Marianna Hunt

Retro cinemas that every film fan will love

Retro cinemas that every film fan will love
Image: Everyman Bristol
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The new James Bond, the much anticipated sequel to A Quiet Place and an adaptation of sci-fi epic Dune: the list of blockbuster films due to be released in 2021 is both star-studded and long overdue.

As cinemas prepare to reopen from 17 May, we take a look at Britain’s most unique picture houses.

TT Liquor, London

Behind the vintage frontage of this liquor store in Shoreditch is a stylish underground cocktail bar hiding a secret. A concealed door leads to a boutique 52-seat screening room showing cinematic classics from Lost In Translation to The Godfather.

For each screening, the bar’s expert mixologists craft a special cocktail inspired by the film. The bar itself is part-temple, part-library of spirits with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with bottles and ladders lining the shelves. Tickets cost around £15 per person, with a complimentary cocktail and popcorn included.

Cocktail masterclasses are also available to book. The liquor store-cum-cinema is housed inside a converted Victorian police station.

The Rex, Berkhamsted

A small town in the Chilterns is not where you expect to find one of the UK’s most beautiful cinemas. But there it is nonetheless.

A glorious frenzy of 1930s art deco style, the main screening room has an ornately carved plasterwork arch and thick, padded walls with rippling lines of lights concealed behind scallop shells. The front stalls have been replaced by sociable tables and clusters of red chairs, in the style of a cabaret club, where guests can enjoy a glass of wine from the extensive bar menu or some snacks.

After 50 years of service, the cinema closed in 1988 and lay derelict for years. It was restored and reopened in 2004 after a campaign by a local entrepreneur. It is now Grade-II listed and shows both old favourites and new releases.

Electric Cinema, London

One of the oldest working cinemas in Britain, Electric has plush red leather armchairs, cashmere blankets and a row of velvet double beds in the front row.  Every detail oozes old-school glamour: from the foot stools to the vintage ticket office and waiter service.  There are no plastic cup holders here. Each wingback armchair comes with its own table where you can rest your freshly mixed martini. The bar also serves snacks and there is a diner adjacent. The picture house sits on the famous Portobello Road, so it is well worth making time before the showing to promenade past its rainbow houses or pop into a local restaurant.  The cinema is reopening on May 17 and will be showing hotly anticipated films such as Nomadland and The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway.

Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

Glass mosaics on the foyer floors and stained glass windows greet visitors to this historic Newcastle movie theatre.

It was founded more than 80 years ago by Dixon Scott, the great uncle of Sir Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator and Blade Runner, for the original purpose of showing newsreels and improving public access to current affairs.

On the second floor there is a small museum, which includes the camera that filmed some of the first ever national news footage and a newsreel of archive content.

It plans to reopen in May, with some interesting offbeat features.

Screen on the Green, London

This cinema’s Grecian pediment and neon signage makes it an iconic feature of Islington Green. It dates back to 1913 and the faded burgundy seats, with their wooden armrests, have a nostalgic feel.

The picture house is now part of the luxury Everyman Cinemas Group and has received some recent facelifts, including squishy new sofas with footrests and swanky bar. You can also get pizzas and sharing platters delivered straight to your seat.

Sometimes it hosts screenings with a live Q&A from the film’s director beforehand. The programme suits both mainstream and indie film lovers.

Tivoli, Bath

Tivoli is one of those rare finds: a cinema with a restaurant-bar so good it is a reason to visit in its own right.

Come to watch the latest cinematic release or just pop by for cocktails and a mezze board with friends. The ritzy interiors look as if they’ve come straight out of Soho House, with rose-gold bar stools, art deco chandeliers and champagne flutes suspended from the ceiling.

The food is not the overpriced, greasy grub you’d expect from a cinema cafe either. You can get a hand-stretched stone-baked pizza for £7 or a wild boar hot dog with skin-on fries for £7.50.

The cinema sits right in the centre of Georgian Bath. Peak-time adult tickets cost around £16.

Regent Street Cinema

A masterclass in restoration, Regent Street Cinema still retains all of its 1920s art deco features and even the original 1936 organ, used to provide the soundtrack to silent films.

The picture house dates back to 1848 and was where the Lumière brothers’ cinématographe machine was first demonstrated to the press.

The cinema closed in 1980 and was used as a lecture hall for decades. It took a three-year restoration project in the late 2000s to bring it back to its former function and glory.

The pale lemon seats, neoclassical carvings and beige cornicing may not suit the tastes of all cinema buffs but do make you feel as if you’ve stepped back into the era of hand-crank projectors. Screenings are due to restart in June with a mix of independent and studio films.

Rich Mix, London

Stained-glass style patterns decorate the walls of the three screening rooms at this Bethnal Green cultural centre - each of which has its own colour schemes. The exterior is covered in rainbow graffiti.

Make sure to order some masala fries from Rich Mix’s in-house Indian street food restaurant and a local craft beer from the bar.

The cinema is reopening on May 17. Film options range from Hollywood favourites, such as Judas and the Black Messiah, to fascinating foreign films. Rich Mix will hosting screenings for the UK Asian Film Festival.

Run as a charity, all profits go back into funding the events programme so tickets are very affordable (£6 in advance for a film). The centre also puts on gigs, exhibitions and workshops.