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Barbican Outdoor Cinema
Photograph: Anton Rodriguez

Outdoor cinema in London

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

Written 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 cinema is 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

A double bill of films from Floating Points, a screening of Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, Sally Potter’s ‘Orlando’ and Wim Wenders’ ‘Pina’ offer a diverse range of highlights for a new Barbican outdoor screen across five days in late August. Positioned in the Sculpture Court amid those iconic Brutalist surrounds, Barbican’s Outdoor Cinema runs August 24-29. Tickets run to £15 and seating is on a first come, first served basis (doors open an hour before the 8.30pm show times). Headphones are provided to ensure a zoned-in movie experience.

Backdropped by Battersea Power Station and, well, fore-dropped by the Thames, this open air cinema (and theatre) is run by the adjacent The Cinema in the Arches and offers one of the city’s best located outdoor screens. Summer Showtime’s line-up falls firmly in the tried-and-tested bracket of outdoor crowdpleasers: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘Thor Ragnarok’, ‘A Star Is Born’, ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘La La Land’ and ‘Back To The Future’ all feature. Tickets cost £35 for a two-person pitch and the season runs until August 30.

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One from the ‘new to 2021’ basket, this new pop-up in Lewisham’s Beckenham Place Park is running until September 10. The programming ethos? ‘British films that shine’ – and, boy, do they. The diverse Brit flicks on offer range from golden oldies (‘Passport to Pimlico’, ‘The Lodger’), to cult faves (‘Prevenge’), to critical smashes (‘Rocks’, ‘I Am Not a Witch’). The big screen is in a lovely spot next to the cafe in the heart of the park, with comfy deckchairs for ticket holders (general admission comes in at £16.80).

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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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. 

Outdoor cinema can be a pricey undertaking. Not so at Wembley Park’s Summer on Screen jamboree – a summer-spanning movie series that is completely free. Taking place in the Events Pad on Wembley Park Boulevard, the outdoor event runs from July 29-September 5, opening with ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and taking in family-friendly hits like ‘Paddington’, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Frozen’. There’s a selection of Hindi-language films like ‘Manmarziyaan’ and ‘Batti Gul Meter Chalu’ for the local British-Indian community to feast on, too. Just rock up and grab a deckchair. All you have to do is bring your own snacks (or buy them there). 

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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.

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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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.

 

There’s masses on offer from Pop Up Screens, who return this summer for nearly three month's worth of outdoor cinema. While you can expect favourites like ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘A Star is Born’, ‘Grease’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, Pop Up Screens are also showing cult favourites like ‘The Craft’, ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Ghostbusters’. Joining them are films like ‘Moonlight’, ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’, ‘The Beach’ and more. The screenings vary in location, with Pop Up Screens dropping by Coram’s Fields, Bishops Park in Fulham, North Greenwich, Hillyfields in Brockley, Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith, Guildhall in the City of London, Manor House Gardens in Hither Green, and Kennington Park in Oval. Tickets are on sale now for a reasonable £14, with under-12s costing £9.

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