Lifestyle Guides

Independent Cinemas

The snacks might have a massive mark-up but you can’t beat seeing a movie up on the big screen at the cinema. There are all the usual suspects when it comes to multiplexes in London but the city is home to some real independent gems that take the screening experience to the next level – we’re talking comfy sofas, proper bevvies and varied programmes that include everything from arthouse flicks to foreign films to the latest blockbuster releases.

Some of these cinemas have real history – the Regent Street Cinema opened back in 1848 and is often called the birthplace of British cinema, there’s been a cinema under one name or another on the site of the Rio in Dalston for over 100 years, and the Caste Cinema on Chatsworth Road has gone from a single-screen cinema in 1913 to a bingo club to a warehouse to a snooker hall to that top bit of Eat17 to a cinema once again.

Others are shinier and newer, like the Institute of Light in the railway arches by London Fields, the redeveloped Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, and the three-screen Catford Mews.


194B Chamberlayne Rd, NW10 3JU

The Lexi Cinema is run almost exclusively by volunteers, meaning 100% of its profits goes to charity! Showing a variety of mainstream, indie films and live opera, they hope to improve the lives of north-west Londoners, whilst also helping those in South Africa, by donating all proceeds to the Sustainability Institute.


93-95 Mile End Rd, London E1 4UJ

Genesis Cinema is an independent arthouse cinema that does flippin’ cheap films. Showing everything from blockbusters to shorts by local filmmakers, Genesis do it all and even have a boutique screening room with armchairs and a bar. With cocktails, Rinkoff cro-doughs and hot dogs, they’ve got everything you could ever want.


107 Kingsland High St, London E8 2PB

There’s been a cinema under various names on the site of the art deco, Grade-II listed Rio for over 100 years and it’s remained independent right up to this day. The two screens show a varied programme of new indie releases as well as regular double bills and classic matinees.


Since the 80s, cinema enthusiast Ümit Mesut has been running his video and film shop in Clapton, surviving the proclaimed death of analogue film through the sheer power of personality and nostalgia. Ümit & Son’s collection is the kind of expansive mass that’s clearly taken many years to bring together and every corner of the shop is covered in posters, tapes, reels and merch. As well as selling his wares, Ümit runs the 16mm movie club Ciné-Real alongside director Liam Saint-Pierre, as well as projection workshops, and rents out the 15-seater cinema at the back of the shop for £250 (just over £16 per person for a full house). Stop by – or bear this spot in mind for your next birthday party – if you love watching classics as they were intended to be watched.


The Prince Charles Cinema might technically be in Leicester Square, but that’s basically Soho and it’s one of the best places in town. Classy it’s not – let’s face it, the place started out life as a porn cinema – but the cinema screens an excellent mix of blockbusters, arthouse films and cult classics with lots of all-nighters and double bills. Get their £15 yearly membership to catch regular £1 screenings and at least £2.50 off every ticket.


191 Portobello Rd, W11 2ED

One of the oldest working cinemas in the country, the Electric Cinema’s interior reflects its long history. Plus it’s one of the most comfortable places to watch a film, with double beds, sofas and armchairs for your viewing pleasure!


64 Brooksby’s Walk, E9 6DA

From a single-screen cinema in 1913 to a bingo club to a warehouse to a snooker hall to that top bit of Eat17, the Castle Electric Theatre on Chatsworth Road has enjoyed more extreme makeovers than most, and now it’s come full circle. Ash and Dee from Pillow Cinema are the ones who turned back the clock, and after an epic crowdfunding campaign The Castle is a cinema once again. More than 50 years since the last film was played, it screens a range of new releases and cult classics.


95A Rye Ln, SE15 4ST

This is probably the only cinema in London where you can catch a film for under a fiver; morning, noon or night you can catch the latest movies for the bargain price of £4.99. Yes, it may look like it hasn’t changed since the 80s, but that just adds to the charm.


As well as a cafe, a bar, local food traders, a community room and a live music space, Catford Mews is also home to three cinema screens, with a total of 220 seats. The programme is varied, with a mix of blockbusters, family faves and indie releases all being screened, so there really is something for everyone.


After closing for redevelopment way back in 2014, Riverside Studios, the former telly studio and arts space overlooking the Thames by Hammersmith Bridge, is back as a state-of-the-art film complex. There are two screens: the larger Screen One with 208 comfy seats, 4k resolution projection and Dolby 7.1 surround sound, and the smaller 48-seater Screen Two, with both open to the public every night of the week.


Rich Mix is an East London social enterprise and independent arts venue featuring three cinema screens, as well as an exhibition and performance space. They’re rooted in the city but champion diversity, covering pretty much every genre imaginable so expect all the mainstream classics alongside independent films too.


Housed in the world famous Olympic Recording Studio in Barnes, this two screen cinema is proper luxe. Not only does it feature high-end tech (like a premier sound system), but it’s also got reclining seats with individual tables and a private members screening club. Expect all the latest releases along with classic cinema films (and snacks).


This indie cinema was the former Salvation Army Hall but now it’s a Crouch End fave that develops new and classic works reflecting the multi-cultural nature of our city. And as you can guess from the name, it’s not only a two-screen cinema venue but a live arts space too. Its programme favours independent and international movies, while the foyer area features a bar and café serving up a good offering for snacks.


This place opened back in 1848 so it’s no wonder they call it the birthplace of British cinema. Located on Regent Street, it contains 187 seats and a pretty big foyer bar where audiences and the public can drink every evening and weekend. And these guys screen it all, from indies and studio films to adaptations and classic remakes. Expect only the best from the place that first showed moving pictures in Britain.


Although its retro vibe makes The Garden Cinema in Covent Garden look like it has been around for a while, the privately-owned movie theatre only just opened in March 2022. And since it’s entirely independent, their screenings are curated collections of the films they think are truly worth seeing, from modern cult faves to golden age classics. They do show new releases too, and with a membership (which is just £20 for lifetime access), you can get discounted ticket prices, access to bi-weekly free screenings and advanced booking for events which are held in the cinema’s bar.