For all the pleasures of slurping down a soft drink the size of the moon, or injuring your neck staring upwards at an IMAX screen, you just can't beat a classic, old-school cinema, can you?
Especially with the rise of independent and boutique venues, offering a mix of foreign and indie cinema as well as the chance to take a wine or ice cold brewskie into the room without fear of being thrown out. Then there's the comfort; some screening rooms are so snug it's like you're sharing a sofa with 100 strangers. And not in a weird way.
So whether you're after the next place to seek out some obscure subtitled documentary about Eastern European tractors during World War One, or just want somewhere a bit swankier to watch the next big Hollywood release, here are the UK cinemas you should know about.
The Tyneside, Newcastle
10 Pilgrim St, NE1 6QG
Bankrolled by a £7m reinvestment programme in 2006, the Tyneside is supported by a notable list of locally-revered filmmakers such as Get Carter helmer Mike Hodges and Mike Figgis - the same North East native who went onto Oscar glory with Leaving Las Vegas, and even had a hand in designing the film learning centre which came with the refurbishment. The site was originally opened as the Bijou News-Reel Cinema in 1937, and while some art deco flourishes from those formative years remain, its modern design and cultural importance to the town is striking in its own right.
The Olympic, London
117-123 Church Road, Barnes, SW13 9H
Prince. Jimi Hendrix. Alex Turner. George Harrison. Keith Richards – you name an individual synonymous with guitar licks between the years 1966 and 2009, and chances are they’ve performed some of those inside the hallowed/padded walls of West London’s illustrious Olympic Studios. Now converted into a plush and roomy cinema staffed by some of those who used to work at the recording venue, the venue’s Dolby Atmos Surround capability means, fittingly, it boasts the crispest sound of any cinema in the capital.
The Station, North Yorkshire
Station Yard, Richmond, DL10 4LD
On first inspection, The Station, a picturesque, cobble-clad cinema built inside the former railway hub that once connected Richmond with the outside world, is more Strangers On A Train than Snakes On A Train. Only, that is, until you realise its pair of 100-seater theatres play as many modern Hollywood blockbusters as they do fog-wrapped classics. Further reasons to visit the North Yorkshire site include a restaurant, art gallery, heritage centre and bevy of artisan food-producers, in case your Cornetto lacks some.
The Electric, Birmingham
47–49 Station Street, B5 4DY
Fun fact for you here: The Electric, a perennially charming independent cinema sandwiched between two shops on a busy street in Brum, has been in operation since 1909, making it the oldest working cinema in the whole of the nation. While it’s as refined as it’s ever been (they refuse to sell popcorn, vaunt a Parisian absinthe fountain and offer waiter service should you need it), you'll be glad to know they are now showing the 'talkies'. Expect whisky tastings, Q&As with top movie bods and the brilliant Found Footage Festival (July 28), a gloriously daft event that showcases videos found at garage sales and thrift stores, in warehouses and dumpsters throughout America.
38 Home Street, EH3 9LZ
This year marks exactly a century since The Cameo first flung open its doors, with Orson Welles and Cary Grant a handful of the illustrious names to shuffle through them at some point. Closer to home, this is also the spot where Trainspotting received its premiere in 1996, and where infamous Scot Sean Connery opened its cinema bar in 1963, and where he may or may not have ordered a martini.
Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow
12 Rose St, Lanarkshire G3 6RB
The best thing to pop up in Glasgow since deep-fat fryers, Glasgow Film Theatre is as good as it gets. Revered for its stellar line up of documentaries and cutting edge foreign cinema, it's also notable for the special screenings which more often than not involve fancy dress. The dramatic amphitheaters are worth the admission fee alone - a superb venue.
The Showroom, Sheffield
15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX
Everyone in Sheffield has a story about the Arctic Monkeys. Even Jarvis Cocker. Probably. For staff at The Showroom - the beautiful art deco-cum-warehouse screening hall – it’s that the rock scamps used the venue for 2006’s music video Leave Before The Lights Come On. Given the venue’s cracking roster of films, however, we imagine you’ll still be planted in your seat way after the credits have rolled.
Prince Charles, London
7 Leicester Pl, WC2H 7BY
A stone’s throw from the wallet-eroding mega cinemas of Leicester Square, regularly drawing a mixture of intrigued tourists alongside lovers of cult cinema thanks to an affordable retro double-bill screenings means Prince Charles remains a lesser-discovered gem in the heart of the West End. Or rather a “Queen’s Jewel”, which is how Quentin Tarantino dubbed it when hosting a special Kill Bill: Vol 2 screening upon the film's release. If not QT, heed advice from the sign in the picture above.
14-18 Broad St, NG1 3AL
For some time now, Broadway has spoilt Nottingham locals with some of the most beautiful cinematic environments you’ll find anywhere on the continent, inviting even Paul Smith to design one of its luxurious theatres, as you may have guessed with the look of that chair, above. So why not go all out? The private spaces are well worth hiring if you've got a few friends, with The Lounge offering specially designed leather sofas and even an egg chair, because it will definitely make the film better; that's just science.
70 Oxford St, M1 5NH
It’s on a corner, you’ve already surmised that much; it's a cinema, sure, but unless you’ve spent time at Manchester's Cornerhouse then you may not be aware of how intrinsically linked it is with the city’s cultural illuminati. Its café and art gallery is a melting pot of Mancunion genius, while its roster of indie films (some of 30 films beamed across three screens every month) is unrivaled in the region. All, we think you’ll agree, quite a long way from the humble furniture shop it replaced - the closest you’ll get to watching something wooden these days is paying to watch Keanu Reeves.
Dove Street South, BS2 8JD
Not for nothing is Bristol’s art scene one of the most exciting right now. The city has a wealth of outlets where its young creative sector is currently flourishing, and The Cube is no exception to that, hosting all manner of celluloid related events including Encounters, Europe’s biggest short film festival. Even serving home-made cola (surprisingly tasty we hear), the self-sufficient and self-styled ‘microplex’ venue is as independent as it gets. What’s more, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Phillip Schofield show on ITV, thankfully.
The ArtHouse, London
159A Tottenham Ln, N8 9BT
Good news: London has a new art-house cinema, and one which won’t make you feel as if you're wandered into a seedy version of Waitrose. Built inside a former Salvation Army hall in multi-cultural Crouch End, it's aiming to attract all types of class race and gender to its range of art shows, music nights and workshops, starting with a forthcoming live preview for Edinburgh Comedy season and rock photography exhibition from Scarlet Page (Jimmy’s daughter). As for the film list, it does what it says on the tin.
The Rex, Berkhamsted
Three Close Ln, HP4 2FG
Head out to this leafy corner of Hertfordshire and you’ll not only find the home of the BFI’s National Archive, you’ll potentially find the best cinema in the land: The Rex, buzzing almost every night thanks to the heady mix of small films and blockbusters shown inside its titanic 1938 art-deco theatre which bears a screen as lofty as the names who often drop by for on-stage Q&As. Shrewdly, the only thing undramatic about the place is the price – it’s a bargain.
Duke Of York's, Brighton
Preston Rd, BN1 4NA
Grand because it contains one lavish 278-seater screen with luxury balcony, and old because it opened not long after the turn of the last century, Duke of York’s has a list of notable patrons including Nick Cave, John Hillcoat and Steve Coogan. It continues to be one of those cinematic venues you have to seek out and then spread the word yourself.
The Brunswick, WC1N 1AW
Much like a Bond villain’s lair, there's a lot to be said for an art-house cinema planted underground, cutting you off from the hubbub of the outside world and bringing you a fresh sort of darkness. Of all the Curzon cinemas spread across the capital, bringing with them a certain highbrow cinematic level we’ve come to appreciate, it doesn't get better than The Renoir, a cavernous Bloomsbury cinema currently under renovation with a view to opening in December 2014 with six screens. Trust us, it's worth the wait. Pay a visit to the Soho and Mayfair branches in the meantime.
[Images: Life In The Eighties]