What are the best art house cinemas in London?

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Jo Caird
  • Jo Caird

  • Correspondent

  • London, England, UK

The rise of digital projection technology means that what was once a stark divide between mainstream cinemas and independent picture houses is much more of a blurred line these days. You can now see a range of art house movies, foreign films and documentaries at even the most commercial of exhibitors, but London's historic independent cinemas are still the bet best for an all round alternative movie experience.

The Electric Cinema, in trendy Notting Hill, is one of the UK's oldest indy cinemas, having opened to the public in 1910. Now run by Soho House, it's much more comfortable than it used to be and even features an onsite diner too.

In North London, the Everyman Hampstead is the place to be for art house movies. The group that runs it now has 10 cinemas, but this is the one that started it all, pioneering luxurious touches like sofa seating and waiter service. Another really special member of the portfolio is The Screen on the Green in Islington, a single-screen picture house that in 1976 hosted The Sex Pistols with support from The Clash and the Buzzcocks.

Not far away, in Dalston, is the Rio Cinema, a grand building that opened as a purpose-built picture house in 1915. Unusually among small London screens, its auditorium is set up like a theatre, with stalls and a balcony. Down south, meanwhile, the Ritzy Picturehouse has a buzzing bar, making this a great hang-out whether you're seeing a film or not.

In central London, the Curzon is your best bet. Its six branches – my favourites are in Mayfair and Soho – specialise in European and art house movies. The nearby Prince Charles Cinema offers an eclectic programme that include infamous singalong events and marathon screenings.

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