London’s best vintage cinemas

    27 February 2019

    There’s no better time to head to the movies, with Oscar-garlanded films appearing on every screen. But a night at the pictures needn’t be of the soulless, multiplex variety; instead go in search of the chic and unique.

    Rio Cinema

    Imagine yourself on an LA boulevard at the Rio; with its vast façade and retro signage. It’s vintage vibe permeates the interior too, and it puts on an impressive mix of blockbuster big hitters, indie favourites and carefully-curated revivals as well as bargain children films- complete with subtitled showings for parents struggling to hear over their raucous infants. That’s what you call attention to detail.

    Olympic Studios

    With an illustrious history, and various incarnations as a television studio, theatre and rather famous recording studio (hi to you Rolling Stones), Olympic Studios now finds itself one of Barnes’ premier social hubs; with snug sofas in the screening rooms and a plush upstairs membership club complete with bar and dining room.

    Prince Charles

    This staple of the London cinema scene is probably best known for its dedication to revival films and its legendary sing-along screenings; from Rocky Horror Picture Show to The Sound of Music. It also puts on dedicated days to genres or franchises, like 007 or niche horror. A must-stop for cult movie fans or anyone with a taste for the obscure.

    Cine Lumiere

    One of London’s best-kept secrets is this French-language art-deco cinema, couched within the Institut Français in South Kensington. A fantastic range of current and classic French and European cinema, as well as Hollywood blockbusters and family films with subtitles are on show; ideal for any foreign film fans, or those feeling a pang post-Brexit.

    The Everyman Hampstead

    It’s probably everyone’s favourite independent cinema chain, but this venue, tucked away in a leafy enclave in gorgeous Hampstead, is the original. It’s vintage signage is still intact and the warm, cosy feel that often exudes from Everyman venues; sunken sofas, table service and friendly welcomes from the staff before each film, seem somehow most at home here.

    Electric Cinema

    In the heart of Notting Hill, on Portobello Road, lives Electric’s old-school and luxurious cinema. Nestled above the 1950s-feel Electric diner (perfect for a post-film burger) and Soho House’s Electric House private member’s club, the cinema boasts its own bar, leather recliners (with footstools), cashmere blankets and huge front-row beds; for those who think necking in the back row is too passé.

    Lexi Cinema

    Tucked away in suburban Kensal Green, this is a cinema with a difference. The Lexi gives 100 per cent of its profits to charity and is largely manned by a dedicated staff of volunteers, who strive to raise funds for The Sustainability Institute in South Africa. This boutique picture house is the UK’s first ever social enterprise independent cinema and they are as passionate about supporting their local North London community as their projects further afield.

    Picturehouse Central

    Sleek, cool and entertaining; this cinema occupies a prime position near Piccadilly Circus, with Soho’s various charms just around the corner. Yet Picturehouse Central provides so much under one roof; from super-comfortable screening rooms, to a bar and restaurant, that you may find yourself struggling to leave.

    Whirled Cinema

    This members-club cinema is a relatively new fixture in the capital (it opened its doors in 2010) but membership is an essential purchase for true film buffs. The screening rooms are uniquely designed – with arched roofs and a cave-like atmosphere, thanks to the cinema’s railway arch location at Loughborough Junction. Listings cover current zeitgeist hits, cult classics and arthouse favourites and your membership even entitles you to one free guest and 5 per cent off the (very yummy) snacks.

    The Phoenix Cinema

    If you want to be as distracted by your ornate surroundings as the stories unfurling on the screen, then hop to The Phoenix. This East Finchley cinema was built in 1910 and still bears its original features with pride. It shows the typical roster of tentpole productions as well as under-the-radar arthouse flicks. It also puts on film studies classes and discussion groups. And the homemade cake is good too.