If you didn’t watch a cult classic from a beanbag on a rooftop, did you really do summer properly?
Words Greg Taylor
Nothing says summer in London like sucking in smog-imbued air from a fag-strewn rooftop, nursing a wallet-reaming pint, and watching a favourite childhood film while a fetid pigeon shits on your halloumi burger.
Actually, London’s pop-up movie scene is fantastic fun. Watching a nostalgia-nudging classic with the capital’s labyrinthine streets and jagged horizon spread out before you, and the setting sun casting slowly dancing shadows across the screen, can be a truly unforgettable experience.
There are many choices for the discerning (or non-discerning) film fan – here’s our list of some of the best pop up cinemas to check out this summer.
Rooftop Film Club
The boldest of London’s outdoor cinema programmes, not least because it kicks off in the oft-sodden month of May. Flitting between the glamorous roofs of Stratford, Peckham and Shoreditch, this year you can enjoy crowd-pleasers like Dirty Dancing, Leon, and Spiceworld (!) with an amazing backdrop, alongside a genial mob of moustache-twirling hipsters and twitchy Tinder-date hopefuls. And they do it across the world too.
Plonk yourself in the mini crater outside City Hall, with Tower Bridge looming over your shoulder, and enjoy a selection of (free!) family-friendly classics on a big screen. Last summer saw movies including Moana, La La Land, and Grease played loud enough to irritate Sadiq Khan in his bulbous glass testicle next door, but make sure you take a blanket, as the seating isn’t the most comfortable.
If you like a bit of architectural grandeur bookending your movie experience, then the spectacular Georgian pile on the banks of the Thames is just the ticket. Hosted by Film4, their annual outdoor August programme promises blockbusters (Black Panther), teen classics (Clueless) and even gritty gay farmyard dramas (God’s Own Country), as well as a monumental celebration of their 200th screening.
Beach Club Cinema
Pretend you’re in Phuket (with honking taxis and the spatters of rain instead of pushy fruit pedlars and headache-inducing humidity) at this cute outdoor riverside spot in Fulham. It focuses on sun-drenched flicks like Danny Boyle’s enjoyable Leo-vehicle The Beach, affable filth-fest There’s Something About Mary, and pop-up perennial Dirty Dancing. And to complete the idyllic seaside theme, infinite popcorn is included in the ticket price.
As it says on the tin, the philanthropic Nomad Cinema pops up over London like a cultural whack-a-mole. With iconic venues including Wembley, Hatton Garden, and the Potteresque Leadenhall Market in the City of London, there’s a fantastic mix from the gothic to the gritty. Last year’s viewing of Pan’s Labyrinth in Brompton Cemetery was a rare and atmospheric treat, while watching Prince strut his funky stuff in Purple Rain in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral was perhaps the greatest cultural event of 2018.
With dozens of venues across the country, Luna sets up shop in top London spots like Alexandra Palace and Hampton Court every year. Their programming niftily reflects the venue – Kensington Palace and Kenwood House host cultural heavyweights like The Favourite and Young Victoria, while Victoria Gardens in the shadow of Parliament gets the gentle London-celebrating Mary Poppins Returns. Jurassic Park alongside the Wombles of Wimbledon is surely a must-see.
The Hellfire Caves
For the vampiric of heart. If you’re brave enough to break free of London’s needy grasp, 23 miles to the north west lie the wonderfully haunted Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe, which pulsate with grisly tales of whoring, baby sacrifice and general debauch. Plunge into the murky depths to enjoy tenebrous classics like Labyrinth, The Lost Boys, and The Dark Knight run by Vintage Cinema. Make sure you find your way out afterwards though…