London's prettiest cinemas
Phones – like taking off your shoes – are a cinema no-no. But you’ll struggle to contain the urge to splurge on social media after a trip to the Institute of Light’s cinema in London Fields. Tucked away under the arches of the railway line, the space is all bare brickwork and eclectic furniture – from mid-century sofas to three rows of vintage aeroplane seats. At weekends, the space doubles as a vinyl store for the independent record label BBE, and there’s a restaurant, bar and bookshop out the front.
Hidden away down a cul-de-sac, the Everyman has got the looks, from its retro sign to its squishy armchairs. There are two screens – the grandest has a cavernous roof and row upon row of pillar-box red seats. For a perfect Sunday, pair with a stroll on the Heath.
Since it opened in 1913, The Castle in Clapton has been a cinema, a bingo hall, a shoe factory and a snooker club. Now, after raising £57,000 on Kickstarter, a local couple has restored it back to its former filmic glory. And it’s gorgeous. There’s an art deco bar – all elegant marble tables and velvet cocktail chairs. The boutique cinema is a bit of a stunner too, with a petite screen, 80 retro hotel seats and a curved ceiling covered in ornate gold plasterwork that’ll make your face look like the heart-eye emoji.
The name of this much-loved Islington cinema is slightly misleading. It’s not a pop-up in a park, but a picture-perfect purposebuilt theatre on Upper Street. The interiors are all plush, lush and velvety – with sofas and waiter service. But it boasts some serious street cred too; the cinema once played host to live performances from The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Claims to fame aside, The Screen on the Green’s neon signage (above) is what makes it truly iconic.
This single-screen cinema on Portobello Road definitely wins the award I’ve just made up for best date location. It’s like stepping inside a Richard Curtis movie, with leather armchairs, cashmere blankets and velvet double beds on the front row for snuggling. The Electric is one of London’s oldest cinemas and the building is Grade II listed-lovely. Inside, it keeps up the retro vibes, heaping on the Hollywood glamour so you half expect to be papped on your way out.
This Grade II-listed cinema on Kingsland High Street, virtually unchanged since the 1930s, is as famous for its art deco style, retro lettering and lit-up façade as for its programme of independent movies. In a bid to stay open, the Rio, which is run as a charity, is raising £150,000 to build a second screen and a bar/café in the basement.
Tucked away in the City, this latest addition to the Curzon boutique cinema chain is a sleek four-screener. Cinemagoers can sip cocktails in the mid-century-chic bar before heading to one of the neat and understated screening rooms and kicking back in a mustard-yellow reclining seat. It’s a little bit ‘Mad Men’ and we love it.
On the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue, this central London cinema is an absolute gem. It’s the antidote to Piccadilly Circus’s rage-inducing pavements, with seven screens and three floors of beautifully designed space. Before you even get anywhere near the plush screening rooms, a hundred hanging lightbulbs lead you up a grand terracotta-tiled staircase past a mural inspired by a century of cinema. A climb up another level will take you to a members-only bar with a roof terrace that looks out over the busy streets of central London
From the outside, the Phoenix on East Finchley High Road is a bit of an ugly duckling. But inside, it’s an art deco, single-screen beauty with vaulted ceilings and unusual design flourishes. This vibrant aesthetic has greeted cinemagoers for over 100 years, when the East Finchley Picturedome opened its doors.
Everyone knows good things come in small packages, like fancy moisturiser and Pret ginger shots. This teeny cinema in Kensal Rise with its pretty pitched roof is proof. It’s cutesy, cosy, loved by locals and has a coloured light installation on the ceiling which is begging to be Instagrammed. #movienight.
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