As any film-fanatic will tell you, going to the cinema isn’t just about the film you see, it’s the whole experience, from the comfortable chairs, to the snacks on offer, and even the buildings the cinemas are housed in. Here The Resident rounds up the best of north and east London’s independent cinema scene, where you’ll find sofas and footstools, Q&A’s with actors and beautiful art house films
1 Everyman Cinemas: Screen on the Green
Screen on the Green in Angel, is one of London’s longest running cinemas, with the building dating back to 1913. Its distinctive façade outlined in red neon has become iconic in the local area, with residents flocking to see new releases and art house films, as well as special events such as screenings from London’s theatres. If you pay a little extra, it will get out one of Screen on the Green’s 48 couches with footrests, and, at the back of the cinema room, there is a bar that serves food and drink.
83 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0NP; everymancinema.com
2 Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, Shoreditch
The Rich Mix Cultural Foundation offers movies as well as showing theatre, music, dance and comedy. It has three movie screens, which show a variety of films including mainstream, documentaries, independent and children’s films, plus The Rich Mix often shows films that you might not find anywhere else. Upcoming independent movies being shown at the East London cinema include Still the Enemy Within a film about the British miners’ strike, and the premiere of five student films from the BFI Film Academy presented by Eastside Educational Trust.
35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA; richmix.org.uk
Electric Cinema Shoreditch is currently showing The Hunger Games Mockingjay: Part 1
3 Electric Cinema Shoreditch
The 50-seater Electric Cinema Shoreditch used to be the Aubin Cinema but was recently refurbished by Soho House Group to include the Electric’s signature style. Now, plush velvet armchairs and footstools take the place of average folding cinema seats, and shiny round tables are ready and waiting to prop up your choice of American-diner style food and drink from Electric’s menu. Would could sound nicer than snuggling up with a cashmere blanket and the newest movie release this winter?
64-66 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DP; electriccinema.co.uk/shoreditch
4 Rio Cinema, Hackney
Rio Cinema is a locally-run, independent cinema in Hackney, which is housed in a magnificent art deco building from 1915. At one time, Rio Cinema housed an organ and played silent films, now it’s more about new releases and foreign movies. Despite that, the main cinema room is unchanged from the 1930s and will transport you back in time thanks to its curved, blue ceilings and balcony.
107 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2PB; riocinema.org.uk
5 Hackney Picturehouse
Like the other Picturehouse cinemas, Hackney Picturehouse is all about taking the cinema experience to another level, going beyond an over-priced coke and box of popcorn. Among the four screens, Hackney Picturehouse has recently opened a new auditorium, next to Screen 1, filled with cushions and sofas and with easy access to the gallery bar. The space will host screenings that make the most of the new relaxed surrounding, so alongside the usual new features there’ll be cult classics, documentaries and Q&As with actors and directors. Before or after a screening, checkout a performance at Hackney Picturehouse’s music venue Hackney Attic, which is above the cinema. With a bar, it is a perfect place to grab a drink and watch live performances.
270 Mare Street, London E8 1HE; picturehouses.co.uk
6 Close-Up Films Centre Ltd
The Close-Up Films Center is currently expanding its cinema and library of films and book, and moving to a new location on Sclater Street in Shoreditch. When Close-Up Films re-opens January 2015, members of the library will have access to the 19,000 film and books in its collection, which range from early cinema and classic films, to world films and documentaries. The new cinema, which will seat 40 people, won’t open until spring 2015, but when it does, it’s screenings will span feature films throughout the history of film.
139 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB; closeupfilmcentre.com
See Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game at one of these independent cinemas
7 Barbican Center, Barbican
With several events each month, the Barbican always has something cinema-related going on whether it is a film talk or a silent film with musical accompaniment. From now until 4th December, the Barbican will hold the London Palestine Film Festival featuring 40 works by Palestinian and international artists. The Barbican also will feature the Silent Film and Live Music with Buster Keaton’s Cop with Silent Shorts on 7th December and Algol: Tragedy of Power with musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne on 17th December. Other events include the Barbican Film Quiz and performance cinema.
Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS; barbican.org.uk
8 ArtHouse, Crouch End
ArtHouse Cinema in Crouch End opened in March 2014 but it’s already built up a strong fan base of cinema-goers and film fanatics. ArtHouse tries to choose films to reflect the diverse cultural background of the area with events like a monthly LGBT night. It also collaborates with filmmakers and actors to host special events, which include a movie screening with a Q&As afterwards.
159A Tottenham Ln, London, UK N8 9BT; arthousecrouchend.co.uk
9 Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley
As one of the oldest cinema buildings in the UK, Phoenix Cinema transports you back to a bygone era of black and white movies and silent films. This small independent theatre has a beautiful, elaborate ceiling, which dates back to 1910, under which the likes of live opera is streamed from the New York Metropolitan Opera. Modern-day blockbusters are also shown.
52 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 9PJ; phoenixcinema.co.uk
10 Genesis Cinema, Whitechapel
Independent cinema Genesis has become a firm favourite with local residents and rich history is ingrained in the area. The building was once the Paragon Theatre of Varieties, which saw the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy perform. When the current owner, Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, took over the building it had been derelict for 10 years, used only for illegal raves! Now it is a shadow of its former self and Genesis’ multiple screens show popular films and Hollywood blockbusters, plus art house and independent movies. Its Studio 5 screen ups the stakes in comfort, with rows of sofas and space for 40 people.
93-95 Mile End Road, London E1 4UJ; genesiscinema.co.uk
Words by Hayley Ward