For most of us, a trip to the cinema is something you do on a Wednesday night cos you want to do something but not stay out late. Or a Saturday night because you don’t want to drink, but you don’t want to stay in. Or a Sunday afternoon. Or whenever really – going to the cinema is, traditionally, an everyday affair and the best you can hope is that the person behind or in front of you doesn’t eat their popcorn too loudly and that your nearest cinema isn’t going to gouge your eyes out with their prices. Except that this is London, and in London you can find an out-of-the-ordinary experience for even the most banal activities. So which cinemas in London should you look to for something a bit different? Here’s our list of best independent cinemas in London..
Secret Cinema, London
This is the daddy of cinema experiences and comes with a ticket price to prove it. Forget going along and simply watching a screen. With Secret Cinema, you get immersed in the show. You’re not told what movie you are going to watch when you buy your ticket (and they ask that people who see the early runs don’t reveal it). Bu you do get sent clues, such as a dress code, and when you turn up, the location at which the movie is being shown has been turned into that movie’s world. The sets from memorable or key moments of the film are re-created, complete with actors playing people from the movie, or people you would expect to find in that movie’s universe. You don’t know what is being shown until you take your seats and the movie starts to roll, which means you can have lots of fun trying to guess what it is, with the actors doing their bit around (and sometimes with) you. Even though the whole thing is ‘secret’, and tickets will set you back about 40 pounds these days, tickets sell out immensely quickly. But it’s worth it, if only for a special treat – the amount of effort they put into creating these alternate movie worlds for you is beyond impressive. The movie is normally a classic so you won’t be disappointed on that front, for example they have recently done Prometheus and The Shawshank Redemption..
Hot Tub Cinema
Hot Tub Cinema is a bit of a new one, which started over the summer on the roof of Netil House, but has been carried through the winter (albeit in a new indoor location) with the most recent ones having a Christmassy theme in December. Each night of the run has different movie genres, with hints like 90s classic, romantic, or horror but you don’t know exactly what you’re seeing until you’re firmly ensconced in your tub. It’s really up to you what you wear, but you are going to be in a functioning hot tub – one-pieces, bikinis and trunks are the order of the day for that kind of action! There are eight people to a tub, so either bring along a lot of friends, or make ready to get to know some strangers really well. Food and of course drink is served in the evening, with the film starting about an hour after doors open. They show well-loved movies like Love Actually and Anchorman, so it’s not too much of a risk booking. Tickets are 28 pounds each, though if you book a whole tub for you and your friends, you make a saving as they’re 225 pounds.
Edible cinema aim to take your normal cinema experience and heighten it by giving you things to eat and drink that correspond to what you are seeing on screen, thus emcompassing all the senses. This is brought to you by Soho House and a few different cinemas so far – The Aubin in Shoreditch, the Electric in Notting Hill. When you enter the film, you are given some numbered packages and at specific points throughout the movie, someone will hold up a card with the number that you should ingest. For example, while watching Pan’s Labyrinth you eat a carbonated grape when Ofelia eats an enchanted one. Or in Withnail & I, when Withnail takes a slug of lighter fluid, you take a drink of something a little more appealing. Keep an eye on @ediblecinema for their next run of enhanced screenings. Tickets are about 22 pounds.
Rooftop Film Club
For a more usual cinema experience but in unusual surroundings, try out the Rooftop Film Club. As the name suggests, they put on films on the rooftops in London, namely at Kensington Roof Gardens, or the Queen of Hoxton or Netil house. They recently ran some viewings to coincide with Valentine’s Day that took place in the Kensington Roof gardens, in an indoor heated marquee so there was no need to worry about the brisk temperatures (they think of everything!). Tickets include a posh drink (champagne or Peroni [or of course a soft drink]) and some non-posh food – a cheeseburger or hot dog or vegetarian option. And you actually get to know what is screening in advance so you can either pick an old favourite or see something new!
And if you’re not up for a very expensive movie/entertainment mix then there are plenty of cinemas in London that can help you to avoid the chains like Odeon and Vue. Head to any of the Picture House cinemas for a movie for a tenner, and see the latest mainstream releases, and also some of the more obscure films. They also do seasons of showing operas and ballet live on the big screen.
The Curzon cinemas are more expensive but are good if you want to see the latest independent or arthouse films. One of my favourite places to watch a movie is the BFI on the Southbank – their seats are comfortable, you can get some nice food from their café and they have monthly seasons on different directors or movements, meaning I can broaden my cinema knowledge. The ICA are also worth checking out for unusual or cult movies and documentaries. And a special little cinema is The Exhibit in Balham which has only 24 seats, in the form of double sofas. They show their pick of the releases in the last six months, and sometimes one-off specials. The Roxy Bar and Screen does a similar thing, and tickets are only 4 pounds! They also show sport on their big screen if you’re into that. Both the Roxy and the Exhibit are available for private hire.
Or seek out your local independent cinema if you have one – the Genesis in Whitechapel shows the latest movies, as do Rich Mix, as well as having film seasons showing lesser known films, and both sell tickets for around only 8 pounds!
Written by Gingle of Gingle Lists Everything.