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The 20 best small cinemas in the UK

The 20 best small cinemas in the UK

The 20 best small cinemas in the UK
17 December 2015

With a month of incredible blockbusters hitting silver screens this months there’s never been a better time to beat the crowds and seek out the vintage charm of an old-school small cinema.

How does enjoying your flick with an icy-cool beer in your hand sound? Or watching your favourite flick from the comfort of a double bed? Or, perhaps, stretching your grey matter with a hard-to-find, chin-scratching arthouse film? All this, and way more, is what you can expect to find at these cosy screeners.

Here’s a rundown of the UK’s greatest small cinemas that you need to get yourself along to soon…

The Dominion, Edinburgh

If you’ve got the fear that your uncomfortable fidgeting will spoil your next date with a pretty lady, then book tickets to The Dominion. Quite possibly the comfiest seats in the industry, these first-class luxury leather armchairs have got their very own controls, which you can piddle around with to find your zen-like comfiest.

The Broadway, Nottingham

Don’t be fooled by the designer glass exterior of this Nottingham gem: the vintage charm of cinema’s past is still alive here, with a roll-up stage curtain in Screen One that will take you back to Hollywood’s finest era. Then again, if guts and gore is more your thing, head down in October for the blood-curdling Mayhem Film Festival, showcasing the best in big screen horror.

Photo: CC Chapman, Flickr

Everyman Cinema, Hampstead

For the man who likes a slice of the good life, take your seat at the original Everyman cinema and enjoy your own butter-soft armchair or sofa, with waiting staff on hand to keep you popcorned up. What’s more, the schedule boasts a great mix of arty Brit films and all-out blockbusters, meaning you’ll never have to argue about what you’re paying to see again. Or maybe it means you'll argue even more? Either way.

HOME, Manchester

If you needed more proof that Manchester is on the up, then HOME, a coming together of the city’s Library Theatre Company and the local institution Cornerhouse Cinema, is the largest multi-disciplinary arts centre outside of the capital. It opened in April 2015 and boasts a massive five screens under its roof.

Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds

Respected film critic Mark Kermode once described this cosy cinema as, ‘a lovely, lovely cinema…the kind of place that’d you’d actually want to go and watch a film.’ Well, we can’t argue with that. Head down to the heart of Leeds’ student district and see what he means for yourself.

Chapter, Cardiff

With 800,000 visitors a year, it’s pretty obvious that the residents of Cardiff are dead proud of their multi-artform venue, which, for the last four decades, has brought international art, live performance and film to the Welsh capital. As for the caravans? Er, it's 'art'.

The Electric, Birmingham

The king of the golden oldies, The Electric showed its first silent film on 27 December 1909, has survived two World Wars, began playing slightly more, er, mature films in the sixties, cleaned up its act in the eighties, and today (possibly rightly) claims to be the oldest working cinema in the UK. Unleash your inner old school romantic and treat your other half to a wine and sofa package here. Grow a pencil moustache for the full pre-war effect, too.

Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square

Stubbornly holding fort in the capital’s multiplex epicentre, Leicester Square, this little gem throws the coolest film events imaginable, from ‘Arnie All-Nighters’ (yep, six films by the Austrian Oak, back-to-back) to Breaking Bad marathons. It’s pretty much what you’d do yourself, if you had a giant cinema room in your basement.

The Rex, Berkhamsted

Without looking at the single big screen showing major blockbusters and retro favourites, like Lawrence of Arabia, you’d think you’d arrived at a 1930s Hollywood jazz club thanks to the luxurious art deco styling around you. Expect a lot of dressing up from your fellow movie goers here.

The Phoenix, Falmouth

It’s only right that a town home to the country’s number one arts university should have a killer cinema, too. This award-winning five-screener, a converted drill hall with excellent waiting staff, fits the bill perfectly.

Photo: Tim Green, Flickr

Olympic Studios, Barnes

Not many cinemas can say they’ve had David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and erm... The Spice Girls record songs and albums between their walls, but this place can. The former EMI recording studio now has one of the greatest sound systems in the business, with a Dolby Atmos 3D set-up that creates ‘the most realistic effects you’ve ever heard’. Oh, and you get your own mini table for your beer, too. We’re in!

The Phoenix, East Finchley

To get some perspective on how old this beautiful film house is, the 104-year-old north London institution opened its doors for the first time with a film about the sinking of a little tub known as RMS Titanic, which went down in history just weeks before.

The Electric, Portobello

If sitting in a seat for 100 minutes is all too much, book out one of Electric’s plush red double beds and feel like a gluttonous Roman emperor. The lashings of craft beer and Philly pork sandwiches from the adjacent diner beforehand will help with your transformation into Julius Caesar, too.

Barn Cinema, Totnes

It’s in an impeccably renovated 14th century farm barn. It has an ace £21 two-course meal and a ticket deal with the nearby pub. Of course you want to go and watch something arty here.

Showroom Cinema, Sheffield

Opposite Sheffield train station and originally a car dealership, this Yorkshire star is a screen hit in its own right. You may have seen it in Chris Morris’s Four Lions film or Artic Monkeys’ Leave Before the Lights Go On music video, and it is a favourite location of This Is England director Shane Meadows, too.

Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

Built by the great uncle of Blade Runner director Sir Ridley Scott, the Geordie go-to has had its ups and downs in the past, having closed down three times. Now, supported by big-time filmmakers like Mike Figgis and Get Carter’s Mike Hodges, we’re dead chuffed and thankful to see an ‘open’ sign hanging from its doors.

Watershed Cinema, Bristol

The UK was without a dedicated media centre up until 1982, when this waterside Bristolian opened up. Three screens sit within this old warehouse in the harbourside, and it is the place to be if you want to catch an epic independent cinema release in the south-west.

Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford

Oxford’s first cinema is as brilliant and quirky now as it was when it first got its reels rolling back in 1911. The tiny picture house had to shut up shop in 1917 after its manager was enlisted to fight in WW1, and still has an air of the wartime era about it once you step past its retro ticket office window (just like the ones you see in the old movies!).

Zeffirellis, Cumbria

There’s pizza. There’s jazz. There are five screens of international cinema and Hollywood blockbusters. We’ll save you a seat.

The Exhibit, Balham

The Exhibit describes itself as a ‘youth centre for adults’, with all-day drinking and eating, comedy shows, art exhibitions and a really cosy little screen room. For just £15, on any Tuesday or Wednesday you can tuck into their eatery’s American-style burger before feasting your eyes on anything from a dedicated Tarantino evening to an arthouse flick.