This summer it seemed like you couldn’t get away from outdoor cinema experiences. Screenings were everywhere from hot tubs to rooftops and secret ones to silent ones.
We couldn’t go to them all and it’s definitely too late to tip you off on the hottest screenings around the city. But should you want a head start on next years cinema season, here are three that we attended and what we thought of them… (plus links to many more at the bottom)
Silent Cinema @ London Zoo
An outdoor cinema experience in the grounds of London Zoo where you don headphones silent disco style so as not to disturb the animals. We’d been to this one the previous year and loved it bar the fact it was the most painfully cold experience of our lives. Pro Tip: Layer up and take blankets!
On arriving, last year, we were greeted with cute champagne cocktails; each with a pipette stirrer to inject a fruity flavour amongst the bubbles. We definitely had a few of those as we strolled around the tiger exhibit before being lead to the green where a few hundred odd deckchairs were laid out to watch Life of Pi. A handful of food trucks flanked the grassy area providing hot food and drink.
Now that was last year.
THIS year someone at ZSL had most definitely cottoned on to the fact that they could squeeze more money out of the cinema goers and on arrival we were poured a cup of Kopperburg mixed with fruits (I say cup because it wasnt even the whole bottle per person!) before being quickly ushered on to the lizard exhibit – no chance of any top ups this time around. There were less deck chairs and if you didnt fancy sitting on damp grass then you would have to pay £5 for the privilege – per chair. If you wanted a blanket it would set you back £12 (though you get to keep it – but then if you’re the kind of person to pay £12 for a blanket you most likely would have brought your own!)
Pile on the cost of food and you better have an extra £25-30+ in your pocket on top of the ticket price.
Even though we thought we had learnt our lesson from the previous year RE freezing our arses off it was still very cold – with a hoody, jacket, hat and snood on, plus a blanket. Maybe that’s just May in the UK for you?! But that and the blatant money grabbing by ZSL has put us off returning next year.
Silent Cinema at ZSL London Zoo
Cost for 2 people £45 (tickets) + £25 (chairs, food and drink on site)
Backyard Cinema @ Camden Market
A smaller affair from our experience at London Zoo with everyone squeezed into Camden Lock market (once the stalls have been cleared of course). With food provided by Honest Burger, Cupcakes and Shhht and drinks from the guys at Brew Dog.
Even without the film these guys have captured the essence of what a London cinema experience should be about – an intimate and fun time together, with local food and drink everyone loves, with no worries other than who’s grabbing the best seats! And as for the seating there was a selection of deck chairs and giant bean bags to pick from so everyone gets a comfy spot. But on top of this was the whole retro feel with costumed usherettes and their popcorn trays – harking back to the days when going to the cinema was a really special night out.
Pre film shorts were shown as we settled in to watch the classic Pulp Fiction, including the catchy and ever so cool 1953 animated musical ad “Lets all go to the lobby” and as the evening got cooler the usherettes tossed blankets into the crowd to whomever wanted them. Now that is something that the guys at ZSL can learn from. Customer appreciation goes much further than straight up profit chasing.
The really special thing we noticed about Backyard came at the end as we went to leave – all the ‘aisles’ were filled where everyone had shifted together into what resembled a scene from a giant public sleepover. Genuine human closeness. You don’t see that too often in London!
Backyard Cinema, Camden
Cost for 2 people £30 (standard tickets) or optional ticket packages inc. £29pp (ticket + 2x drinks + Honest Burger)
Experience Cinema, Drive In Cinema @ Brent Cross
What could be more old school than a drive in cinema? Imagine pulling up to the big screen getting served nachos and popcorn by girls on roller skates as you tune in your radio and settle in to your car seats to watch, what is quite a good and current selection of films.
This was the premise that we based our expectations on for the Drive in cinema from Experience Cinema. But the vibe was seriously lacking. A vast car park on the side of the A406 really drained the soul from the event as you arrived. There was little to no buzz about the showing as we saw ourselves to our parking space and nipped to the porta loo’s before waiting for the film to start.
In their emails and on the website we were wowed by a partnership with Vitale Pizza delivery who would bring hot pizzas and pasta’s to our car to enjoy with the movie – or if we didnt fancy that then there was the cinema snack menu from Route66 Street Food with delicious burritos, nachos or tacos to eat from the comfort of our automobile.
We didnt even have dinner or bring food because all signs pointed to us stuffing ourselves at the drive in whilst enjoying the film. So imagine how much my empty stomach dropped when I rang Vitale Pizza Delivery with my order only to be told they dont deliver to the Experience Cinema Event. No explanation, no sorry, no fucking food. Absolutely gutted!
We watched as the car next to us pulled out a Vital menu and a mobile phone – trying to guess whether they had been shut down as sharply as we had.
No fear, we shall order from the inhouse snack menu of burritos and nachos we thought….
We thought wrong. All that was on offer was popcorn, haribo and minstrels. WTF.
Now it wasn’t the fact that the car next to us had brought along a family bag of Doritos to munch on that rubbed salt into our wounds, no, it was the fucking Vitale pizza delivery guy who turned up at their car with a hot pizza! I was straight on the phone to Vitale to ask why the had lied to me to be told that the neighbouring car must have ordered earlier on Friday (It was Sunday?!) and if we did want to order it would now be over 50 minutes. Clearly the perfect waiting time for a delivery company who are meant to be partnering with a cinema. No thanks.
Now it wasn’t ALL bad. The film (Maleficent) was good and clear to see. Experience Cinema have put on the best selection of films we’d say from all three that we visited with quite current titles. Our car was warm and the sound was great through the car stereo. But the Usherettes were clearly bored and at one point im sure one took off her skates and just trudged around the car park.
The tickets were fairly cheap though as they are priced per car rather than per person which is great.
We imagined something akin to a Secret Cinema experience – themed and full of theatrical vibes taking us back to a time when the Drive In was THe way to experience the flicks. But no, we got a mostly empty car park on the edge of the North Circular where we went very hungry. So if you do go, then make sure you stock up on food and dont bother getting out of your car and you cant fault it!
Drive In Cinema by Experience Cinema @ Brent Cross
Cost for one car £22.50 + £6 (popcorn + Minstrels)
We can hardly say who was the best cinema experience of 2014 as we haven’t been to them all! Tweet us your favourites or even write your own review if you like and we’ll publish it
But our fave of these three has to be Backyard Cinema who encapsulate the whole cinema experience in an affordable and enjoyable evening. They know their audience and we simply couldn’t fault it.