Top five independent British cinemas

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 26.03.2019

If you're feeling a little tired of the oversized popcorn, super-saccharine soda, impersonal nature and all-round lack of charm at your local multiplex, perhaps one of these singular establishments might tickle your fancy. Support independent cinema at some of Britain's finest...

The Electric Cinema, Birmingham

The unprepossessing exterior, sandwiched between a couple of Chinese restaurants, belies the innate style of this classic old film theatre in Birmingham. Built in 1909 and remodelled in the 1930s, The Electric now offers art films, Art Deco style and absinthe from a vintage fountain – and an in-house orchestra that performs for special screenings.


© David Franklin/Shutterstock

Duke of York’s, Brighton

Brighton’s Edwardian picture palace, now part of the hip national Picturehouse chain, celebrated its centenary in 2010. Snuggle down in the stylish, history-drenched auditorium – best of all, bag a sofa on the balcony – to soak up obscure and mainstream flicks, special screenings, themed premieres, all-nighters and funky parties.

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Films are just part of the deal at Cardiff’s splendid arts centre, which opened in the late 1960s with a Pink Floyd concert. It’s not quite as countercultural today, but the stylish creativity of its theatre, art exhibitions and live music extends to the screenings, with lots of indie and world cinema, panel discussions and even a monthly bad film club.

Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa

A charming, time-warped little place tucked among the pine trees, the Kinema is a genuinely populist filmhouse of the old school. Beginning its days as a concert pavilion to serve Lincolnshire’s Woodhall Spa resort clients, today it shows mainstream films, with some popular classics, and hosts nostalgic, camper-than-camp sing-along organ concerts.

Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

Opulent and with more than a touch of faded glamour, the Tyneside is as lively today as when it opened in 1937. The best current releases, world films and obscure indies are screened in a variety of rooms, from the cosy Roxy to the huge Electra, with a snug home-from-home ambience in the Digital Lounge. The sweet 1930s coffee shop serves tasty comfort food, while changing exhibitions, archive newsreel shows and film-related courses keep things energetic.

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