot to work from, where nobody will pressure you into spending fifteen quid on a flat white and a sad little sandwich.

How to support BFI Southbank
: Make a donation or become a BFI member

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Back in 1939, Glasgow Film Theatre – back then called the Cosmo – was the first purpose-built arthouse cinema to open outside of London. These days it’s one of many, but it remains a unique jewel in Scotland’s movie-going crown, with its innovative edge, state-of-the-art projectors and a diverse programming philosophy. Things have mostly gone digital these days, but the GFT is also the place local Nolan and Tarantino devotees come to see new releases in 35mm and 70mm on the biggest of its three screens, and is a base for the Glasgow Film Festival every year. Oh, and the buzzy Café Cosmo does a killer cheesecake too. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The GFT was well ahead of the game in live event screenings: the Queen’s coronation was broadcast on the big screen here back in 1953.

How to support Glasgow Film Theatre: The GFT is a registered charity and you can make a donation here. Annual memberships are available for £45

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When Dublin’s Stella opened in 1923, it was the largest cinema in Ireland. But its history has been a bumpy one. It closed down in 2004, and remained shut until a no-expense-spared restoration returned it to its Gatsby-esque glory in 2017. The original façade was reinstated, along with some swish art deco details. Now a cocktail bar serving pisco sours can be found in the old ballroom, and things are pretty upmarket when it comes to the snacks too – we’re talking buttermilk chicken and cinnamon churros – all to be consumed from side tables with their own vintage, low-lit lamps. It’s about indulgence not savings – tickets sold by armchair (19 euros), bed, or couch (both 38 euros for two), with cashmere blankets for maximum cosiness. Stella has come a long, long way from the days when locals use to know it as ‘the flea house’. Katie McCabe

Put it on the poster: In the 1970s, the Stella Cinema doubled up as a gig venue, with performances from Elvis Costello and the Boomtown Rats. 

How to support Stella: Buy a gift card or sign up for the weekly newsletter.

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