With super comfortable seating, gourmet food and an eclectic selection of films – from the latest Hollywood releases to independent art house productions – boutique cinemas are far and away the superior choice over the crowded, sticky-floored multiplex. We list our London favourites, but our lifestyle managers can also recommend the best options in other areas of the UK.
5 Holly Bush Vale
At the former Everyman Theatre, which was converted into a cinema in 1933, the independent cinema chain’s flagship venue features leather seating and velvet cushions. Screen One has plenty of individual armchairs and a handful of Club Suites – mini open-topped pods for couples complete with foot rests and a wine cooler. Contact us to enquire about hiring the Upper Lounge private screening room for up to 15 adults or 17 children.
Whiteleys shopping centre, Paddington
Britain’s biggest cinema chain opened its first ‘fine food and film’ experience at the start of 2012, bringing in expert advice from chef Rowley Leigh of Le Gavroche and Le Café Anglais fame. Today, the restaurant-quality cuisine ranges from gourmet hot dogs to wild mushroom risotto and sticky toffee pudding. Each of the five screens features a maximum of 50 leather seats, which recline at the touch of a button.
191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill
Owned by the Soho House Group, this Grade II-listed building offers the comfiest and classiest way to see a film in West London, with leather armchairs, footstools and small side tables. There are also six double beds, complete with cashmere blankets. Gourmet snacks are available from the adjacent French-American diner and there's a bar providing an array of tipples. Monday morning ‘Electric Scream’ slots are reserved for viewers with babies under one year old.
52 High Road, East Finchley
Described by the Guardian as ‘the best independent cinema anywhere’, this art deco theatre opened in 1910, making it one of the city’s oldest picture houses with an interior that retains many of the remarkable original features. As well as new releases and regular throwbacks, the ambitious programme also covers productions by the Bolshoi Ballet and live National Theatre performances. Children are catered for on Saturdays with family favourites.
15-17 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia
Along with Firmdale’s Soho and Covent Garden hotels, this upscale Fitzrovia establishment runs a weekend film club. Book in on a Friday night for an old-school classic, such as Dirty Dancing, following a three-course meal – with optional Pommery Champagne – in the restaurant. Or drop by on a Sunday for afternoon tea and new releases.
194b Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Green
Staffed predominantly by local volunteers, this is the UK’s first social enterprise independent cinema, with 100% of the profits going to charity. Although housed in an Edwardian theatre, its equipment is thoroughly modern, with a bespoke sound system and digital projectors. It has comfy seats, a private viewing gallery for up to 12 people, and a bar that serves wine, beer, platters of food and popcorn. The monthly programme covers all the latest releases and live streams from New York’s Met opera house and the National Theatre.
180 Greenwich High Road
This venue has five luxurious theatres and a bar that allows drinks – including the locally brewed Meantime beers – to be taken into films. The cinema shows art house productions, live theatre broadcasts and foreign-language films, as well as the latest blockbusters. We recommend taking out a membership which grants complimentary tickets and discounted entry to all Picturehouse venues in the UK, along with a host of other benefits – contact us for full details ►
107 Kingsland High Street, Hackney
When it opened in 1909, this was one of five cinemas along this bustling stretch of Dalston, but has been the only one to stand the test of time. It’s a beacon of art deco design and dedicated to showing a broad spectrum of films, from art house classics to the latest Oscar contenders, but you’ve got to be quick as the programme usually features only one film per week. Open 364 days of the year, there are parent and baby screenings, Saturday late shows and cheap ticket Mondays.
Coldharbour Lane, Brixton
This south London institution has been in the business since 1911 and much of its original grandeur remains. The five screens are all comfortable, with generous leg room and reclining seats, and there will always be a film showing that suits your tastes and mood. There are two bars – one of the ground floor overlooking Windrush Square serving great food and another on the top floor that doubles as a screening room, comedy venue and club. Contact us to find out what’s on and to secure tickets or membership.
Curzon Cinemas lifted the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award at this year’s Bafta ceremony for championing alternative and art house productions at their 11 UK venues. As well as showing the usual blockbusters, the comprehensive programme also brings viewers Q&A sessions with directors, the finest theatre, ballet and opera performances and broadcasts from museums and galleries across the globe, where curators and art historians take you on a virtual tour of current exhibitions. We always recommend film buffs buy a membership – contact us for details.
Last updated on 15 February 2017