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Rooftop Film Club
Photograph: Rooftop Film Club

Outdoor cinema in London

The best places to see open-air movies in the capital this summer

By Time Out Film
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After a dry spell of Gobi-like proportions, it’s open season for movie lovers in London. Cinemas are reopening, drive-in cinemas are back – albeit in on a smaller scale than last summer’s wheel-athon – and outdoor cinemas are returning to our parks, rooftops, and in the odd case, um, children’s playing fields.

There’s something for everyone, from Rooftop Film Club’s 360-degree views at Peckham’s Bussey Building to big historic houses, the odd posh school and even a drive-in at a shopping centre. Basically, if there’s space for a screen, someone is putting one up – and we’re here for it. Welcome to the summer of the big-screen extravaganza.

Outdoor cinema in summer 2021

Drive In Film Club
Drive In Film Club
Photograph: Rooftop Film Club

Drive In Film Club

A four-wheeled spin-off of the slick and regularly sold out Rooftop Film Club, this drive-in concept was born out of last year’s lockdown restrictions. But the innovation is now a well-grooved enterprise, with Alexandra Palace and Brent Cross hosting 40-foot screens into which motorised movie lovers park up, order up (buttermilk chicken from Just Wing It) and tune in via a digital speaker provided. The typically eclectic line-ups throws up everything from ‘Minari’ to ‘Spice World’. A car is £27.50 (the ticket, not the actual car). 

Hideaway Cinema
Hideaway Cinema
Photograph: Hideaway Cinema

Hideaway Cinema

If you’re still ruing the fact that cinemas closed before Wonder Woman 1984 came out, good news: there’s a new outdoor cinema that’ll be showing the blockbuster in the style it was intended: big and loud and with popcorn to hand. Alongside other UK-wide venues, Hideaway Cinema is setting up its screen in Honourable Artillery Company five minutes walk from Old Street roundabout, as well as Kew Gardens and Hampstead Heath. And while we’re not sure how much more disruption the traditional release model can take without just curling into a ball and sobbing its heart out, Hideaway’s USP of showing new movies only two weeks after their theatrical release definitely makes a nice change from ‘The Greatest Showman’. It all kicks off on May 20. 

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Rooftop Film Club
Rooftop Film Club
Photograph: Rooftop Film Club

Rooftop Film Club

Ten years in and this London staple is showing no signs of flagging. It’s back in two venues, Stratford (from May 18) and Peckham’s Bussey Building (May 21), and another cargo of crowd-pleasing movies to soak under the stars. Expect new releases like ‘Sound of Metal’ and evergreen favourites like ‘Princess Bride’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’, all served with a side order of wood-fired pizza, gourmet burgers and cocktails orderable by app and delivered direct to your deckchair. 

The Alfresco Theatre
The Alfresco Theatre
Photograph: The Alfresco Theatre

The Alfresco Theatre

A screen staple in its own right, having appeared in everything from Stephen Poliakoff dramas to ‘Great British Bake Off’, Brentford’s Syon Park is shifting from location work to exhibitor this summer. The Alfresco Theatre’s drive-in cinema (Jun 9-13) will marry up with foodie treats curated by top chefs like Tom Kerridge and Rick Stein and brought to you car-side pitch with equally heady movies, including ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Grease’. Kids can also enjoy ‘The Gruffalo Live’ (will that smug mouse finally come unstuck this time?), and there’s comedy and a Bootleg Beatles gig, too. Tickets are £18 for movies and £35 for theatre and gigs.

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The Luna Cinemas
The Luna Cinemas
Photograph: The Luna Cinemas

The Luna Cinema

With 13 outdoor venues across London, from Bexleyheath to Brompton Cemetery, Luna’s reach is formidable. The array of venues isn’t too shabby either. Kenwood House, Hampton Court Palace and Royal Hospital are three of the grander backdrops for its outdoor screens, while Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is swapping plays for motion pictures for a couple of late summer screenings of ‘Moulin Rouge!’ and ‘The Shining’. It all kicks off on June 30. If driving-in is more your scene, Luna also has its drive-in outshoot, The Luna Drive-In Cinema, back from a second summer of engine-tainment, although you’ll have to head into the country for those.

Film & Food Fest
Film & Food Fest
Photograph: Film & Food Fest 2021

Film & Food Fest

This brand-new spinoff from outdoor movie organisers Adventure Cinema will be roadshowing across the UK this summer. In its capacious boot? Movies (obvs), stand-up comedy and local street food. There are two stop-offs in London – Finsbury Park (July 22-25) and Beckenham Place Park (Aug 26-29) – where tickets come in at £16.50 for adults and half that for under-12s at afternoon screenings. Pixar’s ‘Onward’, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘Jojo Rabbit’ are on the schedule, and there are singalong screenings of ‘The Greatest Showman’ and ‘Grease’. Stand-up sets top off the evening screenings. These mini-fest will also be championing new short-film makers, making it a virtuous new addition to the outdoor cinema-iverse.

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Openaire Float-In Cinema
Openaire Float-In Cinema
Photograph: Openaire Float-In Cinema

Openaire Float-In Cinema

If the idea of floating cinema grabs you, Regent’s Canal is the place to head this summer. Partnering up with Häagen-Dazs, Openaire Float-In Cinema is setting up a six-by-three-metre LED screen at Merchant Square in Paddington Basin (audio is provided via wireless headphones). It runs from Wednesday June 2 for four weeks, Wednesdays to Sundays, with crowdpleasers like ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ on the slate. All you’ll need to do is pick up your boat at Little Venice and pootle downstream – or opt for a deckchair if you’re more of a landlubber. Boat hire costs £240 and each vessel seats eight, while deckchairs cost £17.50. The films start at 8.45pm.

Bar Elba
Bar Elba
Photograph: Bar Elba

Bar Elba

Hot on the heels of its bottomless brunches, Waterloo’s Bar Elba is adding a pop-up screen to its rooftop repertoire this summer. Promising ‘popcorn, Prosecco and pop-culture icons’, the line-up is your standard outdoor cinema faves (Mean Girls, Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther, Notting Hill et al) that play out as the sun sets on this corner of SEI. Everyone gets their own headphones to mute the hubbub and there are edible goodies to feast on, as well as all the evening-enhancing elixirs you’d expect from the bar’s extensive cocktail menu.

 

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Adventure Cinema

With 100 venues across the country, Adventure Cinema isn’t messing about this summer. On the itinerary are castles, country houses, sports grounds and parks. It also has a foodie spin-off, Film & Food Fest (see above), taking place in Finsbury Park and Beckenham Place Park. In London, its outdoor screens will be bringing ‘The Greatest Showman’ and ‘Grease’ sing-a-longs to Enfield Town (May 22-23), Streatham Common (Jun 11-13), and Osterley Park and House (Jul 2-4). Tickets come in around the £12.50 mark for a standard spot, with prime positioning and a deckchair closer to £18. Bring a blanket and a picnic, though food and beverages are available on site. 

The Drive-In
The Drive-In
Photograph: Rupert Oberhauser / Alamy Stock

The Drive In

Back for a second summer, this drive-in offering takes place at the Troubadour venue in N18 and should be a well-grooved enterprise. Food has an American flavour with burgers, hotdogs and cheesy fries that can be ordered via a mobile app and delivered to your vehicle – or the vehicle you’re hired specially to have food delivered to it. The films are recent releases like ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (an outdoor mainstay this summer), ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ and ‘Tenet’. There’s also drive-in comedy and some musical theatre. Tickets come in between £19-65 per car.

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