As the winter blues continue, sometimes nothing beats cooping in with a good film away from the elements. London has a wealth of fantastic cinemas where you can catch indie films and the latest blockbusters, but to make your trip to the capital city truly unique, you will want to visit one of the more ‘alternative’ venues.
Whether it is watching a film in a hot tub or sipping on cocktails as your favourite superhero takes to the skies, there are many opportunities in London to have an unusual and immersive cinematic experience – here are six of our favourites.
Existing as a collaboration between Soho House and event specialist Teatime, this cinematic food experience combines watching movies and eating, often two of our favourite things. As you arrive, you will find a tray on your allocated seat that will feature a mini cocktail and canape-sized servings. There will also be small numbered packages that should only be opened when cued on film.
If you are watching Pan’s Labyrinth, you will eat Pine Smoked Popcorn as the characters run through a pine forest. Or when Juno appears in Beetlejuice, your tastebuds will be tantalised by some lavender-infused smoked mutton jerky. Or it could be rose tinted Turkish delights that followed Sugar’s kisses in Some like it Hot. Truly tasty.
The Prince Charles Cinema
Located in Leicester Place, right next to the square, this cinema is the place to go for any classic or cult films. While it only has two screens, over ten different films show weekly while sing-a-long versions are often commonplace. Popular films that always seem to be on include The Sound of Music, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Joseph. Over the years, the venue has garnered a real fanbase, merely because it is the only indie cinema in the West End.
When exploring the cinema, look out for the canopy above the cinema, which often houses obscure messages, such as jokes about other venues, movie references and even cheering England on during sporting events.
To only add to the intrigue, it is also believed that a ghost haunts the upper levels – several sightings have been made of strange creatures, particularly when considering that the cinema is built on the former site of a Holophusikon, a museum of curiosities from Captain James Cook’s voyages.
Hot Tub Cinema
What do you get when you cross a jacuzzi with a Hollywood blockbuster? Hot Tub Cinema of course. You are encouraged to dress up, sing along, drink with your friends and even get up and dance if you want while the film is on, all while being in a hot tub. You can book a tub to share with six or eight people, and if it’s just you on your own or with a partner, it won’t be long until you start making some friends.
Each tub has its own waiter to bring you any food or drink as you desire, and with 30 tubs, two screens and a surround-sound system, this really is a sight to behold. There are DJs playing classic tunes, cult films and even fancy dress competitions – what more could you really ask for?
Roxy Bar and Screen
Situated close to Borough Market and London Bridge station, this part-bar part-cinema has HD projection set up, a speakeasy-esque cocktail bar and intimate settings involving battered couches, armchairs and thick red curtains.
The cinema tends to show mainstream releases a few months after their theatrical run, but it also prides itself in focusing on alternative and horror classics. Because of this, you do tend to get the odd curious sort stumbling in, but the atmosphere is always buzzing and friendly. Tickets for showings are £3 but you can also buy a £30 all-year membership.
Drive In Film Club
Feel like you have been transported to the 1950s and head to this American-style drive-in cinema. What’s on screen could be anything from Grease itself to Fast & Furious 6, but it is the feeling of watching a movie from the confines of your car that is truly enchanting.
Rollerskating vendors will be on hand to sell hot dogs, street food, burgers, fries, candy and popcorn straight to your car. Note that the car park will open around 90 minutes before the film so be sure to get there early to nab a good spot.
Crap Film Club
Having originally started as four friends celebrating all things crap film in their living room, this club, also known as CFC, is a place to revel in all the films that won razzies or just went straight to DVD. It could be a rubbish script, awful acting or really bad CGI.
This is not about enjoying cinematic beauties but getting together to watch awful films, and you can even bring with you some amateur stuff you have created yourself – just don’t expect many to like it!
The clubs strict criteria rules out those made deliberately badly, including only those that are so bad they’re brilliant, so expect Sharknado, Frankenhooker and Birdemic…yes, they are all real films. Tickets are £3.50 in advance or £4.50 on the door.
Beyond these weird and wonderful cinemas, there are also so many local film clubs and major cinema chains to enjoy watching a flick or two with like-minded people. It may feel bizarre to go to a cinema when on a holiday to London, but it both immerses you into local life and gives you the opportunity to do something truly unique other than the usual tourist traps. Lights, camera, action!