The half empty cinema, littered with old popcorn kernels and sticky-carpeted with spilled fizzy drinks, is a desolate vision. Anyone encountering this scene during a visit to their local cinema could be forgiven for thinking that ‘the pictures’ just don’t have the draw they used to. But, on the contrary, open air film screenings are more popular than ever, with outdoors cinemas popping up left, right and centre despite the dodgy London summer – and selling out too.
A balmy evening spent at the Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House might tell you why. This year’s line-up is richly varied and as exciting as ever, kicking off last Thursday with the UK premiere of On The Road, the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1951 tale of pan-American adventure and hedonistic Beat culture. On Friday, a classic – Hitchcock’s The Birds – also had people flocking to the courtyard in the early evening to secure a spot for their rugs, lie back and watch the sky darken to reveal the buildings of Somerset House boldly illuminated. The courtyard was soon full, the audience lying higgledy piggledy to catch sight of the film’s star Tippi Hedren as she made a guest appearance before the screening.
Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels in The Birds
Looking characteristically elegant, Tippi shared her memories of working with Hitchcock and filming with such a feathered cast before the screening commenced. And there can hardly be a better way to see this still-gripping thriller than in an open air courtyard with London’s abundant avian life wheeling overhead.
The experience of an outdoor screening is far removed from the stuffy silence of a seat at a chain cinema. See why for yourself at one of London’s many open air cinemas and pop-up screens.
For those more inclined to romance than thrillers, The Nomad is a roaming cinema that will shortly arrive at Fulham Palace for its ‘Love in the Garden’ series – featuring Casablanca, Romeo + Juliet, and The Artist – during September.
Image: Nomad Cinema
To add another dimension to your open air cinema experience, try a rooftop screening with the London’s Rooftop Film Club. The location atop the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch is open until the end of September – our pick is Pixar’s masterpiece Up.
Image: Rooftop Film Club
Midsummer Night Screen also takes outdoor cinema to the rooftops at Dalston Roof Park, teaming it with themed food from The Long Table and a fitting soundtrack for each film. It’s all about immersing yourself in the world you’re watching, so get lost in the rebellious spirit and uncertainty of 1960s America with their last screening for 2012 – The Graduate.
Image: Midsummer Night Screen
The Luna Cinema has more than a dozen venues across the city, including Kew Gardens, Regent’s Park and Kensington Palace. They’re hosting screenings through to the end of September (useful tip: bring a blanket as the days start to get shorter). The line-up is light-hearted, with the likes of The Artist, Singing in the Rain, and Back to the Future still to come.
Image: The Luna Cinema