Outdoor Cinemas in London

I’d like to begin by thanking the person who came up with the idea of outdoor cinemas. You are an absolute genius.

outdoor cinema

beer in outdoor cinema

You would think that sitting outside, usually in the cold, on the hard ground while trying to watch a film with 200 other people would be a terrible idea. If the sun isn’t shining on the screen it will probably be raining and no one over the age of 10 can sit cross-legged on the ground for more than35 seconds without getting uncomfortable.

But for some strange reason, outdoor cinemas are exciting and magical and romantic despite all the obstacles.

I’ve been to two outdoor cinemas in London so far this summer and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve now become a summer film snob. I don’t actually care about what film I watch, as long as it’s outdoors and somewhere beautiful. The thought of sitting in a dark and stuffy cinema or, heaven forbid, in the comfort of my own living room, is boring and claustrophobic. I want rose gardens, freshly mowed grass, beautiful buildings (hello Somerset House), hot dog stalls wafting the smells of fried onions my way and I want to be able to lie back under the stars and sip cheap champagne, OK, cheap Prosecco, from a plastic glass without being thrown out.

So if you’re planning on watching a film this summer, I urge you to do it outside. Even if you get chavvy on us and drag your TV and sofa into the back garden. Go on, it’s much more fun than sitting inside!

outdoor cinema 2

outdoor cinema in rose gardenMy tips for outdoor cinemas

Rug up!

Most outdoor cinemas will show films just as it starts to get dark. You’ll turn up in your skimpy summer clothes and within 5 minutes the sun has disappeared and temperatures have plummeted. I spent my first outdoor cinema experience shivering while shimmying closer to strangers to try and steal some of their body heat. You might feel weird turning up to the park with blankets and cardigans and woolly socks but you’ll be smug and warm come 9pm when you’re bundled up and warm.

Take a cushion

Whatever you do, don’t take a chair. Everyone will hate you! And outdoor cinemas aren’t about sitting in chairs, they’re about stretching out on the grass and lying down so take a cushion to rest your head and prop yourself up. You’ll also need a blanket to lie on.

Pack a picnic

This is your chance to have a proper old-fashioned picnic. I’m talking wicker baskets, cucumber sandwiches, cocktail sausages, pineapple and cheese on sticks, cakes and biscuits, paper plates, plastic glasses and a bottle of fizz. If you’re having a picnic, do it properly. If you turn up with a sandwich from Boots and a bottle of diet coke, you’ll be really jealous when the people next to you have a spread fit for a queen. Trust me, I know.

Get there early

So you can get a good spot and also so you can make everyone jealous while you’re eating your picnic.

Listen to the ushers

There may be ushers or volunteers or people around who run the event and these are the best people to ask about the best spot. The centre of the screen isn’t always the best place to be and a place that looks good now, may have a terrible view once the sun sets.

Have you been to any outdoor cinemas yet this year or have any tips to add to the list?

Update: As requested, here are some links to where you can find great outdoor cinema screenings in London

TimeOut London: Outdoor Cinema Screen London

London Town: London Outdoor Films Screenings

Also check out Pop Up Screens. If you can make it to Morden Hall Park in South London, I really recommend this park. The film is shown inside the flower garden and it’s gorgeous!

I’ll also be writing about Secret Cinema tomorrow which is hands down the best cinema experience on the planet.

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel. Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (12)
  1. I love outdoor cinemas too! I’ve actually been disappointed to not find any in Europe this summer – it’s definitely something we seem to have started doing really well in the UK. I went to a drive-in movie in the States once and that was just as awesome. If not better, because at least you could turn the heat on if you get cold lol.

    1. I drive through cinema sounds amazing. I’ve always wanted to go to one of those since watching Greece when I was a little kid. I wonder if they’ll ever bring them back to the UK…

    1. I’ve updated the post with a couple of links to where you can find outdoor cinemas. Pop Up Screens are great for last minute bookings because places like Somerset House sell out at the beginning of the summer.
      Always use TimeOut to find things going on in London so they’re really good for updates on outdoor cinema screens. If you’re in London on a Tuesday, try and pick up a copy of the magazine handed out for free around tube stations to find all the latest news.

  2. I’m glad you included the two links to where we can find outdoor cinemas so I can check them out! I think they’re one of the best parts about summer– I used to take advantage of them in NYC when I lived there. My husband and I have been hosting our own Sunday night outdoor cinemas in our garden, and it’s like the best of both worlds– all curled up watching a movie, but still enjoying the weather!

  3. I signed up for Secret Cinema but never got round to going last year. I love outdoor events, but so far the closest I’ve got to this was an opera screening in Trafalgar Square. Perhaps Sydney has this sort of thing more regularly, given the amazing weather!

    1. This is the first summer I’ve been to any and I’m loving them. Luckily we’ve had a good some good weather over here recently but it’s usually cold and rainy so not always so good!

  4. Athens in Greece (and a couple of the islands if you’re lucky) has a really good selection of outdoor cinemas. Actually, CNN gave the top spot to this one in Cine Thisio, http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/escape/worlds-10-coolest-movie-theaters-355218 but my personal favourite (i’ve spent a lot of time there!) is Cine Paris in Plaka, sunset over the acropolis, beer in hand and some crazy old movie. It’s really perfect. http://www.cineparis.gr/cine_uk.php

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The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

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