Open air entertainment: the UK’s best outdoor cinemas
Socially distant cinematic experiences are popping up all over the country, from stately homes to forests
Tinside Lido, Plymouth
Plymouth Arts Cinema is returning to the Tinside Lido from 4 June. The booking system goes live on 1 June, with Oscar-winning blockbusters such as Nomadland, The Father and Sound of Metal tipped to be on the programme. The stunning lido, which overlooks the sea in Plymouth harbour, is consistently voted in the top 10 of Europe's outdoor pools (a quick dip before the screening comes highly recommended).
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Fancy watching a film from the grounds of Blenheim Palace, the 18th century UNESCO World Heritage Site featured in Spectre, Cinderella and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? From 6 May, the Luna Drive In Cinema is returning to the palace grounds and visitors can enjoy watching a movie on the big screen from the comfort of their cars. Dirty Dancing, Back to the Future and Pulp Fiction are some of the classics on the schedule. Hot food will be available on site and Luna Hampers, which are packed with “retro” treats, can also be pre-ordered.
Goodwood Motor Circuit, West Sussex
The iconic Goodwood Motor Circuit, the only classic circuit in the world to remain entirely in its original form, is also being transformed into an open air cinema this summer. Films on the programme include Jurassic Park, Star Wars: A New Hope and (unsurprisingly) Rush. The culinary offerings include burgers, hot dogs, waffles and “munch boxes” provided by Bella’s BBQ.
Roof East, London
Arrive early to bag the best seats at Roof East, the open air cinema on the top of the Stratford Centre Car Park. Order hot food from East Side Pizza and Cheeky Burger via an app direct to your deckchair, as well as classic cinema snacks like popcorn. Programme highlights include Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, a new documentary about the extraordinary teenager, as well as Moulin Rouge! and The Breakfast Club.
Streatham Common, London
From 11-13 June, pop-up cinema company Adventure Cinema is taking over Streatham Common, the large open space on the southern edge of Lambeth. The programme features classics adored by adults and kids alike, from The Lion King to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - as well as a Grease sing-a-long. BYO blankets!
Pembrey Country Park, Carmarthenshire
Over the weekend of 24-25 July, Pembrey Country Park in southern Wales will become the site of two sunset cinema screenings: The Greatest Showman and Dirty Dancing. Open Air Film & Chill has organised the two showings, advising that guests bring suitable clothing “for the elements”.
Hopetoun House, Edinburgh
The 17th century Hopetoun House, one of Scotland’s finest stately homes, will host two major movie events during the final weekend of May. From 28-30 of the month, all the Harry Potter movies and the entire Batman trilogy will be screened against the transformed backdrop of the spectacular estate.
Royal Windsor Racecourse, Windsor
On the River Thames and in the shadow of Windsor Castle is the Royal Windsor Racecourse, one of only two figure-of-eight courses found in the UK - and now home to a pop-up outdoor cinema. This May, visitors can enjoy screenings of Dirty Dancing and The Greatest Showman, kicking off post-sunset at 9.30pm. Hot food, snacks and alcohol are available on site.
Tatton Park, Cheshire
For the ultimate cinema-under-the-stars experience, the historic estate of Tatton Park couldn’t tick more boxes. The Cheshire-based National Trust estate (not far from Manchester) spans more than 1,000 acres and contains a mansion, medieval hall, farm and deer park. Book now to catch recent films including Jojo Rabbit, Rocketman and Knives Out.
Let’s Go Hydro, Belfast
The family-friendly Let’s Go Hydro resort in Belfast now has a multi-screen drive-in cinema for socially distant entertainment purposes. The £24 per car ticket price includes pizza, popcorn, soft drinks and the movie, making this open air cinema one of the UK’s most affordable.
Watergate Bay, Cornwall
From July to September, the Wavelength Drive-in Cinema is returning, bringing family favourites, cult classics and iconic surf flicks (hello Blue Crush) to a stunning clifftop location overlooking Watergate Bay on Cornwall’s northern coast. As well as having a fantastic selection of films to choose from, the site has an exciting line-up of food providers, as well as live entertainment from local artists.
Alexandra Palace, London
Enjoy panoramic views from the new drive-in cinema at Alexandra Palace (better known as Ally Pally), the iconic Grade II-listed building which is one of the highest points in London. Films - including Queen and Slim, Up and Mean Girls - are projected onto a 40-foot “screen” and guests are provided with personal digital speakers. Food and drinks are offered via an app system and delivered to cars either on roller skates or by scooter.
Lime Lane Woods, Nottingham
What could be more atmospheric than a screening of The Blair Witch Project, The Woman in Black or The Cabin in the Woods hosted in the heart of an actual forest? Sunset Cinema Club has set up shop in Lime Lane Woods on the edge of Sherwood Forest (the home of Robin Hood). Not all films on the programme are scary ones; Frozen and Shrek are playing too.
Bar Elba, London
Bar Elba, a stone’s throw from Waterloo station, has revived its rooftop cinema. Guests are provided with an individual set of headphones for a fully immersive cinematic experience. Popcorn and Prosecco are available more or less on tap, perfect for accompanying films like Sex and the City and Bridget Jones.
Big Screen in the Park, Exeter
Exeter's ancient Northernhay Gardens, which was quarried in Roman times for stone, is being transformed into an open air cinema this August. The film programme is yet to be confirmed but it's worth keeping an eye on this cinema as tickets are free of charge (but need to be booked in advance).