London is tops for cinema lovers!

I’m a great fan of cinema and much prefer seeing a film on the big screen than on the TV with all the fun of the movie going experience. London has an amazing range of cinemas, from the swanky thousand-plus seaters in Leicester Square like the Empire and Odeon, through to the many intimate local and boutique places.

London has great movie credentials as it hosts one of the world’s top film festivals in October every year when over 200 films are on show and the stars come to town to parade on the red carpets. As a venue for shooting of films there are too many to mention but from the top of my head come ‘Notting Hill’, ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Bridget Jones’ and of course the recently released ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.

My favourite cinemas are the small, boutique and quirky ones and here are my top 5, not in any order as it’s too hard to chose!  Those of you with a working knowledge of London cinemas will notice that these are all around the Notting Hill area. This is not just because I live there, but we have an amazing concentration of great movie houses and I celebrate that!

1. The Electric

This is the last word in luxurious film viewing with extra wide seats, a bar with snacks in the auditorium, plenty of space for drinks by your seat, a footstool, bed sized seats at the back for – well, best leave that there…. All this and up to the moment films and a long and interesting history as they have closed and nearly gone under many times since opening in 1910!  They are one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK

2. The Lexi

This a wonderful warm hearted little cinema, staffed by volunteers and sending their profits out to an amazing project in Africa, the Sustainability Institute. They show you a film about their work with kids so you are in no doubt as to the good they do.  You can catch the latest films here and it’s well worth heading out to find them.

 3. The Gate

The Gate is a very comfortable stylish cinema dating from 1911 with a splendid Edwardian interior. It is an independent cinema showing big name films as well as more hard to find gems and live screenings of opera and plays from the National Theatre, which is pretty cool of them!

4. Portobello Pop Up

This is a brilliant place – a digital non profit microplex, the antidote to multiplexes, made of recycled materials, sitting under the Westway.  The box office is made out of – you’ve guessed – cardboard boxes and the seats are a collection of odd reclaimed seats. They show a range of films, of with director’s Q&A. This year I saw My Beautiful Launderette with a chance to chat to Michael Frears. There’s no booking, no tickets, you just turn up – how refreshing! Just check when their season is….

 5. The Coronet

Lots of history associated with the Coronet as it started as a theatre in 1898, featured in the film Notting Hill (remember the scene where Hugh wears his snorkel goggles – of course you do!) and I recall it being the last cinema you could smoke in – upstairs only!  The interior gives away its theatrical background and the tickets for all the latest films are good value too.

London has loads more great cinemas but these are my top 5 – which are yours?

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

LONDON’S SMALL AND HIDDEN THEATRES

London is the home to hundreds of theatres from large and glitzy famous West End ones like the Palladium and the Palace Theatre (long time home of Priscilla Queen of the Desert) to the very smallest room at the back of a pub.  In between you will find the National Theatre ,a home fine productions both new writing and revivals, as well as the excellent range of ‘off West End’ theatres such as the Old Vic, the Royal Court and the Donmar.

The Donmar Warehouse deserves special mention as it is a wonderful small space with just 250 seats where you can see the big stars of stage and screen – currently Jude Law is in a sell out production. As with many of the small theatres, its entrance is easily missed on the street and if you are lucky you can get hang around these doors and get close to the stars – here’s my favourite photo of me and Dominic West!


What about the ‘hidden theatres’ then? Well there is an amazingly well hidden small theatre in Notting Hill called The Print Room which is down an alleyway, through to a welcoming reception area and is a converted 1950s warehouse.  From these unexpected premises they put on great plays and if you like to meet the cast, they are usually in the bar opposite, the Commander! Their staging is amazing, one production was set inside a disused tennis court and another on a huge mound of soil which actors had to climb across (well the play was called ‘Kingdom of Earth’!

Another very small theatre well worth a visit is the Gate just off Notting Hill Gate. They have a really small room, with about 70 seats, above the Prince Albert pub but manage to pull off the most imaginative use of space and I hardly recognise the room from one production to another.  New writing is on show and it specialises in international work. Their last production, Wittenberg, was fun, challenging, incredibly well staged

Much grander and more famous is The Old Vic which currently has a wonderful artistic director – Kevin Spacey!  He often stars in plays there and most recently was Richard 111 and previously in Speed the Plow with Jeff Goldblum and Inherit the Wind. It is a treat to have him regularly on stage, but the Old Vic was great before him and will be great when he leaves.

So many more theatres worthy of mention but hopefully this has given you as taster for some of London’s less well known off West End delights.

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itysourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon