Electric Cinema, Portobello
You can’t discuss cinemas in London without mentioning this little gem. With a history dating back to the 1900s, the Electric in Portobello is the epitome of luxury film watching. You’ll find no hard seats festooned with fizzy drink stains or popcorn crumbs here – instead choose between a plush leather armchair (complete with footstool), snuggly back row sofa seats or a ridiculously comfortable front row bed. If that’s not sufficient, there are cashmere blankets in case you get chilly. Both mainstream and independent films show here, plus cult classics, making it the ideal place to visit whatever your taste. And while we’re talking about the Electric, don’t forget to visit its sister cinema in Shoreditch, located in Barbour and Parlour.
191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2ED
It’s fair to say the Everyman chain of boutique picture houses helped redefine cinema going in London. With locations across the city, you’ll find cosy armchairs, delicious food and drink, and a relaxed, intimate atmosphere in each. A wide array of titles are scheduled, including live satellite broadcasts, and some venues also host comedy and Q&A sessions. We particularly love the striking façade of the Screen on the Green in Islington with its retro neon signage, the cocktail bar in Baker Street and the yoghurt bar at the original Hampstead location. Make good use of the waiter service wherever Everyman you visit – you can have antipasti, pizzas, old-school sweets and drinks (including a frozen pina colada) delivered straight to your seat.
Various locations across London
Just a couple of minutes away from Shoreditch High Street, this former factory houses three cinema screens, exhibition and performance spaces, a café/bar and an Indian restaurant serving up street-food style dishes. There’s plenty of culture on offer here –alongside blockbusters and independent films, you’ll find an interesting mix of theatre, music and spoken word on the programme. Prices are reasonable too, with cinema tickets for just £8.95 on a weekend or weekday after 5pm.
35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA
‘I am a cinema. Love me.’ These are the words emblazoned on the side of the Lexi in Kensal Rise and to be honest it’s hard not to. With the venue staffed mostly by volunteers and all the profits going to a charity in South Africa, coming here means you’re making a difference. A friendly team plus a cosy single screen makes for a relaxed ambiance and the artsy offerings are bound to keep you interested. Live theatre and opera are regularly shown and you can also enjoy Q&A sessions and panel discussions.
194b Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, London, NW10 3JU
Regent Street Cinema
Make a pilgrimage to this old-school picture house to see where it all began. Regarded as the birthplace of British cinema, the screening rooms here were the first in the country to show moving pictures in 1896. The grand interior of the beautiful auditorium features regal decor and gilded detailing as well as plush seating. It’s one of a handful of places showing films in 16mm, 35mm and 4k digital, and the programme serves up a varied mixture of classics, experimental films, foreign movies, retrospectives and documentaries. Don’t miss the double bills too.
307 Regent Street, London, W1B 2HW
This is one for the serious film buffs. Showing more than 2,000 titles each year, the BFI at Southbank has four screens and a schedule including everything from classic to contemporary films. If you’ve got a bit of spare time, take a wander through the exhibition on the mezzanine, which changes regularly and draws on photographs and publicity materials from the BFI’s archives and special collections. And don’t forget to check out the Riverford Bar & Kitchen too. It has impressive views of the Thames and Waterloo Bridge and a good food and drinks menu, so you don’t have to end your night when the credits start rolling.
Belvedere Road, South Bank, London, SE1 8XT
Housed in a former Salvation Army church, this live arts space has a two-screen cinema and also hosts comedy, theatre, dance and music events, making it one of the most creative and dynamic venues in London. Independent films take centre stage on the programming and you can also take part in creative workshops or join a book group that meets fortnightly to discuss stories that have been made into a film. On Tuesdays the cinema hosts its Babes in Arms club too, meaning you can enjoy the latest releases with your little one in tow. Drop in for a cup of coffee in the café bar to discover more about what’s on.
159a Tottenham Lane, London, N8 9BT
Previously a recording studio that saw the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones lay down some of their chart toppers, this trendy venue is now one of the plushest cinemas in London. With cosy wool felt reclining chairs, gorgeous brass tables, footstools for the front row and comfy love seats at the back, it’s the perfect place to lose yourself in a film. Looking to make an evening out of your trip to the pictures? There’s also a chic café and dining room downstairs serving delights such as Welsh venison, crispy Tamworth pork belly and butter bean and basil stew.
117-123 Church Road, Barnes, London, SW13 9HL
As one of the oldest cinemas in London, The Phoenix in Finsbury is steeped in history. Its nostalgic interior features art deco panels and a beautiful vaulted ceiling, making it one of the most stunning places to catch a film in the capital. Run as a charitable trust, the cinema exists for the benefit of the community with its profits reinvested into the building and community education. You’ll find a mixture of new releases, independent, specialist and foreign films in the diary and the picture house also hosts screenings for children and discussion groups. Don’t miss the chance to try the homemade cakes in the café bar upstairs too – they come highly recommended.
52 High Road, East Finchley, London, N2 9PJ
Hackney Picture House
Buzzing with energy, this four-screen cinema has been open in Hackney since 2011 and has made a name for itself with an excellent schedule of film and special screenings.
Downstairs the café bar has some fabulous food choices and on the top floor you’ll find the Hackney Attic, which hosts live events such as open-mic nights and music quizzes.
Also in the Picture House group are the Ritzy in Brixton, Clapham Picturehouse, Greenwich Picturehouse, Gate Picturehouse in Notting Hill and Stratford East Picturehouse.
270 Mare Street, London, E8 1HE
If independent and arthouse films are your bag, you should definitely take a trip to one of the many Curzon cinemas in the city. Located in various spots including Soho, Bloomsbury and Richmond, these intimate and luxurious picture houses are known for some of the best programming in the capital. Don’t miss the Q&As (Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore are among the actors who have discussed their work here) and the live theatre, dance and opera screenings. There are also Exhibition on Screen events, which offer a cinematic immersion into the world’s best known art and artists. The original Curzon in Mayfair has been running since 1934 and features an art deco café with vintage furniture and two exclusive royal boxes, to take your viewing experience to the next level.
Various locations across London
Known for its foreign film offerings, Cine Lumiere is a popular haunt in South Kensington and the perfect place to go to brush up on your languages. It’s part of the Institut Francais which aims to promote French culture, and with its distinctive red brick exterior, striking marble staircase and resident Rodin statue, it’s an impressive place to visit. The cinema’s art deco auditorium doesn’t disappoint and neither does the schedule. Expect to find a wide selection of world and European titles here, as well as numerous special Q&A screenings and French classics every Sunday.
17 Queensberry Place, London, SW7 2DT