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The 50 most beautiful cinemas in the world

Planet Earth’s most heavenly picture palaces and movie houses

Written by
Time Out editors
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From shiny multiplexes to opulent indies to that one around the corner with the sticky carpets and the slightly stale pick ‘n’ mix, the spectrum of cinemas is a mile wide – and we miss them all. All of them are sanctuaries for movie lovers; places to go dream and be transported.

With so many still shuttered, it’s time to celebrate them in all their infinite variety. So join us for a globe-trotting tour to the most glamorous, architecturally eye-popping, Insta-friendly and just plain drop-dead-gorgeous cinemas on the planet – the ones you’d go out of your way to visit. Pull up a red velvet armchair, foot stool and fancy cup holder and take a trip to the world’s most beautiful cinemas.

The world’s most beautiful movie theatres

Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland
Photograph: Shutterstock

50. Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland

Known for the opinionated messages that regularly grace its marquee (owner Allen Michaan is very vocal about politics), the Grand Lake Theatre is a remnant of a more luxurious age of moviegoing that’s been remarkably preserved. Depending on what movie you’re seeing, you’ll be seated in the expansive main auditorium (home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, played before select screenings), a desert-themed Egyptian auditorium or the tiled Moorish-style theater. As beautiful as the decor is, the prices are what get folks through the doors: matinees are less than $7 and all tickets are $5 on Tuesdays. Zach Long

Put it on the poster: The custom rooftop sign above the Grand Lake Theatre is one of the largest of its kind, made up of 2,800 bulbs that are typically lit up on Friday and Saturday evenings.

How to support Grand Lake Theatre: Chip in to its GoFundMe raising money for its staff and crew.

Cinema São Jorge, Lisbon
Photograph: ©Inês Félix

49. Cinema São Jorge, Lisbon

Many of Portugal’s old cinemas have been turned into apartments, shopping malls and hotels over the past five decades. One biggie that endures is this legendary venue on Lisbon’s grande Avenida da Liberdade. It’s an Anglophone legacy of the Rank Organisation’s cinema empire of the ‘40s, when the British film company used to give its films – James Bond, included – their Portuguese runs here. Nowadays, it’s owned by Lisbon City Council and hosts film festivals and film-loving Lisboetas stopping by for a coffee and a chat on its terrace and a movie in one of its three screens. The biggest, an 845-seater, occupies the balcony of what was once a colossal single screen. Downstairs there are two bijou ones on what used to be the orchestra level. A mix of modernism and Art Deco, old and new, it’s a landmark with style and soul. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: São Jorge’s curtain-raising film was Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes on February 24, 1950.

How to support Cinema São Jorge: Take a virtual tour (in Portuguese) or sign up for the newsletter.

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The Projector, Singapore
Photograph: Philipp Aldrup

48. The Projector, Singapore

Located on the fifth floor of the brutalist Golden Mile Tower, this isn’t just the place to go in Singapore to get comfy on a bean bag while watching a cult classic – it’s the only place. The Projector opened in 2014 but the venue itself boasts a rich film history: it used to house the old Golden Theatre, once the biggest cinema in Singapore and Malaysia. Its colourful past also includes screenings of North Korean propaganda films, porn movies, and Bollywood spectaculars. While it still retains the charm of its predecessor, it has added more modern furnishings, cool artefacts, and specially curated programmes including indie titles and arthouse flicks to the mix. Cam Khalid

Put it on the poster: The Projector has three screening rooms: Blue Room, Green Room, and Redrum. 

How to support The Projector: Membership offers perks like free tickets, discounts, and members-only screenings. A new streaming platform, The Projector Plus, was recently launched too. 

Curzon Bloomsbury, London
Photograph: Ben Fisher

47. Curzon Bloomsbury, London

Britain’s Curzon cinemas are all of a kind: plush, steeped in film lore (check out the film-poster-clad rest rooms at Curzon Soho) and reliably programmed with the best in art house and foreign-language films. The chain’s architectural outlier is this minimalist three-screener that was recently redesigned by London architecture Takero Shimazaki. It sits at the nexus of a leafy corner of Bloomsbury and the Brunswick Centre, a beloved but fugly concrete slab that opened, along with the cinema, in 1972. Seeing a film there now feels simultaneously cutting-edge – the screens are kitted out with 4K projectors and Dolby Atmos sound – and a bit like stepping into a ’70s time capsule. What better way to get in the mood for some Tarkovsky? Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Refer to it by its old name, The Renoir, if you want to pass for a local.

How to support Curzon Bloomsbury: Become a Curzon member. UK viewers can also stream new releases from its Curzon Home Cinema service.

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Tivoli Cinema, Bath
Photograph: Tivoli

46. Tivoli Cinema, Bath

Bath in the west country of England is known for many things: the Roman baths (obvs), the Georgian architecture, and providing an elegant backdrop to all those sultry glances in Bridgerton. This implausibly chic venue has also been on the list of reasons to visit since it opened in 2018. It’s one of those no-expense-spared boutique cinemas that’s been reinventing moviegoing in the UK for anyone with deep enough pockets, with four 50-seat screens kitted in out in the latest tech and seats they’ll have to prise you out of when the credits roll. But while it’s not cheap, it definitely has major special occasion vibes: try the film star martini and a few small plates (or a wild boar hotdog, if you want to go all Babette’s Feast) before sinking into one of the extra-wide sofas. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: You can book the 20-seat ‘director’s lounge’ screen for a screening. Come in a baseball cap and you can pretend to be the director.

How to support it: Buy a gift card or sign up for the newsletter to keep in touch its reopening plans.

Paris Theater, New York
Photograph: Flickr-Moth

45. Paris Theater, New York

After the nearby Ziegfeld Theater closed in 2016, this massive, 571-seat movie theater became the sole surviving single-screen cinema left in New York. The biggest draw here is not necessarily any specific architectural details or design motifs. It’s that going to see a film here still feels like an event, a phenomenon that’s getting surprisingly difficult to find in Manhattan. Since 2019, when the grand, historic space was reopened by Netflix to screen Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, it has remained under the ownership of the streaming giant. That’s right, when this is all over you one day dream of a night spent watching a Netflix movie in a giant cinema instead of a night spent watching a Netflix movie in your less-than-giant apartment. Will Gleason

Put it on the poster: Marlene Dietrich cut the opening day ribbon for the cinema in 1948.

How to support the Paris Theater: Uh… don’t cancel your Netflix membership?

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The Sun Theatre, Melbourne 
Photograph: Sun Theatre

44. The Sun Theatre, Melbourne 

The pint-sized Sun Theatre was one of the reasons Yarraville was named the fifth coolest neighbourhood in the world in 2020. It opened as a single-screen, 1,050-seat cinema in 1938 and after a storied history of closures (it was once closed by the health department for unsanitary carpets), changing hands and expansions, the beautiful Deco building was refurbished in the late ’90s and now holds eight separate cinemas, each named after a now-closed cinema from Melbourne’s history. There’s a welcome breadth of art house and foreign films on the program, and the house-made choc tops (a favourite Aussie cinema snack of chocolate-dipped ice cream) are second to none. Rebecca Russo

Put it on the poster: The cinema used to have a ‘pram room’ where babies in prams were left under supervision and given a number. If your baby started crying, its number was flashed on the screen.

How to support The Sun: Tune into Sun Sessions, the cinema’s own podcast! The hosts chat to directors, talk about upcoming releases, and more recently, talk about cinemas coming out of lockdown. You can also become a member for $15

Grand Teatret, Copenhagen
Photograph: Private

43. Grand Teatret, Copenhagen

This august ex-hotel slap-bang in the middle of Copenhagen has been screening movies for more than a century – with brief interludes forced on it by the Nazis and, more recently, Covid. Its six screens are fully digitised, but you can still feel the history in its bones. In normal times, the bar buzzes with hip young Danes waiting for a screening of Parasite or Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Grand Teatret also prides itself on championing Scandivanian filmmakers like Thomas Vinterberg, Nicolas Winding Refn and Lukas Moodysson in their early days. It has its own distribution arm, Camera Film, giving Grand Teatret regulars first dibs on the latest art house gems. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The cinema originally opened on Boxing Day in 1913. The name of the cinema’s first director? Walter Christmas. 

How to support Grand Teatret: Buy a gift card, or you can rent a film from the Grand Teatret’s streaming platform if you’re in Denmark.

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Genesis Cinema, London
Photograph: The Genesis

42. Genesis Cinema, London

East London is uniquely well-stocked with the kind of cinemas you’d cross a city to visit, from Dalston’s beautiful Rio to Rich Mix and Close-Up in Shoreditch, to Homerton’s lovingly restored The Castle. Genesis, perched on the busy Mile End Road, is another jewel in the crown: a cosy yet well-kitted-out movie sanctuary where, thanks to luxury refit with fancy lighting and sink-in sofas, the only thing that’s cheap are the ticket prices (they’re £5 between Sunday and Wednesday). Locals – including film luminaries like Danny Boyle – swear by it. ‘If you build it, they will come’, runs the fluorescent Field of Dreams quote along a corridor wall. They did, and they do. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Rather than Phil Collins’s ’80s power-pop three piece, Genesis’s name is inspired by the apocalyptic McGuffin in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The owner is a massive trekkie.

How to support Genesis: Join one of its membership schemes or surprise a mate with a gift voucher. They’ll all be redeemable when the cinema reopens.

Museum Lichtspiele, Munich
Photograph: NielsHeidenreich

41. Museum Lichtspiele, Munich

Not technically a museum, though definitely historic, the Lichtspiele is Munich’s second oldest cinema. It’s become a cult hangout for the city’s hipsters and discerning cinephiles, with a rep for its screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. So much so, that the second screen is known as ‘the Rocky Horror Cinema’. It’s like stepping inside Dr Frank-N-Furter’s brain: knock-off Mona Lisas hang from the wall, alongside Greek sculptures and the plush crimson seats. Next door is The Big Blue room, named after Luc Besson’s diving epic, and a third screen has the Starship Enterprise emblazoned on the wall. When you love pop culture as much as they do at Museum Lichtspiele, you can call yourself whatever you like. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Lichtspiele’s Rocky Horror screenings have been running weekly since 1977, scoring the cinema a spot on The Guinness Book of Records.

How to support Museum Lichtspiele: Stop by the cinema’s online store.

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Le Cinéma du Panthéon, Paris
Photograph: Designium, Shutterstock

40. Le Cinéma du Panthéon, Paris

This studenty part of the Left Bank serves film fans in fine style. You’ve got Le Grand Action, Le Reflet Médicis, Le Champo, Le Studio Galande, all within a few minutes’ walk of each other. And then there’s Le Cinéma du Panthéon, just around the corner from the national monument it’s named after. Jean-Paul Sartre made this small cinema one of his go-to hangouts, and you can kind of see why. It’s subtly beautiful, outside and in. The 300-seater screen feels cosy but intensely serious: just the kind of quiet and brooding place you might want to go to mull over your deepest existential thoughts. Make sure to take a look at your seat – each carries a copper plaque with the name of a famous director. Houssine Bouchama

Put it on the poster: Catherine Deneuve helped design the upstairs bar. Its leather sofas, parquet flooring and vintage lamps will make you feel like you’re in a super-chic Parisian flat. Glass of rouge, surely?

How to support Le Cinéma du Panthéon: Stop by for a film and a cocktail when it reopens

Golden Age Cinema and Bar, Sydney
Photograph: Supplied

39. Golden Age Cinema and Bar, Sydney

The Golden Age is the much-loved basement occupant inside the stunning Paramount building in Sydney’s Surry Hills. The building was constructed in 1940 as the offices of Paramount Pictures, with a basement theatrette used to preview movies to cinema owners. In its time, it was visited by such Hollywood stars as Bob Hope and Charlton Heston. In 2013, the old screening room was converted into a 60-seat cinema with a seriously chic adjoining bar; cinema seats from the 1940s were located in Switzerland and installed in the space. Both classic films and more obscure new releases are shown here, and high-quality cinema snacks are offered in the bar – expect the best sundaes ever. Nick Dent

Put it on the poster: During World War II, the space was used for screenings of newsreels and informational films for the military.

How to support Golden Age: Golden Age membership is $30 a year and brings with it up to $4 off tickets, free popcorn, a pass to see one film free and other offers. 

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Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr

38. Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles

Consider this backlot-quality facsimile of an Egyptian temple the forerunner to the more famous Chinese Theatre down the street – after all, it shares the same architect. But the Egyptian boasts something that other theatres don’t: American Cinematheque, the not-for-profit organisation that revived the venue in the ‘90s and have kept it programmed with double bills and conversations with Oscar-winning auteurs ever since. Aside from a beautiful scarab beetle sunburst organ on the ceiling, the auditorium has seen a mixed bag of changes over the years: The hulking plaster pillars that flanked the stage ages ago gave way to more contemporary cladding, but a proposed rehab from Netflix – which now owns the space – should see the desert block walls peek through again. Michael Juliano

Put it on the poster: Its catwalk-like courtyard was the site of the first ever Hollywood premiere, a 1922 screening of Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks.

How to support the Egyptian Theatre: Head to the American Cinematheque site for memberships and merch.

Plaza Theatre, Atlanta
Photograph: Flickr/Mark Denton

37. Plaza Theatre, Atlanta

This stalwart indie cinema has lived many lives, screening everything from classic black and white movies to X-rated films. Today, the Plaza Theatre exists as a non-profit, welcoming audiences into its main theater (complete with its original sconces and velvet curtains) or a second screen that was created by converting the auditorium’s balcony. Pay for your admission at the vintage ticket booth, admire the collage of old posters lining the walls and don’t forget to stop by the concession stand for a Cheerwine (a regional cherry-flavored soda) before you take your seat. Zach Long

Put it on the poster: Not only is the Plaza Theatre the oldest continually operating movie theater in Atlanta, it’s also situated in the city’s first strip mall.

How to support: The Plaza Theatre is welcoming back audiences, but it’s also offering a selection of streaming movies via its website.

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BFI Southbank, London
Photograph: BFI/Luke Hayes

36. BFI Southbank, London

The beating heart of British cinema has been perched on the Thames beneath Waterloo Bridge since 1957. Back then it was known as the National Film Theatre; since 2007, it’s been BFI Southbank (diehards still use ‘NFT’). Beneath its glass and concrete shell, the old building echoes with a sense of film history that’s augmented every October when the BFI London Film Festival rolls in. The renovated riverside bar spills out onto this culturally rich corner of South Bank – the National Theatre is next door and the Hayward Gallery round the corner – while inside is a shop, library and archive. The biggest and comfiest of its four screens, NFT 1, is the place to catch an Agnès Varda season or settle in for a David Lean epic. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: When it first opened in 1951, the NFT occupied the purpose-built Telecinema a few hundred yards away. The first British cinema to show 3D films, it was later demolished (the two things are not connected).

How to support BFI Southbank: Become a BFI member here or subscribe to the arthouse-tastic BFI Player.

Phenomena Experience, Barcelona
Photograph: Phenomena Experience

35. Phenomena Experience, Barcelona

If you’re not a boomer or a Gen X-er, you may not have experienced the strange buzz of queuing to see a blockbuster on the big screen. That unique mix of excitement, expectation and XL popcorn. That long-lost sensation is the spirit this Barcelona staple taps into it with screenings of classic blockbusters that bring together dedicated fans and first-timers alike. Every little detail is designed to prep you for the ride to come, from the glowing marquee listing the movies showing to the sign reading ‘reality ends here’ at the entrance to the red carpet and velvet curtain. Not to mention one of the largest screens in Spain, bone-shaking sound, and 35mm and 70 mm projection. Borja Duñó

Put it on the poster: Opening in the old Cine Napols (1962-2014), Phenomena’s first screening in its current home was a double bill of Alien and Jaws.

How to support Phenomena: Membership gets you half-price tickets, invites to surprise screenings and two free tickets on your birthday.

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Le Colisée, Carcassonne 
Photograph: VilleDeCarcassonne

34. Le Colisée, Carcassonne 

Opened in 1914, the Colisée is one of France’s most beautiful art et essai – art house – cinemas. The small, traditional southern city of Carcassonne may be an unusual home for it, but that only adds to the thrill of catching a rare auteur film here. The facade by architect Florentin Belin makes for a picturesque entrance, and inside you’ll find some equally striking palatial décor. The centrepiece is the stained-glass skylight that twinkles above the main screen. After years of financial trouble, it was bought by the city early last year, renovated fully during lockdown, and it reopened to the public in September. Huw Oliver

Put it on the poster: The building used to be the ballroom of the hotel next door. Where better to live out your French high-society dreams?

How to support Le Colisée: Pick up a membership card for its owners, CGR Cinemas.

Metrograph, New York City
Photograph: Jeremy Liebman

33. Metrograph, New York City

This very hip two-screen cinema opened on the Lower East Side in 2016 and quickly became a leading light of the city’s movie scene. It’s a welcome throwback: old-school flipback wooden seats, no-nonsense concrete walls, a cool bar and restaurant and programming that oozes passion for, and knowledge of, good films old and new. Its founder is also a fashion designer, which shows in the shirt-and-tie uniform worn by the staff who all look like fashion/design/film students. Yes, it’s all very hipster – but at its heart is an old-fashioned love for brilliant movies, with little obvious concern for commercial pressures. A rare gem. Dave Calhoun

Put it on the poster: Metrograph’s small shop (really a few shelves to the left of the box office) sells a hyper-curated selection of film books and journals and some of the coolest-looking candy around. Don’t ask for cheesy nachos.

How to support the Metrograph: Membership ($50 a year; $5 a month) unlocks a lot of privileges, including special Q&A screenings. 

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Kino International, Berlin
Photograph: Nicole Kwiatkowski/Shutterstock

32. Kino International, Berlin

This modernist cinema, which sits on Karl-Marx-Allee near Alexanderplatz in the old East Berlin, is a mecca for anyone looking for a strong dose of Ostalgie. It opened in 1963 and for almost three decades was the main venue for film premieres in former East Germany. Its history and sleek mid-century style still make it a special, transporting place to watch films. It has just one grand, wood-lined auditorium (with a funky wavy ceiling) that can hold about 600. Even better, to enter the screen, you have to pass through a grand lounge bar with big windows opening out onto a whole boulevard of old Communist architecture below. Sehr cool. Dave Calhoun

Put it on the poster: A giant hand-painted poster of the film currently playing is always displayed on the front of the building.

How to support Kino International: It’s now part of a small group of Berlin cinemas, Yorck Kinos. Find out more about tickets and offers at its website

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, Austin
Photograph: Alamo Drafthouse

31. Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, Austin

A fixture on Austin’s popular 6th Street drag, the bright red sign at the Ritz has beckoned audiences to see movies, local theatre, comedy and live music down the years. When the Alamo Drafthouse took over the building in 2007, it smartened up two screens with cushy new seats, state-of-the art-projection equipment and handy tables (where servers will deliver snacks like fried pickles and buffalo cauliflower). And like all 41 Alamo Drafthouses in the US, strict rules against talking, texting and late arrivals ensure that everyone in attendance at the Ritz can focus on the movie at hand. Sshhh! Zach Long

Put it on the poster: For a short period of time in the early ’80s, the Ritz was repurposed as a punk rock club, hosting acts like Black Flag, the Misfits and Minor Threat.

How to support Alamo Drafthouse Ritz: Snag merch for film buffs from Mondo’s Alamo Gift Shop or stream a curated selection of films through Alamo On Demand

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Coolidge Corner Theatre, Massachusetts
Photograph: Coolidge Corner Theatre

30. Coolidge Corner Theatre, Massachusetts

The building that houses Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre was originally built as a church, before transitioning to a destination for cinema devotees in 1933. Now operating as a non-profit, the the cinema’s neon-lined, Art Deco-inspired marquee ushers visitors into one of its four screening rooms, the largest of which is the 432-seat Moviehouse I. Here, you’ll see red curtains part to unveil a flickering screen as you sink into your plush red chair in an auditorium that boasts dark wood paneling, golden accents and a ceiling mural – it’s a place that feels like a gilded altar for film buffs. Zach Long

Put it on the poster: The Coolidge threw its backing behind Dennis Hopper’s cult 1980 drama, Out of the Blue, hosting its US premiere and screening it for 17 weeks.

How to support Coolidge Corner Theatre: Stream new releases via its virtual screening room or book a private movie party with up to 24 of your closest friends.

L’Odyssée, Strasbourg 
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Ctruongngoc

29. L’Odyssée, Strasbourg 

Like Strasbourg itself, L’Odyssée has changed hands a lot over the years. It started off German, built in 1913 in the neoclassical style and christened the Union Theater after a cinema of the same name on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Then France took back the capital of Alsace after the Great War, and so it was Frenchified. But not for long: during the Second World War, the Nazis briefly requisitioned it as a Soldaten Kino for invading troops. Today, it remains one of the world’s longest-functioning cinemas, and you can see why it’s been so coveted over the years: gold mouldings, plush red seating and an ornate balcony make every screening here feel like an occasion. Huw Oliver

Put it on the poster: L’Odyssée is named after the fictional film that Fritz Lang, playing himself, directs in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris.

How to support L’Odyssée: Sign up for the cinema’s newsletter for the latest news.

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Music Box Theatre, Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy Music Box

28. Music Box Theatre, Chicago

It’s not as cavernous or opulent as the former movie palaces in downtown Chicago, but the Music Box is still a relic of an era when seeing a film was as much about the experience as the images up on the screen. Operating since 1929, the theatre’s main auditorium boasts Italian and Spanish architectural touches, as well as a magical ceiling dotted with twinkling lights and projected clouds that move across it. Over the past few decades it’s become Chicago’s leading arthouse cinema. You can see films from around the world, catch a director Q&A or settle in for a 70mm screening. Perhaps best of all, the popcorn is made with real butter. Zach Long

Put it on the poster: A renovation in the ’80s added an organ to the main auditorium. Today, it’s the only theater in Chicago showing silent films with musical accompaniment.

How to support the Music Box: Stream a variety of new releases via the theater’s Music Box Direct service and app.

Studio 28, Paris
Photograph: maziarz / Shutterstock.com

27. Studio 28, Paris

This is where Amélie goes to the movies – ’nuff said. Perched high up in Montmartre, Studio 28 has been a meeting-place of French intellectuals since the year in its name, when it opened with Abel Gance’s silent masterpiece Napoléon. Charlie Chaplin and Frank Capra were both regulars when they were in town, not to mention Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau, whose chandeliers still hang in the hallway. The Studio was conceived as a meeting place between cinema and other art forms like photography, painting and jazz, and the venue still hosts regular talks and exhibitions. A Breton cider in its small shaded garden is the ideal way to escape the tourist throngs outside – it’s no surprise Amélie found a refuge here too. Huw Oliver

Put it on the poster: In 1930 the cinema was ransacked during the premiere of Buñuel’s L’Age d’Or. Religious activists threw ink at the screen and destroyed works by Dalí and other Surrealist artists in the foyer.

How to support Studio 28: Keep an eye on the official site for news of its reopening.

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Mareel, Shetland Islands
Photograph: Shetland Arts

26. Mareel, Shetland Islands

Visiting the UK’s most northerly cinema – on the same latitude as Helsinki – feels like an adventure in itself. Seals, otters, even the odd killer whale have been spotted through its quayside windows. Mareel is the Shetland word for phosphorescence, and you can sometimes spot it flickering on the sea outside too. But even they’re not enough to pull focus from the swish two-screen cinema and arts centre inside. This movie outpost in the small Shetland town of Lerwick somehow combines the buzz of cultural vibrancy with a haunting sensation of being right at the end of the world. What better place to discover a new film – or just watch Local Hero again? Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Every year, the super-chilled Screenplay Film Festival comes to Mareel. It’s hosted by UK critic Mark Kermode and film professor Linda Ruth Williams and brings famous faces to town. 

How to support it: Mareel is run by Shetland Arts, which runs outreach programmes in the wider community, care homes and youth arts. Donate here.

Orinda Theatre, California
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr

25. Orinda Theatre, California

Even if you’re unfamiliar with Streamline Moderne, you can consider yourself well-versed once you step underneath the illuminated, vertical blade-like marquee and into the lobby of this 1941 theater, tucked into the hills east of Berkeley, California. With its sweeping curls, flying gears and circular details, the theater oozes the aerodynamic art deco evolution. That carries over into the auditorium, too, with industrial-meets-mythological murals that depict the four elements, all under a ceiling of painted flourishes and electric-blue and magenta cove lighting. Michael Juliano

Put it on the poster: One of the two smaller screens attached to the side of the Orinda houses murals salvaged from the former Garden Theatre in San Jose.

How to support Orinda Theatre: Donate to the GoFundMe campaign to keep the cinema afloat post-pandemic. 

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Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Sydney
Photograph: Supplied

24. Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Sydney

Without doubt the grandest cinema in Sydney, Cremorne’s Art Deco picture palace is a stunning step back in time. Built in 1935 by George Kenworthy, the top theatrical architect of the period, today’s version is even glitzier than the original, thanks to a $2.5-million restoration some years back. Each of the six auditoriums has its own colour scheme and decor, but the huge, 744-seat Orpheum is the true star of the show. The programme offers a mix of mainstream US, British and Australian fare, with some art house, special presentations and the occasional cabaret show. Best of all there are monthly screenings of The Room – BYO spoon. Nick Dent

Put it on the poster: The Orpheum has a genuine Wurlitzer organ, which rises out of a stage pit on weekend evenings complete with flashing lights and a grinning organist. 

How to support Hayden Orpheum: Sign up for the email newsletter to get discounts or pick up some vouchers from the website.

Sala Equis, Madrid
Photograph: © LuciaM

23. Sala Equis, Madrid

Back the ‘80s, this grand mansion in the Tirso de Molina was home to one of Madrid’s last porno cinemas, the Alba. Only the bar survived the 2017 refit and the cinema’s subsequent reinvention as one of the city’s coolest cine-spots, Sala Equis. It sits in a vine-wrapped, skylit indoor patio dotted with wooden benches and deckchairs where Madrileños congregate for pre-movie shrimp wraps and margaritas. The cinema screen has 55 red velvet seats from which to catch old classics and the latest releases. Sala Equis’s name is a tongue-in-cheek nod to its blue movie past (‘Sala X’, see), but inside it’s all about the here and now. Marta Bac

Put it on the poster: The building was also once the home to El Imparcial newspaper and now houses a restaurant with the same name.
 
How to support Sala Equis: Head along to a movie or one of the regular talks with directors. Sign up for its newsletter here for the latest info.

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Stadtkino, Vienna
Photograph: Hendrik Wagner

22. Stadtkino, Vienna

Fancy watching a movie in a whopping great palace? Head for Vienna’s Stadtkino, nestled inside the Künstlerhaus, one of the city’s main cultural edifices since Franz Joseph had it built in 1868. The exterior and foyer bits are very 21st century, with a lightbox-style marquee and recent architectural refit bringing clean lines and slick Wallpaper*-style gleam. There’s a DJ booth your dad will hate – though he’ll probably be into the gastro vibes provided by local restaurateurs Ludwig & Adele’s canteen. It’s all been designed to heighten the sense of expectation and make the wait for the film to start part of the experience. And the screen itself? It’s kino-tastic. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Stadkino shares a building with the Albertina Modern art museum, the city’s newest modern art gallery.

How to support Stadtkino: Sign up for its newsletter for the latest news and the chance to win premiere tickets. 

The Park Theatre, Manitoba
Photograph: Park Theatre

21. The Park Theatre, Manitoba

Twin Peaks doesn’t have a cinema but if it did, Clear Lake’s Park Theatre is probably what it would look like: a log cabin in the vast wilderness that is Riding Mountain National Park – a place where you can watch The Revenant and feel like you’re in it all at the same time. The structure was built by eight Scandinavians and completed in 1937 using peeled logs and iron bracings. They did a solid job, because the 500-seat cinema still packs them nearly 85 years later. The original exposed beams, rafters and seating remain, though the 12K digital projector and 7.1 Surround Sound give it all a 21st century sheen. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: It’s the biggest log cabin theatre in North America.

How to support The Park Theatre: Have a nose on the official website or better yet, pay a visit. It’s only three hours from Winnipeg. 

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New Beverly Cinema, Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/drtran

20. New Beverly Cinema, Los Angeles

Over the past century, this Central LA venue has done stints as a candy store, a vaudeville stage, a nightclub and a porno theater before landing on its current iteration as a single-screen revival house with a love of 35mm and a penchant for grindhouse fare. What it lacks in architectural flourish it makes up for in affordability and curation. Oh yeah, and it’s owned and programmed by a certain Quentin Tarantino. Already a long-time benefactor, the filmmaker stepped in and saved it from redevelopment in 2007. He’s been screening rare prints of classics and dusted-off B-movies ever since, often pulling them from his personal collection, alongside some first-run picks. It’s the coolest vanity project in cinema. Michael Juliano

Put it on the poster: Every Friday evening at midnight, you can see a flick penned or directed by Tarantino, screened on a 35mm print that belongs to Tarantino, at a theatre owned by Tarantino. The ultimate pilgrimage for QT fans.
 
How to support New Beverly: Sign up for the New Bev newsletter or just spread the good word.

Cineteca Nacional de Mexico, Mexico City
Photograph: Alejandra_Carbajal

19. Cineteca Nacional de Mexico, Mexico City

This buzzy film centre is the place to go to rub shoulders with Mexico City’s film lovers and culture vultures. Its modernist design resembles something out of Metropolis. Inside, it’s a small metropolis of its own, with bars, cafés and restaurants, cinema screens, a gallery, a posh ice cream parlour, and a vast archive of Mexico’s cinematic treasures. Tragically, a fire ripped through parts of the building in 1982. Since then, its ten screens have been restored and new gallery spaces opened (the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition stopped off here in 2017) and the venue’s annual film festivals. There’s even a panoramic outdoor screen in the gardens outside with free screenings for picnicking locals. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Kubrick may have pulled A Clockwork Orange from UK cinemas but it played at Cineteca for 153 straight days – and more than 150,000 people attended.  

How to support Cineteca Nacional: Spanish speakers can take online courses on world and Mexican cinema. Check out the full programme here.

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Castro Theatre, San Francisco
Photograph: Castro

18. Castro Theatre, San Francisco

Ask anyone about movie theaters in San Francisco and they’re bound to bring up the Castro, a fixture of the city’s most prominent LGBTQ+ neighborhood. Built to resemble a Mexican cathedral, the Castro houses a single 1,400-seat theatre, with a screen flanked by gaudy gold embellishments and a metallic chandelier hanging from the domed ceiling. LGBTQ+ films began screening at the theater in the ’70s and are still a prominent part of programming to this day, with screening series and festivals dedicated to queer directors. Zach Long

Put it on the poster: The Castro’s facade was restored to accommodate the filming of Gus Van Sant’s 2008 biopic Milk. The cinema also hosted the film’s world premiere.

How to support the Castro: It isn’t hosting any fundraisers, but the LGBTQ+-focused Frameline Film Festival (which usually takes place here) is accepting donations.

TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy Office of Historic Resources

17. TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles

If movie lovers can conjure up an image of this 1927 icon, easily the world’s most famous cinema, it’s likely one of red carpets, concrete hand prints and that palatial pagoda entrance. For Angelenos, on the other hand, it’s swarms of tourists, costumed characters and street closures. But forget about the (in)famous forecourt: The Chinese Theatre’s most dazzling asset is its auditorium. The radiant red seats and curtain and imposing golden columns turn any screening into a sumptuous affair. You’re not just here to see a movie (and a sharp one at that, thanks to a particularly superb IMAX laser projector), you’re here to spend an evening soaking in cinematic history under the painted wooden starburst on the ceiling. Michael Juliano

Put it on the poster: Sure, it’s the cinema that gave the world Star Wars, but we’d say it boasts one other more meaningful first among cinemas: air conditioning.

How to support TCL Chinese Theatre: Sign up for a VIP tour of the grand old building when it reopens. 

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Stella Cinema, Dublin
Photograph: Pressup Entertainment

16. Stella Cinema, Dublin

A beloved fleapit that closed in 2004, seemingly forever, the Stella sprung back into life in 2017 with a Gatsby-esque tszuj that restored it to its old 1920s grandeur. Mosaic tiling, art deco railings, hand painted ceiling, chandelier and the dress-to-impress The Stella Cocktail Club (a Star Wars t-shirt will do at a push) pushes the Scott Fitzgerald vibe into the realms of French martinis and bourbon cocktails. Oh, and the screen itself isn’t shabby either, with red armchairs, huge sofas and double beds to pick from. The Stellar used to Ireland’s largest cinema, now it’s just the swishest. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: During the Stellas’s restoration, a note from its three of its 1920s builders was found plastered into the ceiling.

How to support Stella Cinema: Pick up gift vouchers here.

Rio Cinema, London
Photograph: Alistair Wiper

15. Rio Cinema, London

The screening rooms at the Rio are curvy. The seats swing around in an arch, the walls are painted in swirls of colour. And that’s not even the prettiest feature of this extremely pretty east London indie cinema. That would be its tall facade: an Art Deco gem of straight lines, pastel colours and what looks like Papyrus font. That’s thanks to the work of cult architect FE Bromige. He gave the cinema – which had been open back in 1909 – a makeover in the 1930s. And, down to the exterior of the Mad Man-esque bar, his look stuck. Even with its modern restorations, you experience it almost exactly as he designed it. Seeing it from across Kingsland High Street – surrounded by hip clubs, a trendy pizza joint and a KFC – is like being haunted by an extremely chic and large ghost. Kate Lloyd

Put it on the poster: Over three post-war decades, Rio went from specialising in classic cartoons to art house cinema, to ‘adult’ films, to kung fu, Bollywood and Elvis films. These days you catch the latest indie and arthouse gems, and the odd blockbuster too.

How to support the Rio: Become a member, make a donation or even name one of the seats. They’ll put a little gold plaque on it for you (we told you it was chic). 

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The Labia Theatre, Cape Town
Photograph: Labia Theatre

14. The Labia Theatre, Cape Town

Nestled beneath Table Mountain is this quirky gem. South Africa’s oldest indie cinema, it prides itself on marrying modern tech with an olde-worlde charm a world away from the gleaming modern multiplex. Cinemagoers purchase their tickets from an ornate ticketing booth (or online – it’s not that olde-worlde) and the faded grandeur of this old Italian Embassy ballroom lingers on in its three opulent-feeling screens. In recent years the likes of John Cleese, Werner Herzog, Matt Damon and Salma Hayek have popped by for a movie and a mooch on its garden terrace. There’s no record of whether they got stuck into the bar’s potent slush-puppy cocktails, though. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: Yes, it is mistaken for a porn theatre but it’s actually named after the Italian diplomat, Princess Labia, who opened it in 1949. Stop sniggering at the back.

How to support The Labia Theatre: Watch a film on its streaming platform.

The Raj Mandir, Jaipur
Photograph: PnP, Flickr

13. The Raj Mandir, Jaipur

You had us at ‘meringue-shaped’: that's how this extravagant 1970s cinema in the northern India city of Rajasthan has regularly been described. Which is surely reason enough to visit this picture palace if you happen to be passing through Rajasthan. It offers chandeliers, a groovy wavy ceiling, a sweeping staircase and an enormous screening room. The Raj Mandir remains a single-screen cinema, with over 1,100 seats in its cavernous auditorium. Alongside movie-loving locals, it attracts tourists keen to gawp at its way-over-the-top interiors as well as experience a Bollywood movie while visiting this historic city. Come for the decor, stay for the songs! Dave Calhoun

Put it on the poster: The exterior is painted bright pink in honour of Jaipur's reputation as the 'pink city' (many buildings were painted that colour in 1876 to welcome Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, to the city).

How to support it: The Raj Mandir's online and social presence is minimal. The best thing you can do is store this place in the memory and make sure you visit if you ever find yourself in India.

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Le Champo, Paris
Photograph: Jessica Orchard

12. Le Champo, Paris

If you’re mooching around the Latin Quarter and have a few hours to kill, you’ll want to drop by Paris’s quintessential art et essai cinema, Le Champo. On the corner of the Rue des Écoles and the Rue Champollion, this charming picture house was made famous by French New Wave directors François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, who were regulars here in the ’60s and ’70s. (Chabrol called it his ‘second university’.) These days it’s the place for cinephiles hankering after a black-and-white classic and tourists looking for a dose of Parisian romanticism. Look out for the illuminated Jacques Tati silhouette in the foyer. Houssine Bouchama

Put it on the poster: It’s customary to head to neighbouring dive Le Reflet for a post-film drink. Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch have both been known to prop up the bar when they’re in town.

How to support Le Champo: Sign up for the newsletter to get the latest reopening and screening info.

Cine Doré Filmoteca Española, Madrid
Photograph: MarcoGallo-Shutterstock

11. Cine Doré Filmoteca Española, Madrid

This historic cinema dates back to 1923, making it one of Madrid’s most enduring salons (it even survived a direct hit by shell during the Civil War). That beloved art deco facade has put an elegant face on some troubled times: it even closed in 1963 for twenty years, eventually revived by Madrid council and then given a modernist refresh in 1989. It’s longevity was ensured when it was made home to the Spanish Film Library. The provenance of Doré’s name remains mysterious, though its nickname, ‘El Palacio de las Pipas’ (‘the palace of the seeds’), stemmed from its audiences’ habit of munching sunflower seeds in bygone days.  Those old-timey vibes endure in the main salon with its ornate dress circle and velvet seats. And the programme? It’s a cinephile’s paradise, taking in everything from Hitchcock to Jarmusch. Marta Bac

Put it on the poster: Doré is one of Pedro Almodóvar’s favourite cinemas. It cameos in Talk to Her and Pain and Glory.
 
How to support Cine Doré: Join the queues for the €3 tickets at the two old-school ticket booths.

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Puskin Art Cinema, Budapest
Photograph: Puskin Art Theatre

10. Puskin Art Cinema, Budapest

They do cinemas in style in Budapest, and they don’t come much more stylish than this old-fashioned temple to the medium – once called Fórum Cinema – on the Pest side of the city. Its marble pillars, speak of a past that dates back to 1926, when its single screen could squeeze in 623 viewers. Since 2013, it’s been split into five screens named after films spanning the Puskin’s life: Metropolis, Amarcord, Annie Hall, Mephisto, and Hungarian drama Körhinta. Sitting in the biggest of them is a time machine, with marble pillars, wooden seats, and a gold-hued ceiling that glitters like Smaug’s lair transporting you back to cinema’s golden age. The movies on offer are a mix of undubbed arthouse and indie films from around the world, some mainstream releases, and regular family-friendly screenings. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The first talkie to screen in Hungary, Al Jolson’s The Singing Fool, premiered here in 1929.

How to support the Puskin: Check in on the official site for the latest reopening info and tickets.

The Civic, Auckland
Photograph: Auckland Live

9. The Civic, Auckland

Opened at the dawn of cinema’s talkie era, this slice of New Zealand history now hosts gigs, plays and ballet too. But it was always conceived as an old-fashioned picture palace, with its entrepreneurial founder Thomas O’Brien going big on budget (£200,000), scale (2379 seats) and Eastern design flourishes (look out for the Buddhas in the lobby) to make it the standout movie venue in the southern hemisphere. The Great Depression sent a bankrupted O’Brien packing, but The Civic has stood the test of time: a very literal temple to moviegoing in Auckland whose thousand illuminated stars on its auditorium ceiling feel well earned. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The Civic doubled as a Broadway theatre for Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake. 

How to support it The Civic: It’s run by Auckland Council, but there are bespoke tours for anyone who wants to get behind the velvet curtain. 

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ArcLight Cinerama Dome, Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia

8. ArcLight Cinerama Dome, Los Angeles

LA has a bounty of early 20th century movie palaces, but there’s only one mid-century, hexagonal-faceted geodesic dome (and one that’s been occasionally topped with inflatable Minions or Godzilla). Now owned by ArcLight, the ad-free chain that’s become synonymous with chi-chi moviegoing in the city, Cinerama Dome has been pushing the boundaries of aspect ratios since 1963. Inside, its curved honeycomb ceiling is handsome, but the real beauty here is the 126-degree curved screen, a vision-filling surface that’s literally made for timeless epics like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey – or as a backdrop for surprise Q&As, a routine occurrence around opening weekends. Michael Juliano

Put it on the poster: Though it also has modern digital projectors, the Dome is one of the only cinemas in the world with a three-projector set-up to screen films processed in Cinerama’s ultra-wide ratio.

How to support ArcLight Cinerama Dome: Sign up for $15 membership for discounts across all ArcLight cinemas.

The Astor, Melbourne
Photograph: The Astor

7. The Astor, Melbourne

Dating back to 1936, The Astor is the oldest single-screen theatre in Melbourne, and its past is as dramatic as its popular double-bills. The Art Deco gem has been under threat of development for decades, but won its most recent reprieve in 2015, when indie chain Palace Cinemas took over the site. The giant auditorium seats about 1,600 people over two levels, and it’s regularly packed out for classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars or Harry Potter marathons. The new owners haven’t changed much, and the lush red velvet curtains, geometric carpet, piano, ’30s movie posters and euphemistically named ‘cloak rooms’ remain. There are fewer double bills these days but it remains still a fixture in Melbourne's movie scene and regularly fills its notoriously uncomfortable but heritage seats. Cass Knowlton

Fun fact: The Astor’s resident cat, Duke, is named after Isaac Hayes’s character in Escape from New York.

How to support The Astor: Palace Cinemas’s Movie Club offers all sorts of perks, including a free ticket on your birthday (awww).

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Cinema Dei Piccoli, Rome
Photograph: Cinema Dei Piccoli

6. Cinema Dei Piccoli, Rome

If Willy Wonka got into the cinema business, he might open one just like Dei Piccoli. The world’s smallest cinema according to the Guinness Book of Records, this lime green, tree-shrouded picture box in Villa Borghese gardens is one of the cutest on the planet too. It has 63 seats, one screen and covers a mere 71 square metres (to put into perspective: the screen alone at Paris’s Grand Rex is 300 square metres). It’s been a firm favourite with Rome’s children since it opened in 1934 (‘piccoli’ means ‘little ones’), and for a time went by the name ‘Casa di Topolino’ or Mickey Mouse House. Even Disney’s lawyers haven’t entirely squashed that affectionate nickname for a cinema that still screens animations to wide-eyed children and hands out junior diplomas to first-time visitors. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: When it first opened, the cinema screened films using a Pathé Baby projector and a sheet. 

How to support Cinema Dei Piccoli: Pay a visit or take in a €6.50 screening if you’re in Rome.

The Electric, London
Photograph: JJ Farq, Shutterstock

5. The Electric, London

There’s no scientific way to prove it, but this Baroque one-screener nestled among the antiques shops and boutiques of Portobello Road may just be the comfiest cinema on the planet. The seats are heavenly – you’d pay just to sit in them – and for the terminally decadent (or sleep-deprived parents at a baby-friendly screening), there are even beds at the back. It’s next door to private members club Electric House, and some of those luxe vibes definitely rub off. Unusually, the concession is inside the main screen, which gives queuing for drinks and snacks the lovely sense of being in a kind of west London bazaar. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: It opened in 1911 with a screening of a 25-minute silent film, Henry VIII. It cost sixpence (about £7 in today’s money) and you got a bun and an orange with your ticket.

How to support The Electric: You can sign up for the Electric’s rewards scheme here.

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Cineteca Madrid, Madrid 
Photograph: Cineteca

4. Cineteca Madrid, Madrid 

The only cinema in Spain dedicated almost exclusively to non-fiction films is located in the old Madrid Matadero – a slaughterhouse and livestock market in the 1900s. It opened in 2011, with its huge floorspace lit up by glowing baskets and divided into three screens named after Spanish screenwriters: Azcona, Plato and Borau. The programming policy puts an accent on indie films and deeper cuts, as well as showcasing local filmmakers and visual artists. It’s a heck of a spot to take a date for a Coen brothers movie chased down by vermouth and snacks on the snug outdoor patio. A beautiful, unusual place. Marta Bac

Put it on the poster: The Cineteca occupies the space that was once the abattoir’s meat locker – automatically making it a great spot to watch Rocky

How to support Cineteca Madrid: If you're a frequent filmgoer, the best thing you can do is to buy a season ticket for ten sessions for just 35 euros.

Village East Cinema, New York
Photograph: Kholood Eid

3. Village East Cinema, New York

With its unassuming facade and East Village dive bar neighbours, you wouldn’t expect to find anything too out of the ordinary at this five-screen cinema. And If you catch a film in theaters 2-5, your middle-of-the-road expectations will be met. But lucky are those who get assigned to theater 1: They’ll be entering a gorgeous, 440-seat Moorish Revival movie palace, constructed in the 1920s in what was once the heart of NYC’s Yiddish Theatre District. (Judaic references, including a large Star of David in the dome, can be found throughout.) The ornate space is a seriously magical place to watch a film. Will Gleason

Put it on the poster: A young Walter Matthau once worked at the cinema’s concession stand.

How to support Village East: Rent a film via Angelika Anywhere to support its owner City Cinemas

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Le Grand Rex, Paris
Photograph: © Grand Rex

2. Le Grand Rex, Paris

Much more than just a cinema and concert hall, Le Grand Rex is one of the capital’s most cherished cultural institutions. The Grands Boulevards area didn’t need much tszujing up, but Auguste Bluysen’s building is magnificent even by the standards of this vast web of opulent avenues. With its huge Art Deco façade and constantly flashing screens, the building adds a brilliantly gaudy splash of New York to this rather uniform, limestone-hued part of town. There are seven screens, the biggest of which can hold a whopping 2,400 spectators. This is where you’ll catch the city’s ritziest premieres: everything from Hitchcock’s The Birds to Star Wars had their first French screening here. Houssine Bouchama

Put it on the poster: The building also houses a superclub, the Rex Club, in its basement – a springboard for France’s biggest DJs like Laurent Garnier and David Guetta. Come for the art house, stay for the acid house.

How to support Le Grand Rex: Pick up some Rex merch or an online gift card, or try Le Grand Rex escape game

Pathé Tuschinski, Amsterdam
Photograph: Pathé Tuschinski

1. Pathé Tuschinski, Amsterdam

A plaque to this palatial cinema’s founder, Abram Icek Tuschinski, adorns its ornate lobby wall. A Jewish émigré from Poland, Tuschinski never got to grow old with his dream picture palace – the Nazis saw to that – but its elegant mash-up of art deco and art nouveau styles with sleek modernist touches brings his dream to life daily for movie-mad Amsterdammers. These days it’s owned by Pathé and was recently refurbished with original touches, like the Wurlitzer-Strunk organ, left untouched and the historic wall paintings restored to their original specs. There’s a stylish new bar – Bar Abraham – paying tribute to its founder and serving up movie-inspired cocktails to thirsty filmgoers. Our advice? Make a pilgrimage to this opulent, historic shrine to the movies. Phil de Semlyen

Put it on the poster: The bar serves a ‘Pulp Fiction Milkshake’ (ingredients: Nolet’s silver gin, crème de cacao, cherry syrup, m*therfucking almond milk).

How to support Pathé Tuschinski: Pick up a gift card or stop by for a movie and a meal.

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