21 of our favourite independent cinemas in London for film lovers

These local picture houses offer eclectic film screenings, cocktails and retro glamour to catch a film in style this year

Films can take us to another world and the independent cinemas in London promise to whisk us away in style. But the capital’s one-of-a-kind picture houses bring so much more than the chance to see the latest Oscar-worthy blockbuster or a niche arthouse flick – they offer events and Q&As, cocktails and beautifully curated food menus. From a state-of-the-art screen at Battersea Power Station to Dalston’s Art Deco picture palace, these boutique independent cinemas will bring a fairytale ending to any evening.

Regent Street Cinema

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This is a one of the most interesting independent cinemas in London thats steeped in history. Built in 1848 as a theatre within Regent’s Street’s Polytechnic Institution, it became the first cinema in the country to show moving pictures when, in 1896, it showcased the Cinématographe – the ground-breaking camera and projector designed by the Lumière brothers that was to change the face of British cinema. After a spell as a student lecture hall, Regent Street Cinema is back to doing what it does best, with weekly listings curated by a team of film-lovers. Expect exclusive premieres, repertory screenings, retrospectives, documentaries, animation and experimental cinema, as well as double bills. So settle back in the Art Deco auditorium, with its velvet chairs, gold coat hooks and an elliptical-coved ceiling, and enjoy the show. As an aside, this is one of the only cinemas in the country to have a working Compton cinema organ – the first Monday of the month, there’s a recital before the matinée screening.  

307 Regent Street, Westminster, London W1B 2HW

Electric Cinema Portobello

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If you like your night at the movies complete with squishy armchairs and footstools, cocktails and cashmere blankets to snuggle under – there are even sofas in the front and back rows should you wish to recline – then glam-vintage The Electric in Notting Hill is for you. Such luxury should come as no surprise when you learn that the cinema, a London institution for over 100 years, is under the Soho House umbrella (so too Electric Cinema White City, where members can also get discounted admission). There’s a fully licensed bar and substantial snack menu, though you can always eat next door at the Electric Diner which serves American classics including cheeseburgers, hot dogs and milkshakes. The Electric Cinema Portobello is available for private hire for up to 83 people – it’s a great place for a party.

191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 2ED

Everyman Hampstead

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Everyman Cinemas – a cinema group comprising 46 venues – first started life in 2000, when founder Daniel Broch bought the original Everyman Cinema in Hampstead, which dated to 1933. The group has since acquired other sites in town – including Islington’s much-loved Screen on the Green on Upper Street – and across the UK. Their USP is simple: they want to bring “an innovative lifestyle approach” to their venues.  By this, they mean a good glass of Merlot and a slice of freshly made pizza served to your seat. Expect mainstream, independent and classic films, as well as a diverse calendar of live satellite broadcasts – plus a three-tier membership scheme offering multiple benefits including the Everywhere which allows members to see unlimited films for a year. 

5 Holly Bush Vale, Hampstead, NW3 6TX

Rio Cinema

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If The Rio was a film, its story would have audiences gripped. Originally an auctioneer’s shop, owner Clara Ludski converted it into one of London’s very first cinemas in 1909. So popular did it prove, the enterprising Clara bought up the adjacent properties to create a purpose-built picture house, the Kingsland Empire, which opened in 1915. Over subsequent decades it’s been a cartoon cinema, a dedicated art house cinema and a cinema club showing ‘adult’ films with live striptease burlesque. In 1976, however, The Rio cinema as we know it today was born, showcasing cult classics to contemporary crowd-pleasers. Its vintage signage and Art Deco interiors have been beautifully restored, and a second screen added in the basement. Being the city’s oldest community-run cinema, the emphasis is on creating a welcoming and inclusive space – as well as affordable tickets to the latest releases, there are often special events throughout the year such as film festivals, Q&A sessions and live performances, making this one of the best independent cinemas in London. 

107 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, E8 2PB

The Cinema at Selfridges

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The Cinema at Selfridges is the first of its kind in a department store. Set inside its Oxford Street premises, with direct access from the street, the three-screen complex offers the latest in state-of-the-art sound and vision technologies, and a thoughtfully curated programme including all the latest releases. Not to mention that this cinema has its own bar and snug area. It feels delightfully decadent to have a glass of Champagne at the pictures or try one of their delicious signature cocktails – we’re rather taken with the Green Pepper Martini, a heady mix of tequila, Ancho Reyes chilli liqueur, agave and lime. There’s also a ‘sweetshop’ selling snacks to take into the film, including ‘air popped’ popcorn. Private hire options include the Date Night – exclusive hire of Screen Three, popcorn and welcome cocktails. Reel romantic.

400 Oxford Street, Westminster, W1U 1AT

Curzon Mayfair

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In the industry since 1934 and with 16 venues across the UK, Curzon knows a thing or two about cinema. But while film goers appreciate the comfortable, individually designed cinemas, the top-notch technology and the excellent food and drink offering (the pizzas are cooked fresh to order and there’s a wide selection of cocktails, wines, craft beers and soft drinks), it is the movies that keep them coming back. Founder Harold Wingate imported unknown films during the post-war period and it’s this quest to introduce other worlds and cultures, and to offer a different perspective, that drives the film company’s programming ethos. Who wouldn’t love a cinema house that offers films that “we believe are worth sharing, that spark conversations and stay with you long after the lights have come up”? There are some impressive events across the portfolio too; recent examples include a Q&A with Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos for Poor Things and also with American Fiction’s Jeffrey Wright. 

38 Curzon Street, Mayfair, W1J 1TY


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East London’s independent cinema is so loved by locals that you’ll often find them popping in for a latte in the Grindhouse Café, one of the famous Pieminister Pies in The Kitchen restaurant or meeting a friend for drinks in the Paragon bar, never mind the films. There’s even an outdoor space – a secret sunshine trap – that’s open for the first film of the day. But it would be amiss to leave out its cinematic credentials. The five-screen space has been offering entertainment in one guise or another since 1848, with current owner Tyrone Walker-Hebborne transforming the building and opening a five-screen cinema in 1999 (his parents so loved the movies they named him after Tyrone Power and his brother Spencer after Spencer Tracy). As well as the Hollywood heavyweights, Genesis is committed to showing non-mainstream films too, as well as those celebrating diversity. This London cinema plays host to festivals and events, and screens can be hired in 2.5-hour slots throughout the day to accommodate private events.

93 – 95 Mile End Road, Mile End, E1 4UJ

BFI Southbank

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As well as promoting the UK as a place to make films and championing the next generation of filmmakers, cultural charity BFI curates and presents a rich international programme of world cinema. Much of this takes place at BFI Southbank, a four-screen cinema venue which shows a huge and varied selection of classic and contemporary films, with new and re-releases, film seasons and director and actor retrospectives. Accessible screenings include subtitles, descriptive subtitles and audio description, and there are relaxed screenings too. Just up the road, BFI IMAX offers a totally immersive experience, adding a whole new spin to everything from blockbusters to documentaries. Grab a table afterwards at BFI Riverfront, order a drink and enjoy the unique views of Waterloo Bridge, whose concrete structure forms the ceiling of the space.

Belvedere Road, Southbank, SE1 8XT

Ciné Lumière

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Set within the Institut français, the Ciné Lumière has established itself as one of London’s top repertory cinemas. Completed refurbished in 2008 and reopened by none other than Catherine Deneuve, the elegant Art Deco auditorium is the place to go if your interest particularly lies in French and foreign language films. Keep an eye on the website, too, as there are always special screenings, festivals and the revisiting of much-loved classics. Plus they’re known to host many a lively on-stage debate with directors, actors, scholars and film critics.The addition of of Ciné Lumière II, a 35-seat boutique cinema set in the lower ground floor of the Grade II listed Institut adds to the experience. As this is South Kensington, there are plenty of cosy neighbourhood cafés and bistros for a debrief of the film.

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, South Kensington, SW7 2DT

The Garden Cinema

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This intimate two-screen venue, tucked down Parker Street in Covent Garden, is one of the most charming independent cinemas in London. It is the brainchild of cinephile and former lawyer Michael Chambers who – having sold his legal directory business – set about fulfilling his lifelong dream of opening his own picture house, throwing open the doors to The Garden Cinema in 2022. The venue is a destination in its own right, all moody lighting, Art deco design touches and a buzzing bar, which serves fabulous cocktails (and also hosts a great line-up of regular discussions and events). That’s not to detract from the screening programme, which prides itself on showing “films that are worth seeing, films you’d be happy to see more than once.” There’s a membership scheme too; for £20 a year, it gives you money off ticket prices, free fortnightly members’ screenings (chosen by members) and access to the bar whether you’re seeing a movie or not, to name a few.

39-41 Parker Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5PQ

Ealing Picturehouse

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Picturehouse adds to its portfolio of neighbourhood cinemas across London and the UK with a new opening in Ealing Broadway, W5. The eight-screen, 900 seat, state-of-the-art cinema has a storied past – originally built in 1934 as the Forum Cinema, the space has had many cinema guises in the years that have followed. Not to mention the fact that the world-famous television and film production company Ealing Studios is a stone’s throw away. Before or after catching a movie (they show all the new blockbuster and indie releases), make sure to swing by the café and bar where the menu is all about light bites, sharing plates and cinema snacks, and the decor pays homage to the building’s cinematic history. 

Unit 8, Filmworks Walk, Ealing, London W5 5FA

The Cinema in the Power Station

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As befits one of London’s most exciting developments in recent years, Battersea Power Station has a fabulous two-screen cinema offering state-of-the-art Dolby technology and oh-so-comfortable reclining seating. Films are thoughtfully curated, not just the new releases but also screenings of live performances from the likes of the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House (upcoming are Manon, The Motive and the Cue and Vanya). Both screens – one seats 215, the other 140 – are available for private hire (plus they have private boxes too, complete with individual minbars, though there’s also a bar serving Champagne and craft beers). There’s a sister venue nearby – The Cinema in the Arches – with three bespoke screens built into the railway arches in Circus West. 

3rd Floor, Turbine Hall B, Battersea Power Station, London SW11 8DD

The Chiswick Cinema

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When Chiswick Cinema arrived on Chiswick High Street in 2021, it was the first cinema to open in the leafy neighbourhood since 1934. There are five screens in which you can see everything from Hollywood big hitters to indie flicks and screenings of live performances from some of the capital’s greatest cultural institutions. Do check the programme, as they also offer dog- and baby-friendly screenings, as well as subtitled showings. There’s an all-day cafe-bar with an innovative drinks and snacks menu; while the Lounge (and its terrace) provides a laid-back space whether you want to work or play. The 16-seater screening room and dining room is perfect for celebrations, launches or private premieres (the seats are super comfy). There are different tiers of membership, each with great benefits. 

94-96 Chiswick High Road, Chiswick, London W4 1SH

The Lexi Cinema

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The volunteer-run Lexi is the capital’s only social enterprise cinema. The founder has strong links with the Sustainability Institute near Lynedoch in South Africa, so while providing a vital arts space for the people of Kensal Rise the cinema also offers ongoing financial support to the ecological project many miles away. There are two screens showing the latest blockbusters alongside indies and NT screenings – plus there’s lots for families and the baby-screenings are very popular. There’s also a packed schedule of Q&As with film buffs, films-and-food events, local film nights and there’s even a gallery space for local artists to exhibit their work. The Bar is a draw in itself, serving everything from micro-distilled spirits to Fairtrade tea and indie-brand soft drinks – and it’s one of the few cinemas still popping fresh salted popcorn daily. All this, and it is entirely volunteer led, with 100% of its distributable profits going to charity. 

194b Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, London NW10 3JU

The Phoenix

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The Phoenix is an independent not-for-profit single-screen cinema, which is owned by a charitable trust on behalf of the people of North London. The building itself – on High Road – has a long cinematic history, opening as East Finchley Picturedrome in May 1912, when the first screening was The Ill-Fated Titanic. Over the years the site has been taken over by many independent operators, who did much to improve the building including introducing the Art Deco touches you see to this day, both inside and to the exterior facade. When demolition was threatened in 1983, it was saved by supporters and in 1985 the Trust took over. Now cinema-goers can catch all the latest releases, as well as a rich programme of art screenings and animations for younger viewers. There’s also a bar, a balcony for post-film drinks on a balmy evening, and a dedicated gallery space.

52 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 9PJ

Barbican Cinema

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Ever since it was opened in 1982 by Her Majesty The Queen, Barbican has been one of the capital’s most exciting arts hubs. Every year it offers an eclectic programme spanning music, theatre, dance, the visual arts, film and more, featuring emerging and established performers and artists. The three cinemas are impressive, including the 280-seat Cinema 1, as well as the two 153-seat screens in the Barbican’s cinema building on Beech Street (which opened in 2012). Here you can see all the latest new releases, as well as talks with filmmakers and major curated seasons. Keen to inspire a love of the movies amongst the younger generation, this London cinema has been welcoming families for over 30 years to its Family Film Club on Saturday mornings, as well as hosting regular Parent & Baby screenings. 

Barbican Centre, Silk Street, City of London, London EC2Y 8DS

The Prince Charles Cinema

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This cinema prides itself on being the last of the independents still operating in London’s cine-famous ‘West End’. The site itself started out as a theatre back in 1962 before becoming a “film-house of ill repute”. In 1991, its fortunes turned and the Prince Charles Cinema as we know it today was born. The ethos behind their programming is that if it’s a film they believe people want to see, they’ll show it, from new releases to repertory screenings (they’re also keen for audiences to make suggestions for their listings). But it’s weekends that are particularly popular, specifically the sing-a-long presentations when you can belt out numbers from a well-known classic (the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and also the all-night movie marathons (for example The Lord of the Rings trilogy – the extended editions). 

7 Leicester Place, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7BY

Close-Up Film Centre

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For everything arthouse, you need to head to Close-up, a boutique cinema that’s also home to a huge DVD and Blu-ray library, making it one of the most unusual independent cinemas in London. Established in 2005, the film programming continues to champion films that have shaped the art of cinema over the years, focusing on independent and experimental releases. With 40 comfy seats and excellent surround sound, it’s a regular spot for press screenings, corporate hire and presentations, too. But it’s the library which draws the real cinephiles, with over 20,000 titles specialising in early cinema, classics, world cinema, documentaries and video art, as well as rare titles that are exclusive to Close-Up. The café-bar is a popular spot, serving European fine blend coffee and artisan bakery goods, as well as wines, ales and spirits. 

97 Sclater Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6HR

ArtHouse Crouch End

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This successful independent cinema – located in the former Salvation Army Hall in Crouch End – has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. A decade on, it continues in its aim to “challenge the status quo that divides our cultural landscape” by creating and championing new and classic works that “reflect the multi-cultural and multifaceted nature of city life”. Alongside mainstream films, expect streamed theatre, too. The cinema also doubles up as a live performance space, where you can catch experimental work in theatre, dance, music and comedy, as well as more popular and classic productions. Every week the ArtHouse team paints unique A-Boards to advertise upcoming events and films, which are works of art in themselves – just one of the many reasons why this is one of the best independent cinemas in London. 

159A Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, London N8 9BT

Olympic Studios

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If you were going to give an award for the most aesthetically-pleasing independent cinema in London, it would be Olympic Studios in Barnes. But when you learn that the design comes courtesy of Simone McEwan (previously concept designer at Selfridges and design director at Soho House), you understand why. Simone had plenty to work with – the building first became a cinema in 1910, and was more latterly a recording studio used by everyone from the Rolling Stones to Nick Cave, Madonna and Prince. Now it is back as a cinema, with two screens and a members’ screening room, all with reclining seats that each come with an individual table. Plus there’s Dolby Atmos, the ultimate in surround sound. But it’s the decor which steals the show, from the rich colour palette to the sumptuous materials and woods. There’s also a bright, airy cafe & dining room serving a seasonal menu sourced from British producers. The Members’ Club on the first floor is equally as pleasing on the eye. 

117-123 Church Road, Barnes, London Sw13 9HL

Rich Mix

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The charity Rich Mix is on a mission “to welcome the communities of the world in east London to create, enjoy and share culture”. Their hub on Bethnal Green Road rolls out a diverse, dynamic programme across multiple genres including live music, spoken word, theatre, dance and more, in the performance and exhibition spaces. There’s also a three-screen cinema on site, where visitors can catch all the latest blockbusters, as well as enjoy National Theatre Live showings, film festivals and Q&As with many of the industry’s creatives. Indeed they hold about 2000 cinema screenings a year. There’s a cinema bar and Oitij-Jo Kitchen, offering an authentic Bangladeshi menu. The five-floor Shoreditch site is also home to over 20 socially progressive and innovative businesses and charities, making this one of the buzziest creative venues in town.

35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA

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