High ticket prices. Broken seats. Staff who don’t seem to get that a proper cinema experience can be bigger than the movie itself. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s what I find too often on trips to the big multiplexes.
Thankfully, if you’re prepared to hunt (and maybe travel a bit), there are some incredible cinemas out there – venues with a style and vision that tells you something about how much they love film – and about how much they value the experience you’re going to have with them. Here’s a diverse handful of some amazing cinemas that are guaranteed to make me ditch the Blu-ray in favour of an evening out…
Kino Pionier 1909 is officially the world’s longest running movie theatre. Opened in 1909 in the Polish city of Szczecin it stayed open through the glory years of cinema and two world wars, closing only briefly in 2002 for a much needed facelift. It boasts two screens – an 82 seater and a tiny one laid out with tables and chairs so the audience can watch the latest in European independent cinema in a cafe atmosphere.
Not coming soon: anything mainstream – Pionier 1909 is very strictly arthouse
Pull up a tombstone…
Cinespia organises screenings of classic movies in locations around Los Angeles – and its most popular venue is on the Fairbanks Lawn at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You get to sit just metres from the final resting places of Jayne Mansfield, Fay Wray, Tyrone Power, John Huston, Rudolph Valentino and others – watching their movies projected against the wall of the Cathedral Mausoleum. Not only is it an incredible place to experience bygone cinema, it also helped save this slice of Hollywood history from falling into decay.
Not coming soon: Poltergeist – “…you moved the cemetery but you left the bodies…”
Climb seven storeys from street level and, and with its amazing panorama of the Melbourne skyline, you’ll find the open air Rooftop Cinema. Grab your drink from the bar, pull up a deckchair, and enjoy an eclectic mix of cult classics and recent hits. Recent listings ranged from Patrick Swayze tribute nights to Studio Ghibli award winners, and from Twilight to A Clockwork Orange – all screened among the city lights, high above the traffic.
Not coming soon: Vertigo
“I am a cinema, love me”
When a new movie comes out we often hear as much about its finances as we do about the film itself – what it cost, what it took at the box office in its first weekend, what it lost. You’d be forgiven for thinking that movies are more about money than entertainment. Not so at The Lexi, the UK’s first social enterprise cinema. Run mainly by passionate volunteers, it’s a movie theatre with heart, pouring 100% of its profits into a social project in Lynedoch, South Africa. The words on the front of this slightly unassuming building in North West London proclaim “I am a cinema, love me” – and actually its patrons really do, knowing that each ticket and box of popcorn they buy is not only giving them a good evening, but also helping to transform a community on the other side of the world.
Not coming soon: Wall Street
Beyond the third dimension…
The South Koreans, not content with watching movies in boring old 3D, have taken the cinema experience one step further. CGV has unleashed 4D-X on visitors to its chain of cinemas located across Seoul. When you enter the auditorium, don’t be fooled by the large, comfortable seats. 4D-X isn’t a relaxing experience. Your chair judders to match movement in the film – and it will bombard you with scents and blasted you with wind and water to match the environment on the screen.
Not coming soon: Flushed Away – sewer scenes + 4D-X scent and moisture technology = one very nauseous audience.
Bigger on the inside?…
So what’s with all the obsession for cinematic scale? Does it have to be all about big? Sol Cinema says not. Set in a lovingly converted holiday caravan, Sol tours festivals throughout Britain and is the first cinema to be fully powered by self-generated solar energy. You’re greeted by a uniformed usherette, enter via a red carpet – and once inside you watch the film with an intimate audience of eight.
Not coming soon: anything very long – it’s short films only
Earlier this year, the Film on the Rocks Yao Noi Festival in Thailand had a spectacular finale in store for its guests. The four day event, co-curated by Tilda Swinton, was all about the cinema experience in a tidal environment. The final show was in Archipelago Cinema – a specially constructed raft, built using local fishermen’s techniques, facing a screen mounted in a sheltered island bay. Sadly, this most spectacular venue was a one night opportunity – afterwards, it was dismantled and donated to the local community to build a children’s playground.
Not coming soon: Titanic
That’s our top seven – but have we missed any? And if you had the budget and location, how and where would you build your dream cinema?