1. 1. The Lexi Cinema
All profits made by The Lexi Cinema go to charity (it’s the UK’s first ‘social enterprise’ cinema), so if you go to see a film there you can stuff your face with popcorn AND do a good deed at the same time. Local volunteers help run the cinema, and they have a mixture of new releases and regular special events.
Nearest tube: Kensal Green
2. 2. Odeon Leicester Square
If you fancy a bit of red carpet glamour, the Odeon Leicester Square is the place to go. They regularly hold UK (and even world) premiers, and if you get there early enough you can bag a place at the front of the rope. It’s worth going along at least once just to experience that tense, shit-me-someone-famous-might-be-arriving-soon atmosphere (and you might even get an autograph from the likes of J-Law if you’re lucky).
Nearest tube: Um, Leicester Square
3. 3. The Ritzy in Brixton
Although they do show mainstream stuff, it’s mainly about art house and independent films at The Ritzy. Sometimes they even show films where people speak and the only way you can understand them is by reading words that appear at the bottom of the screen, if you can imagine. They also regularly get directors and other filmy-types along for Q & As and special events, which can be an interesting way of finding out more about a film and the inspiration behind it.
Nearest tube: Brixton
4. 4. BFI Southbank
The BFI Southbank is basically a big, awesome playground for people that like films. They’ve got loads of different screens (including a tiny little 38-seat studio which is the smallest public screen in London), a shop that sells world cinema and art house DVDs, and – possibly the best of all – a giant Mediatheque that gives you access to over 2500 different films and TV programmes (you can basically watch whatever you want, free of charge).
Nearest tube: Waterloo
5. 5. The Phoenix Cinema
You know how you always get that one, effortlessly cool cinema that gets to do loads of awesome stuff and makes the other cinemas jealous? Well that’s the Phoenix. Not only has it appeared alongside Ralph Fiennes in 1999 Film The End of the Affair, but it’s also been in comedies, music videos and photo shoots. Dustin Hoffman has sat in one of its seats. Oh, and apparently it even starred in a porn film a while back (not bad considering it’s over a century old).
Nearest tube: East Finchley
6. 6. Pop Up Screens
You’ve probably already guessed from the name, but Pop Up Screens isn’t a traditional cinema (ie. it doesn’t have any walls or a roof). It’s basically a company that organises outdoor screenings, so if you fancy a change of scene and some fresh air it’s just the job (and they also provide a pop-up bar and a caterer at each event).
Nearest tube: It could be anywhere, but it’ll usually be within walking distance of a tube stop.
7. 7. BFI IMAX
If it’s eyeball-burning 3D you’re after, you’ll want to take a trip to the BFI IMAX. The screen there measures an intimidating 26m x 20m (according to ask.com, the average screen in the UK is a measly 21m x 9m), making it the largest cinema screen in the whole of Britain. Just think, once you’ve been there you can go to your friends and be all like, ‘I’ve been to the biggest screen in Britain’ and they’ll be all like, ‘shit me that’s impressive, you’re pretty cool’, to which you’ll smile knowingly and nod.
Nearest tube: Waterloo
8. 8. Roxy Bar & Screen
Some cinemas are just plain cool. With its cheap tickets, comfy seating, and quirky one-off events, the Roxy Bar & Screen definitely falls into this category. You might stumble through from the bar one night to be met with a special guest appearance from a film director, while the next evening might involve a blood-splatteringly enjoyable horror triple-bill. And what’s the only thing better than a triple-bill? A triple-bill for under £5, that’s what.
Nearest tube: Borough
9. 9. Secret Cinema
Imagine a cross between Fight Club and a monthly, mystery treasure hunt for adults where the prize is something like a horror film screening in a graveyard or an abandoned warehouse, and you’ll have a rough idea of what Secret Cinema is like. Basically you sign up to take part and the location is only revealed to you on the day, along with clues as to the film and the ‘genre’ of the event (which will often involve an interactive set and undercover actors). A hell of a lot of effort goes in to these events, and it’s worth going at least once just for the experience (it’s definitely one of those ‘you need to see it first-hand’ jobs).
Nearest tube: It’s a secret, obv.
10. 10. Rooftop Film Club
It’s a simple fact of life that if you haven’t watched a film on top of a roof, you haven’t lived. Luckily Rooftop Film Club offers exactly that, taking place at a number of different venues across London (including Kensington Roof Gardens) and throwing in some comfy seats and wireless headphones for good measure. They also have a heated marquee to keep out any pesky rain.
Nearest tube: Depends on the venue. The roof gardens are closest to High Street Kensington, the Bussey Building is near Peckham Rye, and the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch is near either Shoreditch High Street, Old Street or Liverpool Street.
11. 11. The Electric
Going to The Electric is a bit like watching a film in your lounge, only on a really, really big TV screen (and assuming your lounge was filled with strangers you didn’t know). Confusing analogies aside, though, The Electric is all about a comfy viewing experience. They’ve got leather armchairs, footstools and side tables, meaning you don’t have to constantly battle with the person next to you for use of the arm rest and cup holder. There’s also a bar that serves cocktails and – to quote their website – ‘substantial cinema snacks’. Intriguing.
Nearest tube: Ladbroke Grove
12. 12. Drive In Film Club
This one provides a unique opportunity in London: the chance to be in your car and not be filled with insane range. The Drive In Film Club comes from the same people that organise the Rooftop Film Club, and it’s pretty much a similar sort of thing – you choose one of several venues, book a certain date in advance, then rock up. Only this time you get to do it like your John Travolta in the late fifties because you’ll be in your CAR, and everything will be awesome. You even get a unique FM frequency to listen to the film on, and there are waiters and waitresses on hand for ‘classic’ snacks.
Nearest tube: Who cares?