London used to lag behind Paris and Berlin when it came to independent cinemas – the kind of places where you could catch classic movies, new documentaries and double bills – but the last few years have seen a boom in bright young things that’d give the multiplexes a run for their money.
When Europe’s oldest cinema reopened in 2015 no one quite knew what to expect. But it’s quickly turned into an institution for London’s film fans. It’s an elegant, airy space with a great bar but it’s the programming that draws the crowds. Foreign film festivals, great director-led double bills and innovative screenings (films explained by psychologists is a favourite) mean that it’s one of the few places in London that’s worth visiting even if you don’t know the film on offer.
Where: 309 Regent St, Marylebone, London W1B 2UW
Travel: Oxford Circus underground
It’s never entirely clear where The Roxy’s priorities lie. Fair to say, this is a bar first and a cinema second. Irreverent silence is not guaranteed, in fact, with the level of alcohol consumption that we’ve come to expect, it would be completely miraculous. It’s like watching a film in a room full your best mates, chatting, giggling and generally having a ball.
Where: 128-132 Borough High St, Borough, SE1 1LB
Travel: Borough underground
A new kid on the block and a philanthropic kid at that. 100% of proceeds go to charity. Nearly entirely staffed by local volunteers, this is genuine, guilt-free viewing. The food and drink are local too and they all kinds of deals with local restaurants to keep you in the area.
Where: 194b Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, NW10 3JU
Travel: Kensal Rise overground
One of the UK’s oldest cinemas, The Phoenix has been running solidly since 1910. It has seen every conceivable incarnation of cinema as it has evolved through the years, even that decade when we pretended Adam Sandler was funny. The history alone is enough reason to head up to East Finchley but with its community and charity programmes, you’ll also be doing your good deed for the day.
Where: 52 High Rd, East Finchley, N2 9PJ
Travel: East Finchley underground
With the Electric Diner next door, this makes up one of West London’s strongest one-two punches. A slap-up meal followed by a film in one of the capital’s most luxurious cinemas. But there’s more. For a little bit extra you can spread out on one of the exclusive, front-row beds. Don’t get too carried away by the creature comforts, you’re still in a public place kids.
Where: 191 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, W11 2ED
Travel: Ladbroke Grove underground