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Aesthetica Short Film Festival
Photograph: Jim Poyner

The 5 best cinemas in York

Catch a new release or old favourite at one of these brilliant film festivals, pop-ups and cinemas in York

Written by
Jacob Phillips

York’s love affair with the silver screen began in 1908 when the former Wesleyan chapel, New Street Hall, was converted into the city’s first cinema. A purpose-built picture house followed soon after with the opening of the Electric Theatre on Fossgate in 1911. Even today, York offers far more choice for cinemas-goers than you might expect of such a small city. From seasonal pop-ups to world-renowned film festivals to arthouse palaces that many much bigger metropolises would kill for, these are the best cinemas (and other places to catch films) in York. Feeling peckish? We say stock up at one of the city’s best restaurants beforehand.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in York

Best cinemas in York

Hands down the coolest time and place to see films in York is here – an international short film festival hosted by Aesthetica Magazine every November since 2011. For one week only, screens are set up all over the city, including inside the Yorkshire Museum, York Theatre Royal and the National Centre for Early Music. Book early.

With its three-metre-wide screen and close-up seating, this 24-capacity boutique venue certainly makes for an intimate night out. Themed nights including singalongs to Mamma Mia and Grease often take place here, and drinks from the bar downstairs make the experience even sweeter. Also available for private events.


Set in the grounds of a grade II-listed hotel, the outdoor cinema at Principal York may be the highlight of the summer calendar. Tickets include garden tea or cocktails, or even a two-course dinner from the Refectory restaurant with bottles of house wine. The hotel is adjacent to the train station, so very accessible if you’re only in town for the day.

Inside the former Yorkshire Herald press building in the city centre, you’ll find the City Screen Picturehouse, whose eclectic programme includes regular Q&As and throwback ‘Vintage Sundays’. The in-house bar boasts incredible views over the River Ouse (and a fine selection of local ales).


A five-minute walk from York train station and 10 minutes from the city centre, Everyman York is the perfect getaway if you’ve had enough of sightseeing or have some time to kill before you catch a train. The cinema’s spacious lounge has a Great Gatsby-like feel, made extra-comfy by a wide range of pillowy seating options.

Need more sightseeing inspiration?

  • Things to do

Come to York, walk around a bit, and you’ll quickly understand why it’s so often voted one of the best places to live in the UK. From riverside strolls to world-class museums to quirky independent shops, this beautiful city offers something for travellers of all stripes.

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