Photo of Sands Cinema Club taken by Pixelhut

London has an increasingly vibrant cinema scene, full of mini-seasons, classic film strands and special events, but where to go to grab a unique experience before the curtains are raised? Here are my picks for the film houses that are a cut above.

Sands Cinema Club, Rotherhithe

The Sands Cinema Club has all the hallmarks of an exclusive society: secret membership, high aspirations and wicker patio furniture. The club meets every Tuesday in their fully functioning Sands Studio, a world-renowned source for feature production that has been used by more or less every costume drama from Britain in the last twenty years.
Housed in an historic barn, the selection of films is ‘in homage to the programming of art house cinemas of a bygone era’ and the thematic selections are carefully chosen and lovingly introduced by Olivier Stockman, director of the working studio. Why not grab a drink at the Mayflower pub opposite – the site of the Pilgrims’ departure to America – before you settle in for a cosy evening of cinema history? To join the club, visit their site here and go on a virtual tour of their studio with The Guardian here.

Prince Charles, Leicester Square

Where most of the city’s former dive cinemas have been gentrified and scrubbed to respectability, the Prince Charles stands as the lone guardian of grindhouse in central London. Committed to longtime audience pleasers and cult classics, the Prince Charles is also a rare place where you can catch art house films in the centre of town and keep the majority of a twenty pound note. If you come along to Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music or one of their regular all night screenings, you might just catch a glimpse of their rumoured ghost, or it could be the groans from another of its past lives: as one of Soho’s many porn cinemas. Check out Quentin Tarantino singing its praises here.

The Electric Cinema, Portobello Road

If the sticky floors and schlock action at the Prince Charles don’t tempt you, the altogether more refined atmosphere at The Electric might be the best antidote. Reflecting Portobello Road’s climb up the social ladder, The Electric is a decidedly high-class experience (with prices to match). The standard seating is leather with ample legroom, but why not look down at your lessers from one of their two-seater sofas, quaffing on a fine malbec and sampling the pumpkin hummus? The Electric is a luxury experience that could even mitigate the horror of watching Transformers 2.

Those are my picks, but where have you had the best night of cinema in the Smoke?

Guest post by film guru Duncan Carson. Take a look at his blog Pangolin Blues.