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A Guide to the Best Outdoor Cinemas in London

Nothing much beats watching a film in the sun or under the stars while you sit back in the great outdoors, enjoying a cool evening breeze or the heat of a summer day. That’s why London’s outdoor cinemas are growing in popularity, even while traditional cinemas are falling by the wayside. The city has a whole range of unique, outside setups to help fuel your movie addictions.

You can find outdoor cinemas popping up across London throughout the year – even in the cold depths of winter – but it’s the short-lived British Summer that brings out the best of cinemagoers and the best of the films.

You can enjoy time-tested classics hosted on rooftop bars or new releases shown in the grounds of historic estates, while boats on the River Thames are transformed into cinemas, and summer festivals see outdoor screenings playing to huge crowds in London.

The capital is a great city to be a film lover. Here’s our guide to the best outdoor cinemas in London.

Audience

  1. Rooftop Film Club

The Rooftop Film Club is one of London’s best and most popular outdoor cinema venues. Held in Peckham at the top of the Bussey Building, this is classic cinema territory. You’ll be treated to a movie-going experience that few others can match for atmosphere.

The Rooftop Film Club runs through summer, with several showings every week until it’s too cold to sit out under the night sky. A whole array of films are shown through the season, with everything from new releases to classics catering to the audience, meaning you can keep returning evening after evening to catch a different showing.

As well as the film, you can grab a beer at the rooftop bar, a few snacks, and enjoy the sublime sunsets and panoramic views over the city of London below.

  1. Nomad Cinema

Nomad Cinema is not only a fantastic outdoor cinema experience but it’s a charitable endeavour that sees the profits going to a great cause too, meaning that you can sit back and enjoy the film, safe in the knowledge that you’re also contributing to some good in the world.

Nomad Cinema is held at various locations across the capital, primarily through the summer season, but with the occasional showing through the rest of the year too.

With its pop-up concept, you’ll need to check the exact date and venue, as the beauty of Nomad Cinema lies in the fact that it’s an ever-changing event.

All the profits from Nomad Cinema go to help the South African charity The Sustainability Institute, which works towards creating a better future for rural communities across Southern Africa.

Popcorn

  1. Luna House Cinema

Luna House is one of the most respected outdoor cinema event organisers in the United Kingdom. They host screenings across the capital throughout the summer season.

The events are always in unique locations, with big crowds and huge projection screens and sound systems that create an epic atmosphere. The locations range from parks and estates to swimming pools and racecourses with new, more unusual venues being announced each year.

There’s great food, great drinks and you can catch classics and new releases at Luna House events. For the kids, the company even organise outdoor screenings of children’s movies during the school holidays.

  1. Floating Film Festival

If you are looking for one of London’s most unusual and entertaining outdoor cinema venues then the Floating Film Festival is for you.

At St Katharine Docks right on the River Thames there’s a floating pontoon stretching out across the water. It’s a truly beautiful location to host an outdoor cinema, as the waves lap gently against the pontoon. There’s a large canvas tent to protect you from any untoward English weather and you can catch some of the year’s most highly rated films in summer.

If you can grab a ticket for the evening shows, then you can enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Thames as you sip cold beverages and wait for the film to begin. The Floating Film Festival season is generally short, only usually running through July each year, but it’s one of London’s most unique outdoor venues to visit.

River Thames

  1. Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema holds events in different locations in London throughout the year, with open air cinemas in summer and cosy venues in winter.

The concept began one summer when some friends decided that they loved watching films in their back garden, and they had the bright idea to take their passion mainstream, believing that most other sane people also enjoyed the great outdoors and cinema together.

They weren’t wrong. From their humble beginnings, they’ve gone on to host not just classic open air cinema showings but more artistic and creative cinema shows too.

They’ve hosted such eclectic performances as space-themed cinema that immerses you into the world of science fiction while you watch classics such as Men in Black. They’ve had choirs singing in churches to accompany Shakespearean movies, and they host regular Christmas shows during the festive season. They never forget their backyard roots though and when summer comes around they undoubtedly host cinema shows in the great outdoors at some unusual and quirky venues across London.

  1. Film Four Summer Screen

For decades Film Four has been producing some of the country’s best film and television, from hard-hitting dramas to alternative comedies. Every year they host a massive cinema event at their Summer Screen festival in August.

Held in the majestic courtyard of Somerset House, the open air cinema plays for two weeks when the weather is at its best in London. The courtyard at the historic central London building couldn’t be a more fitting venue to experience the best of British cinema, and you’ll find a sold-out crowd every day there is a screening.

As well as the film showings, you have the chance to enjoy Q & A sessions with directors or producers, while big British actors and actresses can always be spotted in the seats too, making this one of the most hotly anticipated cinema events on the London calendar.

Somerset House

  1. Movies on the River

The iconic River Thames becomes the venue for one of London’s best outdoor cinemas every summer, as classic movies are screened as you cruise along the water.

You’ll pass London’s most well known sights as you’re given a tour of the city skyline, passing locations such as Westminster and Southbank, to name just a few.

You’ll watch the sunset from the river as you enjoy a fully stocked bar and plenty of food, with an almost party-like atmosphere guaranteed by the end of the film. Previous screenings have included the likes of Jaws, Dirty Dancing and even Love Actually.

It’s one of the best outdoor cinema events in London, but if you want to enjoy a sunset cruise with a classic movie this summer then make sure to snap up your tickets as soon as they are released, because it’s always popular.

  1. Secret Cinema

Secret Cinema takes the concept of attending a movie theatre to a new level, as you not only watch a film, but you are immersed in the film.

The idea behind these novel events is to merge cinema with live action. It’s part film, part theatre and you’re never quite sure how things are going to play out. Secret Cinema events are only announced shortly before showings and the locations are always kept tightly under wraps, only being disclosed right before the action starts.

The venues are designed specifically for each event and many have been held in the great outdoors during summer. One past event involved creating a replica of the town from Back to the Future in which the audience were literally immersed for the duration of the film.

It’s not for everyone but the shows always offer a unique take on classic cinema, with a fresh and creative approach that can’t be matched by more traditional outlets in London.

  1. London Bridge City Summer Festival

Every summer the London Bridge City Summer Festival welcomes crowds to its multitude of varied events, held at venues along the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

One of the best festival events to attend is the weekly outdoor cinema. Held at the Scoop Amphitheatre, you can catch some classic movies in a beautiful setting. Enjoy the evening air along the river as you sit back and watch movies on the big projector. Conditions are basic, with concrete seating for all, but you can’t complain because this is the best free outdoor cinema in London. Get there early because although the amphitheatre can hold over 1,000 people, you’ll want your pick of the seats to get the best view.

The festival is more than just this one event though, and you’ll find much more going on by London Bridge throughout the summer, too.

  1. British Summer Time Party

For one weekend every July, the British Summer Time Festival takes over Hyde Park in London. This huge festival sees headline music acts from across the world playing to sold-out crowds packing out the grass in one of the city’s most iconic parks, for three days of music, eating and drinking.

While the festival is best known for the music, they also host outdoor cinema screenings through July, with several nights a week dedicated to movies. In the past, movie screenings have been free to attend with films on show ranging from Disney animations for the kids, to musicals such as Grease and classics from the past few decades for everyone.

Hyde Park

  1. Pop Up Screens

The organisers of Pop Up Screens offer a basic outdoor cinema experience, but one that through simplicity is proving to be exceptionally popular.

In parks and green spaces across the capital through summer, Pop Up Screens move their inflatable cinema screens from venue to venue. Tickets are cheap and there’s always plenty of room for more people, making it one of the most laid back and relaxed outdoor cinemas to visit in London.

They play classics mixed in with a few newer releases, and you’ll find that it’s an enjoyable place to kick back, have a few drinks and enjoy the summer evenings.

  1. Block Party Cinema

If you are interested in learning more about London’s minority communities and cultures, then attending a Block Party Cinema event is a great chance to see an alternative side of the city.

Their outdoor cinemas are pop up events, and they are hosted across London during festivals or in places such as Brixton or Camden.

The screening focus on showing productions focusing on minorities, but more than this you can also find a huge array of street food stalls from around the world, great drinks and great company too. Past shows include comedy classics such as Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, right through to hard hitting, violent dramas such as the Brazilian cult movie City of God.

  1. Regents Park Open Air Theatre

Okay, so it’s not technically a cinema and you won’t be watching a movie, but the wonderful Regents Park Open Air Theatre is an open air event that will take you back through the ages to a time before movies.

The Regents Park Open Air Theatre is perfect if you need a change from the cinema but still want to be entertained on a warm summer evening. Before cinema there was only theatre and this is your chance to take things back a step, and to enjoy the classic, live action predecessor of the film industry, which is often overlooked in London today.

The theatre has long been a favourite during its summer run, offering great adaptations of Shakespearean plays and more modern, alternative productions too.

There’s a huge bar, a dining area and a great atmosphere during every performance at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, making this the number one alternative to London’s open air cinemas.

If you’re heading to London to experience one of these fantastic outdoor cinema events, check out Premium Tours’ great selection of London tours so you can learn more about the city while you’re in town.

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