Cosy up in London’s best independent cinemas
It doesn't matter if it's cold outside, within a silver screen sanctum you can snuggle up and escape to any time and place. The independent cinema scene in London is thriving showing niche films to please the most serious cinema buff, those for whom the names Truffaut, Godard, Wilder, Hawks and Hitchcock leave them feeling all warm and fuzzy. They also offer more mainstream movies in alternative locations for the more casual cinema goer and a chance to discover classics from the golden age of Hollywood or see foreign-language films the multiplexes usually ignore. So grab your popcorn and settle down in one of London's best independent cinemas.
Charitable independent cinemas
Phoenix Cinema, Finchley
One of the oldest purpose-built cinemas in the UK (1910), this picture house is heading towards national treasure status. Saved from destruction by the Phoenix Cinema Trust in 1985, they have reinvested in film education and refurbishing and maintaining this slice of cinematic history. It's often used for filming and when you visit you might recognise it from the Scissor Sisters, "I don't feel Like Dancin'" video and the fact it is respected film critic, Mark Kermode's, favourite venue.
Best for: History, Indie, Foreign Language.
Number of screens: OneGetting there: The Phoenix Cinema, 52 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 9PJ Nearest Tube: East Finchley
For great value film tickets and the feeling of giving something back to the community, Watermans is hard to beat. The intimate 120 seat cinema has a Parisian art-house feel to it but rather than being alongside the banks of the Seine, this is nestled next to the Thames. Make sure you have a drink and take in the Kew views at one of indoor riverside tables pre-or-post film. Run as a social enterprise, the charity tries to keep prices down with a voluntary ticket donation going towards its upkeep. "£5 Mondays" when you can see the latest films is just one of their deals aimed at making the pictures accessible.
Best for: World Cinema in particular French.
Number of screens: OneGetting there: Watermans, 40 High Street, Brentford, TW8 0DS Nearest Tube: Brentford or Kew Bridge (Overground)
Rio Cinema, Dalston
There's been a cinema at this site for 100 years. Now it's community run and tries to put on a diverse selection of films to reflect its east London home. The cinema is Art Deco in style and unusually it has a two-floor auditorium, giving it a slightly theatrical feel. The Double Bills on a Sunday are good value; two connected films (by director, theme) for the price of one.
Best for: Sunday Double Bills, Lates, Arthouse, World Cinema
Number of screens: OneGetting there: 107 Kingsland High, Street E8 2PB (on the corner with John Campbell Road)Nearest Tube: Dalston Kingsland
The Lexi Cinema, Kensal Rise
Donating 100% of their profits to charity (The Sustainability Institute), this "boutique" cinema (it's very small) can maybe lay claim to being one of the cosiest in London. Aimed at entertaining the local community and beyond, they have their scream screen for the carers and babies along with a mix of major movies and Arthouse pictures (their French season was accompanied by cheese and wine). The cinema is also linked to pop-up The Nomad, famous for its festival-like screenings in places like Brompton Cemetery.
Best for: Arthouse, Blockbusters
Number of screens: OneGetting there: 194b Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, London NW10 3JUNearest Tube: Kensal Rise
Rich Mix, Shoreditch
Embracing their East End roots, this charity and social enterprise-run urban-looking cinema gets the right blend of diversity and the latest blockbusters on the screen. Because it's a multi-arts venue, their festivals often include more than just film screenings, so you can also hear live music and poetry as well as art exhibitions all running alongside each other.
Best for: Mainstream, Festivals and World Cinema
Number of screens: ThreeGetting there: 35 - 47 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LANearest Tube: Shoreditch High Street
Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square
Keeping the independent cinema flag flying in the heart of chain-filled Leicester Square, the Prince Charles Cinema is bold and brash, but most of all fun. Its clientèle, looking for great value in the West End and cult experiences, tend to be a loyal bunch. Cinema buffs should take notice of their members scheme which is cheap to join and discounts all tickets. They also offer old-fashioned movie marathons (like all the Scream or X-Men films in one go) for those who like to stay up all night.
Best for: Cult films, Classics, Theme Nights, Movie Marathons and Sing-a-longs
Number of screens: TwoGetting there: 7 Leicester Place, London, WC2H 7BYNearest Tube: Leicester Square
Electric Cinema, Notting Hill / Shoreditch
The only London cinema to have six double beds in the first row, a trip to the flicks in Portobello is a lavish experience. If you don't want to recline that much, they have 65 armchairs and a couple of sofas at the back. It also has a sister cinema in Shoreditch offering a similar experience in east London, and it's worth visiting the bar first for a Martini (very Breakfast at Tiffany's).
Best for: Luxury, Mainstream, Classics
Number of screens: Both cinemas have one screenGetting there: Portobello: 191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2ED, Shoreditch: 64-66 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DPNearest Tube: Portobello: Ladbroke Grove, Shoreditch: Shoreditch High Street
Cine Lumiere, Kensington
The Institut Francais is the place to go to find a blend of new releases and classics from French Cinema. They generally have a festival going, for example the Cine Salons on Sundays. There you can watch a French Classic and then talk it over with free nibbles.
Best for: French Films, French Arthouse
Number of screens: OneGetting there: 17 Queensberry Place, London, SW7 2DTNearest Tube: South Kensington
JW3, Finchley Road
This newly established (2013) Jewish Community Centre was created as a hub of Jewish culture in London. The majority of the films here are mainstream movies and on Tuesdays you can get in for just £5. Many of the Jewish films are in Hebrew with English subtitles and they feature a decent mix of new releases and classics.
Best for: Mainstream, Jewish films
Number of screens: One Getting there: 341-351 Finchley Road, London, NW3 6ETNearest Tube: Finchley Road
Shortwave Cinema, Bermondsey
With only 52 seats, this compact but comfy cinema has a relaxed, intimate feel about it. They show two different films every evening, between 6pm-6.30pm and then a later screening between 9pm and 10pm. They also like to support first-time directors alongside bigger names and have held festivals celebrating Kurdish and Spanish films for example. Keeping the local theme going, the bar and cafe have London-sourced beer, coffee, tea and popcorn.
Best for: Indie, Blockbusters, Festivals
Number of screens: One Getting there: 10 Bermondsey Square, London, SE1 3UNNearest Tube: Bermondsey and Borough
The bigger independent cinema "chains"
Each of these six London cinemas in the Picturehouse family has a very distinct look and feel. Visit the Gate, which first screened movies back in 1909, and you can watch the latest blockbuster or classic film on its single screen under a splendid Edwardian ceiling. The Ritzy was one of the England’s first purpose-built cinemas and was known as the Electric Pavilion when it opened in 1911. A Brixton landmark, with five screens and two bars you can expect a lively atmosphere from its loyal crowd. In Hackney there's almost as many bars as there is screens (3 v 4) and offers a diverse programme, including live music and comedy, while Greenwich is one of the cinemas to offer their Screen Arts series. You can watch live Ballet and Theatre performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company, streamed into the cinema. They also offer specialist clubs, like the Silver Screen for the Over 60s and Autism-friendly screenings.
Best for: Mainstream, Arts Broadcasts
The groups support for independent and Arthouse films saw an outcry in 2015 when it was revealed the Soho Curzon might be under threat of closure from London's Crossrail Project. Fingers crossed the petitioners are successful as this famous West End picture house is our favourite Curzon, with its two big rooms and one smaller auditorium. Along with its famously relaxed bar, full of film chatter, this is an indie institution. The latest London addition to the Curzon family is in the stylish Mondrian hotel on the Southbank, bringing the total to seven cinemas in the capital.
Best for: Arthouse, Indie, Premiers
Rather than filling up on popcorn at the hotel's London Film Club, instead you can enjoy lunch, dinner or afternoon tea, before or after a screening (Usually 2 to 3 courses and the film for £35). The hotels show a different film each week and usually alternate a latest hit and a classic film. The screen rooms are the last word in comfort. Each of the hotels have their own style of screening room and of course you might want to choose your venue by the restaurant. The children's film club on Saturday offers a buffet style meal, including ice cream and pop corn.
Best for: Luxury, Mainstream, Classics
There are six Everyman cinemas in London, and all of them are a byword for luxurious viewing. Not only do they have sofas and armchairs, but also footrests in their premium seats. Some of their venues even do waiter service. Two of the most popular are the Hampstead Everyman which has three screens and Islington stalwart, Screen on the Green, which as its name suggests, just has the one film auditorium. They even have a screen room in a superstore, Selfridges, but make sure you get there in good time for the 9pm slot as the store shuts then and you won't make it in.
Best for: Luxury, Mainstream, Arthouse, Classics
What's your favourite independent cinema?
We would love to hear your preferences. It is for style over substance? Or is the more obscure the film, the better. Let us know by leaving a comment below or getting in touch with us at Facebook or on Twitter.