There are so many things to do in London, but we’ll never tire of visiting the flicks. Once upon a time, London‘s best cinemas only needed popcorn and pick ‘n’ mix. These days, the film scene is more exciting – watching a movie can involve getting dressed up, being sent to a secret location and entertained by actors and artists, or being wined and dined from the comfort of a leather armchair in small, stylish screening rooms. We’ve rounded up the best of the city’s film fun, from community hotspots to the country’s celluloid heavyweight…
Compiled by Olivia Rawes
1. The fab fusion: The Lounge at Odeon Whiteleys
Style Cosy and convivial
Setting Bustling Bayswater
Imagine a classic night in: long-awaited DVD, cushy sofa, tasty takeaway, bottle of wine and maybe a sneaky Gü pudding. Now picture this: that same film on a huge screen, a fully reclining leather armchair and a discreet waiter at your disposal throughout the film. All hail the Odeon’s new offering: a combination of fine dining (courtesy of Rowley Leigh, chief proprietor of Le Café Anglais), slick service and top-notch cinema.
Cost Adults: £18 (peak). Over 18s only.
Perfect if you’re staying at… Europa House Apartments, The Arch London or Baglioni Hotel.
2. The art-house antique: Curzon Mayfair
Style Old-school cool
Setting Well-heeled W1
With a 75-year legacy of international film recognition and a gorgeous grade II-listed building, the Curzon Mayfair is one of London’s art-house treasures. It boasts a fully refurbished bar, two screens (the larger is a 530-seat auditorium, complete with two Royal Boxes) and the capacity to show live transmissions from around the world. The Curzon’s Soho sister is equally alluring.
Cost Adults: £12.50 (peak).
Perfect if you’re staying at… 45 Park Lane, Brown’s Hotel or The Connaught.
3. The knowledgeable one: The BFI
Style Big, bold, British
Setting Sociable Southbank
The UK’s leading film organisation screens more than 1,000 films a year (a mix of contemporary, classic and world cinema) and offers sneak previews, discussion sessions, guest speakers and exhibitions. It’s also key to London’s film festivals. The riverfront bar and kitchen is perfect for quick snacks; Benugo Bar and Kitchen serves great British classics, Sunday roasts, brunch and cocktails.
Cost Members: £6.50–£10 (evening shows, except Tuesday, and all shows on Saturday and Sunday).
Perfect if you’re staying at… Haymarket Hotel, St John Hotel or Covent Garden Hotel.
4. The French academic: Ciné Lumière
Style Très bien
Setting Cultured Kensington
Housed in a chic art deco building belonging to the Institut Française, this venue screens a cultural collision of French, European and world films. Its mission to promote Gallic culture and encourage cross-cultural exchange has lured French favourites such as Jean Renoir and Catherine Deneuve through its doors. Don’t be surprised if, on seeing the delicious delicacies served by Le Bistro (the institute’s French-style café-restaurant), you feel like expanding your cultural knowledge via your stomach…
Cost Adults: £6–£15.
Perfect if you’re staying at… The Kensington Hotel, Knightsbridge Hotel, Number 16, or Blakes Hotel.
5. The bright idea: Electric Cinema
Style Hip and handsome
Setting Arty Portobello
Luxurious leather armchairs with footstools, a broad mix of mainstream and arthouse films, tables with wine buckets and a few two-seater sofas at the rear for canoodling couples – this is a well thought-out venue. Stock up on drinks at the bar before the screening, then sit back sipping cocktails or champagne and nibbling on delicious small plates. Alternatively, go old school with a retro sweet mix.
Cost Adults: £8–£36.
Perfect if you’re staying at… The Arch London, High Road House, or Baglioni Hotel.
6. The Sunday saviour: Film Club at the Soho Hotel
Style Hospitable hotel
Setting Sociable Soho
Escape the bustle of Soho and enter this bubble of calm. This hip hotel houses two state-of-the-art screening rooms. Every Sunday, Firmdale’s Film Club presents its film of the week from a selection of classic cinema, modern movies, and 3D titles. As films start at 3.30pm, guests who visit Refuel can chose whether to enjoy a sumptuous three-course lunch or afternoon tea before the film, or to relax afterwards with an indulgent dinner. London’s other Firmdale hotels offer the same deal.
Cost Adults: £35 (excluding service and drinks).
Perfect if you’re staying at… The Soho Hotel seems sensible! You can also visit the screening rooms at Covent Garden Hotel or Charlotte Street Hotel.
7. The charitable one: Lexi Cinema
Style Good-hearted hero
Setting Cool on Kensal Rise
Make a difference, all from the comfort of your seat. A UK first, this innovative social enterprise combines great films and good works. All profits – from the price of the comfy cinema seats, to the delicious drinks at the bar – go towards improving life in Lynedoch Village, South Africa’s first eco village. So far, these donations have helped the school, built a crèche and set up a community vegetable garden for research into sustainable farming methods. How’s that for an incentive?
Cost Adults £5.50–£11 (Friday to Sunday).
Perfect if you’re staying at… Europa House Apartments, a short drive away.
8. The mysterious one: Secret Cinema
Setting Wait and see…
Don’t tell anyone: this underground movie movement is out there somewhere and it’s plotting to change the way we watch films. The film and location are kept hush-hush, and only revealed on the day. At the event, though the movie may be the star player, it’s only one part of the experience: expect live music, DJs, casts of actors, food stalls, impressive sets and costume-clad audiences. This impressively alternative night out will let you see the films you love in a new light – as long as you can keep the secret.
Cost Adults £25–£35.
Perfect if you’re staying at… Given that the location is kept secret until the day, why not try a spontaneous stay?
And for future viewing…
9. The Other Cinema
Launched on Valentine’s Day, this growing global network of pop-up cinemas will come together once a month in various locations to show the same film on the same day, creating an inspiring collective experience.
10. The Olympic Cinema
No, it’s not another sport-related venture cashing in on the London 2012 Games. Later this year, in Barnes, a new boutique cinema is to be launched in the world-renowned Olympic Studios – a recording studio made famous by stars such as the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Queen.