Summer is coming! Time to evenings full of fresh air, friends and a cheeky glass of Pimms (or three). All you need is the perfect setting in which to enjoy the particular pleasures of a British summer evening: an open air cinema.
Here are our pick of the best outdoor cinema experiences that will add a little extra warmth to your summer…
1. Secret Cinema
Location: London, 4 June- 27 September
The Secret Cinema crew can take a lot of credit for starting the ‘outdoor cinema’ trend. Since it was founded in 2007 it has won a dedicated following among movie fans with an adventurous spirit. They are famous for screening iconic films in unusual settings which are usually related to the film’s theme. For instance, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was screened in an abandoned hospital in London, and last year Back to the Future was shown in a life-size replica of 1950s Hill Valley Town.
This year, Secret Cinema is branching out with screenings of the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in London. The only catch is that ticket holders aren’t given any details of the address until just a couple of days before the screening – but that’s all part of the fun!
2. Screen Machine
Location: All over Scotland
Remember school library buses? Well Screen Machine is basically a tricked-out, film-friendly version. The distinctive blue lorry travels the length and breadth of Scotland every summer, stopping off at film festivals, rural communities and cities along the way. Inside, there is an 80-seat air conditioned cinema which screens everything from blockbusters (Avengers: The Age of Ultron) to child-friendly films (Big Hero 6; Shaun the Sheep) and modern classics (Blade Runner: The Final Cut; Far From the Madding Crowd).
Take advantage of a sunny day by enjoying a picnic or a pint before settling in for a movie. Or take shelter from the Highlands rain while being entertained!
3. The Luna Cinema
Location: England, Scotland, Wales…and the Isle of Wight
The Luna Cinema has really nailed the whole ‘outdoor cinema’ thing. It specialises in outdoor screenings with a twist. At a recent screening of Crocodile Dundee, ‘premium’ seats were available in rubber dinghies floating in an open air pool, while other screenings have featured fully made-up beds under the stars.
Every screening comes with its own bar and catering options, and you can buy Luna blankets and inflatable back rests for a little extra comfort.
4. Picnic Cinema
Location: The North of England
Forget about genteel rooftop film screenings at hip London locations…this is how northerners do outdoor cinema. Picnic Cinema is raw and rural…and always fun. Each screening takes place in a different location across the North of England (think forests and old castles in the middle of nowhere), with camping facilities nearby.
Events are like mini festivals, with a dress code, a movie screening and a themed party afterwards. For instance, The Dead Twins Ball features a viewing of The Shining in a creepy gothic castle, followed by an 80s themed quiz and music by Talking Heads, Madonna, The Cure, and more. Oh, and everyone must come dressed as a bloodied, evil twin.
5. Luton Hoo Open Air Cinema
Outdoor cinema is all about offering an immersive experience that you simply can’t get at your local Vue, and it doesn’t get much more immersive than this… Luton Hoo was the setting for films such as Eyes Wide Shut, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Enigma, and Bleak House (among many others). Each summer, a selection of these films are shown in the stately grounds alongside cult favourites such as Grease, Jaws and Pulp Fiction.
Give yourself the full movie star treatment with a luxury spa treatment and a fancy pre-cinema meal at the opulent Wernher Restaurant.
6. Moonlight Flicks
Location: Cheshire West and Chester
The premise of Moonlight Flicks is simple: great films in beautiful locations under the stars. The films start at sunset, creating a bewitching atmosphere in which to enjoy classics such as Roman Holiday, Some Like it Hot, and The Big Lebowski.
You can bring your own food and drinks, plus a blanket or two. Kid-friendly screenings of Paddington and The Wizard of Oz are also available, with slightly earlier starting times so that you can be home by bedtime!
7. Cult Screens
Location: Across England
Cult Screens are the cool kids of the outdoor cinema industry. They are known for their edgy locations (such as Oxford’s Old Prison Exercise Yard), trendy catering (local ales, and hot dogs which are specially imported from Germany) and eclectic film choices such as Reservoir Dogs, Amelie and Whiplash.
But the best thing about Cult Screens is the chairs. No one will be left to sit on the soggy ground (unless you want to, of course), here it is all about comfy deck chairs and bean bags, so you can just lean back, beer in hand, and catch up on the coolest films of the past 40 years.
8. Route 66 Drive-in Cinema
Location: Manchester and Liverpool
Let’s be honest – every film fan has at some point harboured a secret desire to take their date to a drive-in cinema. Possibly to a soundtrack of Buddy Holly or early Elvis.
Route 66 is heroically trying to bring a little bit of retro romance to Manchester and Liverpool, with a series of date-friendly summer blockbusters (Poltergeist; Mad Max: Fury Road; Pan) and a quirky premise. You simply drive up to the carpark and you will be given a radio frequency for the audio track. From the comfort of your car you can order pizza and popcorn to be delivered directly to your window while you watch a film through the windscreen. Totally rad.