A Londoners Guide To The Best Open Air Cinema In London
We love a little open air cinema in London as it marries up a few of our favourite things – film, family time and freedom for the kids.
Thanks to all that space, no is going to turn round and give you the evil eye coz your kid is kicking the back of their chair.
Summer and winter, there are certain things that unites city dwellers all year round: the love of free events, time spent in parks, and the chance to snuggle up under a blanket (or a raincoat) with someone you are currently loving.
What better mashes all these things up than open air cinema in London?
Crack out the picnic hampers, finger food, emergency raincoats and tinned prosecco, because it’s outdoor cinema time!
Open air screenings, rooftop film clubs, film festivals and free screen events take place over London during the warmer months (peaking in in July and August) and some continue all year round.
Here’s our roundup of the best outdoor cinema in London, featuring the kids (or not, if you fancy a screening without the constant interruptions for toilet breaks and random questions about things that have nothing to do with the movie you are trying to watch).
The Luna Cinema gang operates (until end of September) with one rule only – to always offer a classic film in a beautiful or prestigious setting.
Luckily, there’s both Luna kid’s cinema version and one for the adults, located in various picturesque settings around the country.
Closer to London, the Luna Cinema screens at Hampton Court Palace (with the added charitable bonus that a portion of each ticket proceeds going directly to Save the Children).
There’s a full bar on-site offering treats such as prosecco, wine and hot drinks while the Luna Kids Bar serve a range of soft drinks, healthy juices and water.
Food is available from purveyors of American-style street food Meadowlands with Prestige Doughnuts for afters.
If you have smaller ones, the kid’s cinema will put on multiple screenings a day at more child-friendly times.
Films include ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Moana’, ‘Dumbo and ‘The Jungle Book’.
Between the two rowdy musical festival weekends in Hyde Park, you can take advantage of the British Summer Time screens to catch a free outdoor film in this most central of London’s parks.
It is first come, first served, so get there early for a great spot.
The ‘nomad’ in the title refers to the wandering screen which will appear at a range of central venues over the summer.
Look out for screenings in the gardens in Citypoint to Hatton Garden and Grosvenor Square, with all profits going to South Africa’s The Sustainability Institute.
In a nod to immersive theatre, Nomad Cinema will ring in street-food vendors that complement the film in style and theme.
Expect to see “The Favourite’ and ‘A Star Is Born’.
Duck and rabbit, anyone?
Oh, open air cinema doesn’t get more lovely than a movie shown at Somerset House, the setting for magical ice skating in winter and myriad events in summer.
You can rent a beanbag, a director’s chair or bring your own cushions and there’ll be food to buy.
Films will include ‘God’s Own Country’, ‘The Matrix’ and premieres of ‘Pain and Glory’ and ‘Inna De Yard’.
Another free film situation, Wembley Park hosts a summer cinema lineup of Western and Eastern greats, including ‘Sister Act’, ‘Moulin Rouge’, and ‘Chaal Jeevi Laiye’.
There’s a bit of opera in there too for those so culturally inclined.
With locations such as London Bridge, Wembley Park, White City and Trafalgar Square, BP Big Screens keep things classy.
There’ll be opera and ballet broadcast live from the Royal Opera House, from ‘Romeo + Juliet’ to ‘The Marriage of Figaro’; world-class performances for the precise ticket price of zero.
Peckham Rye has been cool for quite a while now, and its Rooftop Film Club atop the Bussey Building is keeping it very much part of the cinematic zeitgeist.
Chairs and blankets will keep you comfy and the views from the roof will keep you entertained if the movie lulls.
Other locations for the Rooftop Film Club slice of filmic cool include Shoreditch and Stratford with screenings all year round.
An inflatable screen you say?
Pop Up Screens have just that – an inflatable screen that appears in locations such as Fulham, Greenwich, Holborn and Hammersmith from July to September, showing all the greats such as ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Jurassic Park’.
When the streets, parks and rooftops get too much, try the river for a new summer cinema spot.
City Cruises and Time Out have teamed up to create Movies on the River, which departs from Tower Pier in the early evening to make sure you get to experience the sunset from the top deck.
There’ll be screenings of classic films ‘Grease’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ for your cinematic education.
More on the water – this time, there’s a fortnight of film screenings on a floating pontoon in St Katharine Docks in July.
Advance book your tickets to a range of newish releases including ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘Stan & Ollie’, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and ‘Green Book’.
Beanbags and deckchairs are provided with nibbles and drinks on sale.
There’ll be a pop-up cinema in Leicester Square Gardens over two weekends in August for those of us who feel inclined to brave the tourist crowds and dodge the street mime artists, showing family-friendly films for free.
Beanbags will be provided but get there first – otherwise, bring your own cushion to watch films such as ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘The Lion King’.
If sport is more your thing, seek out the big screens showing Wimbledon tennis matches next Summer.
Both Granary Square, King’s Cross and Merchant Square, Paddington, have fountains on hand for cooling you down after a frantic bit of sport-watching.
Wimbledon’s own The Piazza is close enough to the actual matches that you are practically sitting in Centre Court.
Where’s your favourite place to go for a spot of open air cinema?