The Phoenix is one of the oldest cinemas in the UK, and it hasn’t lost any of its authenticity — today’s blockbusters are screened under the same vaulted ceiling that saw the cinema through both world wars. Its history and class make it the perfect spot for cinephiles, including film critic Mark Kermode, who has named it as his favourite cinema. Today, it shows the latest in independent and foreign films and is part of a wave of cinemas streaming live ballet and opera. The cinema is owned by a trust, which stepped in after wrecking balls threatened it in 1985, and profits are reinvested into the building and community education.
Visit Hampstead Everyman for an experience not unlike watching a film your own sitting room — but on a huge screen with surround sound. You can choose between two-seater sofas and leather armchairs in this plush North London venue, and for special occasions there is a private screening room which seats up to 15. As if that wasn’t luxurious enough, you can also get waiter service to your seat, or visit the yoghurt bar before the film for a healthy treat. Follow up the film with a wander through picturesque Hampstead or nearby Hampstead Heath.
Sandwiched between Chinatown and Leicester Square, the Prince Charles offers a cheaper, cultural alternative to the famously expensive West End cinemas nearby. The Prince Charles runs themed classic film seasons alongside its pick of current and cult films, and its cosy, leather-panelled bar is the perfect spot for a pre- or post-film drink. There are two screens to choose from — the first, much larger auditorium is used for new releases, while the smaller room downstairs offers a more intimate experience. Check their website before your visit to see if you’ll catch one of their special events — a recent offering was a masked ball viewing of the 1986 film Labyrinth. Cinema nuts can also become members and buy discounted and pre-sales tickets.
Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Pl, London, 020 7494 3654
Tucked away near the hustle and bustle of Borough Market, this bar-cum-cinema is London’s best kept secret. Its regular film club invites patrons to enjoy a specially-selected double bill while they enjoy burgers, beers and the venue’s superb cocktail menu. The Roxy has become notorious for its pitch-perfect film choices (we hear their horror showings are particularly good) and you’re guaranteed to find a crop of bona fide film fanatics in its dim screening room among battered armchairs, bar stools and sofas. If you can’t stand cinema whisperers, this isn’t the place for you — screenings have been known to turn into passionate debates between members of the bar’s clientele.
Roxy Bar and Screen, 128-132 Borough High St, London, 020 7407 4057
While perhaps not the most dignified way to enjoy a film, watching from a hot tub on an East London rooftop is certainly a unique experience. Hot Tub Cinema runs pop-up events around London every summer, and instead of seats, you reserve places in one of its inflatable hot tubs – or a private tub for up to six people. Their previous seasons have been sell-out successes, showing an appetite for open-air, innovative viewing in the city. Buy drinks from their pop-up bar and enjoy the London skyline as a backdrop for their choice of classic film, safe in the knowledge that you’re riding the wave of cinema’s newest (and most unlikely) trend.