Everyman Screen On The Canal
Jason Allen 18/05/23
Outdoor Cinemas London | 2023
When it comes to these cinemas…
…the biggest stars are actually off-screen.
Because for a few glorious weeks every summer, London plays host to dozens of pop-up outdoor cinemas where you can catch your favourite flicks under the night sky. This year there are free film festivals, floating cinemas, and luxurious pop ups surrounded by nothing but the balmy evening air and a fresh cooling breeze that drifts along as the sun dips below the horizon, the day turns to night, and the screen lights up. Sounds utterly savage, we know.
But, if you can somehow still bring yourself to put up with that, then here are the very best open-air cinemas popping up in the capital for summer 2023…
See our colossal listing of every single outdoor film screening this summer
The Vibe: They’ve got rooftop cinemas set up at Peckham’s Bussey Rooftop Bar and Roof East in Stratford, both equipped with popcorn, cocktails, and very handy wireless headphones. They’re one of the godfathers of London’s outdoor cinemas, and being on a rooftop, the view is almost as good offscreen as on it.
The Movies: They have classics like Clueless and Mean Girls; vintage flicks like Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and new season goodness like Rye Lane (which you can watch just a few storeys above where it was all filmed).
Dates: Now until the end of June | Book tickets
The Vibe: This one is, as the keener detectives will have guessed, at The Barbican. Specifically, in their atmospheric Sculpture Court, against a backdrop of the City skyline and the arts complex’s iconic brutalist buildings. And as you might expect, they’re not showing the Greatest Showman…
The Movies: …what they are showing however is Studio Ghibli classic Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror (often hailed as one of the greatest films ever made), and Amazing Grace, Aretha Franklin’s exceptional 1972 performance in LA.
Dates: 23rd August – 3rd September | Book Tickets
The Vibe: Another old hand at the outdoor cinema game, Luna is staging hundreds of screenings across the UK this year, with dozens in London alone. At all of them, you’ll find hot food, a bar, and (depending on the seating situation) blankets & backrests.
The Movies: Way too many to list. Whether it’s a recent release (Whitney, Magic Mike, Avatar etc.) or a classic (Dirty Dancing, Romeo + Juliet, Notting Hill, etc.) they probably have a screening of it.
Dates: 22nd June – 3rd September (in London) | Book Tickets
The Vibe: These free screenings are particularly great, thanks to the fact that the seating is all situated on the grass-covered canal-side steps leading up to Granary Square, which means that everyone gets a good view. They’ll play movies, Wimbledon matches, plus ‘film-themed fitness classes’. And? You can order from the Everyman cinema’s menu, too.
The Movies: Elvis, Matilda, Top Gun: Maverick, and Mamma Mia
Dates: 22nd June – 6th August | No tickets, just turn up – the programme will go up here
The Vibe: Um, the vibe is floating. On a beautiful, festoon-lit, astroturfed pontoon in the middle of the historic and uniquely atmospheric St Kat’s Docks, to be precise. They’re intimate screenings with small audiences perched on deckchairs and beanbags for two, and come with the considerable benefit of being parked under a rain-proof marquee.
The Movies: The film schedule hasn’t been released yet, but Wimbledon matches will be screened from 3rd – 16th July.
Dates: 3rd-16th July | See more
The Vibe: Free. The vibe is free. But there are no chairs (in fact, all seating is banned) and there’s a limit to how many people can rock up. Once they hit the magic number, there’s no more admittance. So be early, and enjoy the fact that they also show a lot of sporting events, including cricket, tennis, and horse racing, alongside films on Tuesday evenings.
The Movies: Bend It Like Beckham, Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther, Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia!, 10 Things I Hate About You, Isle of Dogs. Plus a whole slew of family-friendly specials.
Dates: Tuesdays, 6th June – 22nd August | See what’s on
The Vibe: With the exception of VIP tickets, the vibe here is very much no-frills: you need to bring your own deckchair, picnic blanket, snacks & drinks, you name it. There are over 70 venues across the UK, and two of them are in London – at Ham House & Osterley Manor.
The Movies: Top Gun: Maverick is hitting the screens at both locations, but Ham House is also getting Mamma Mia! and The Greatest Showman, and Osterley is getting Dirty Dancing and Elvis.
Dates: 30th June – 2nd July (Osterley Manor – book tickets) | 18th – 20th August (Ham House – book tickets)
The Vibe: there are several things that Sunset Screenings do differently. 1) They only show British films. 2) They have a truly giant screen, at 9×7 meters. 3) They’re dog-friendly. And 4) the screenings take place inside a beautiful walled cafe patio.
The Movies: The all-British lineup includes The Lady Vanishes, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Withnail & I and The Crying Game.
Dates: Friday & Saturday nights, 30th June – 29th July | Ticket links don’t appear to be working yet, but watch this space.
The Vibe: Pop Up Screens isn’t just a name. It’s an inflatable cinema screen that – if you arrive early enough – you can literally see pop up. Since opening back in 2011, they’ve gone from strength to strength, and now boast venues across West and South-East London with bars, food, and fresh popcorn, while you supply the picnic rugs.
The Movies: They’ve handpicked classics from the ’70s (Grease), the ’80s (The Breakfast Club, Back To The Future), the ’90s (10 Things I Hate About You, Romeo + Juliet), the ’00s (Mamma Mia!), the ’10s (The Greatest Showman), and the present (Elvis).
Dates: 21st July – 24th September | Book tickets
The Vibe: Neighbourhood high street-turned- impromptu outdoor cinema. This little market street by Waterloo station is hosting open-air movie screenings on the last Thursday of every month. It’s all free, so that comes with the usual caveat that you’ll have to be quick to get a seat – but the added bonus of street food stalls and discounts at local bars will soften the blow if you miss out.
The Movies: It’s all musicals: Mamma Mia!, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray and Grease.
Dates: Last Thursdays, May – September | See more info
The Vibe: The Scoop, a mini amphitheatre carved out of the river-bank next to The Mayor’s Office, is going to be hosting just about everything this summer (from theatre, to sports, to live music). And every Tuesday, they’ll be showing a film for free. Just show up, grab a seat, and admire the view of Tower Bridge.
The Movies: Rye Lane, Elvis, Top Gun: Maverick, Mrs Doubtfire… there’s quite a lot going on, especially considering they’re all gratis.
Dates: 30th May – 22nd August
The Vibe: Merchant Square has decided to hone in on sports this summer, with outdoor Wimbledon screenings taking place throughout the tournament. They’ve got a screen set up right by the canal, there are free deckchairs, and there’s a horsebox bar serving refreshments (including Pimm’s).
The Movies: It’s just Wimbledon.
Dates: 3rd – 16th July | No need to book – find out more here
Want to make the most of the sun? Check out our guide to the best rooftop bars in London…
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