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outdoor cinema

20th August 2018

Open-air cinema has been around for almost as long as standard cinemas themselves. The Lumière brothers are widely seen as being the first to produce cinematographic motion pictures in 1895. Less than 20 years later, the first outdoor cinemas cropped up in Australia. Established in 1916, Australia’s Sun Pictures holds the accolade of the World’s Oldest Outdoor Picture Garden. The outdoor cinema trend continued through the ages, with the drive-in cinema boom starting in the USA in the 1930s and subsequently being transported across the world.

In the last decade, open-air cinema has experienced something of a resurgence, and with London’s vast green spaces and history-filled locales, our great city has been leading the way. Between late spring and early autumn, open-air film screenings can be found in green spaces and outside historical buildings in almost every neighbourhood in London.

outdoor cinema2

A key reason for this comes down to technology. In the first instance, technological innovation means outdoor screens are higher tech with ever-improving picture quality, meaning changing factors such as sunlight have less impact on the audience’s viewing pleasure.

However, it’s also the prevalence of technology in our everyday lives that is making Londoners seek a sense of community when watching a film. Mobile phones, tablets, live streaming and internet television makes watching films an often insular experience in this day and age. Yet there’s nothing quite like watching a film with a crowd of people and becoming part of something together for a while.

Instead of a trend that has come and gone, that might explain why open-air cinema is going from strength-to-strength. Britain’s largest outdoor cinema provider, Luna Cinema, even says that ticket sales have trebled over the last three years.

Luna cinema

Here are some of the best open-air cinema showings coming up in London:

  • Visit the Hyde Park Lido for a screening of Pan’s Labyrinth on 13 September or The Shape of Water on 14 September.
  • The stunning grounds of Somerset House will be hosting a number of cinema screenings during August, including Blue Velvet, Selma and Sleeping Beauty for the children.
  • For a totally immersive outdoor cinema experience, Secret Cinema is showing Romeo + Juliet throughout August, with tickets on selected dates still available. Hosted in a secret location, this is a five-hour open-air festival that surrounds cinema-goers in the world of the Montagues and the Capulets, culminating in a screening of the film.
outdoor cinema 3
  • If you like cinema to come to life, check out the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, where live performances of Little Shop of Horrors will be running until 22 September. There’s also a cinema screening of The Greatest Showman on 2 September and Alien on 9 September.
  • For a free outdoor cinema screening, head over to The Scoop – an outdoor amphitheatre in London Bridge – for a showing of The BFG on 21 August or Into the Woods on 28 August.
  • In an even more inventive twist on outdoor cinema, Time Out and City Cruises are hosting a series of cinema screenings aboard boats on the River Thames until 8 September. Movies on the River includes showings of Titanic, Jaws, La La Land, Grease and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • Towards the end of September, Russell Square is showing Donnie Darko on 21 September, Dirty Dancing on 22 September and Easy A on 23 September.
Regents Park Open Air

London’s outdoor cinema events tend to have a selection of street food and popcorn to make the cinema experience complete. Or order one of our picnic hampers at The Athenaeum for some indulgent treats perfect for enjoying at the movies al fresco.

Soak up the feeling of being in the great outdoors in the heart of London this summer and autumn!


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