Sun screen: the best outdoor cinemas in London

Zoe Gunn

24 June 2021

Soak up the rays in front of your favourite film at the finest rooftop and al fresco cinemas in the capital

24 June 2021 | Zoe Gunn

Returned to the cinema post-lockdown? No, us neither. Even if opting for the most luxurious set-up, the thought of sitting inside a darkened room with dozens of strangers, mandatory masks spoiling any snacking opportunities, doesn’t exactly make a trip to the cinema quite seem appealing right now.

The exception to the rule? Outdoor cinemas. Whether showing new releases or old favourites, there are few better ways to pass a sunny afternoon than basking in the rays while watching a favourite film – no masks necessary. And, if it happens to rain? Well, there’s no greater British pastime than stubbornly persevering with an outdoor event under umbrellas and raincoats. Read on for our guide to the outdoor cinemas that promise a screening to remember…

Roof East, Stratford

Found on top of a multi-storey car park conveniently located opposite Westfield Stratford City, Roof East is home to multiple bars, street food vendors, a crazy golf course, batting cages and lawn bowls, as well as an open air cinema, making it the perfect destination if you’re looking to make a day of your outing. Screenings are organised by the specialist Rooftop Film Club, so expect a slick operation complete with comfy deck chairs and a huge variety of films. This year’s line-up features newer releases as well as classics, including Judas and the Black Messiah, Grease, Moonlight and Casablanca.

Tickets from £15.95, roofeast.com

Luna Cinema, various locations

Popping up at no fewer than 17 London locations throughout the summer, including Kensington Palace, Victoria Tower Gardens and Westminster Abbey, Luna Cinema is the capital’s most expansive outdoor cinema operation. Promising giant HD screens and state-of-the-art sound systems, this year’s offering includes Knives Out, The Greatest Showman, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! Guests are welcome to bring their own picnic, while each venue also offers a range of food and drink options from local suppliers, such as Pulled, Mr Crepe, Mr Greek and The Tin Canteen. For the full experience book the Luna Luxe Sofa package, which includes entry for two, premium sofa seating in a prime position, an outdoor heater, blankets and an ice cream and bubbles hamper.

Tickets from £16.50, thelunacinema.com

Bussey Building, Peckham

Another summer screening offering created by the Rooftop Film Club, the cinema atop the Bussey Building in Peckham has been around long enough to become many Londoners' go-to for al fresco entertainment. Start your evening with a drink at the Bussey Rooftop Bar – the views across south London make this one of the city’s best spots for a sundowner – before retiring to your deck chair to enjoy the show. Download the app and pizza, popcorn and drinks can be delivered directly to your seat so you don’t have to miss a minute of the show. Our picks from this year’s line-up include A Quite Place Part II, Independence Day, Almost Famous and House Party.

Tickets from £15.95, rooftopfilmclub.com

Summer Love Film Festival, King’s Cross

As part of its wide-ranging summer events series, King’s Cross will be hosting free open air screenings in collaboration with Everyman on Regent’s Canal from 1-25 July. As well as a host of blockbuster films, including Toy Story, Men in Black, Mean Girls and Jurassic Park, visitors will also be able to watch live tennis from Wimbledon, as well as the latest action from the Tour de France. Plenty of food and drink options are available in nearby Coal Drop’s Yard (picnics are also allowed) and, while tickets are not necessary, guests numbers are limited so be sure to turn up in plenty of time to secure your spot.

Free, kingscross.co.uk

Summer on Screen, Wembley

As part of its Summer of Play programme, Wembley Park will be hosting Summer on Screen, a series of free al fresco film screenings. Hosted across five weekends starting from 29 July, 18 family-friendly favourites are on offer, including Hamilton, Bend It Like Beckham and an array of Bollywood classics, such as Manmarziyaan. Picnics are welcome but, with local takeaway food options including Pasta Remoli, Bun House, Spice Shack and The Clean Kitchen, you’ll be spoilt for choice for some seriously special cinema snacks.

Free, wembleypark.com

Openaire Cinema, Paddington

Undoubtedly London’s most unique outdoor cinema experience, Openaire does away with standard seating, swapping picnic blankets and deck chairs for, um, boats. Described as being akin to a drive-in cinema, the ‘float-in’ concept sees guests kitted out with a boat for up to eight people plus headphones to provide you with top quality sound. Simply pick up your boat and navigate your way though the waters of Little Venice down to Merchant Square in Paddington. Once arrived, boats remain moored throughout the screening, so you’ll have access to land for the duration. This summer’s films include Joker, Jaws, Mamma Mia! and The Greatest Showman while dishes from RaviOllie, Häagen-Dazs and the on-site bar can be ordered directly to your boat.

£248.40 for an eight-person boat, openaire.com

Hideaway Cinema, various locations

Hideaway Cinema will be stopping at various beauty spots in the capital, including Kew Gardens, Hampstead Heath and Hendon Park, this summer as it takes its annual tour around the country. Specialising in the latest releases, this year’s movie offering includes Lin Manuel Miranda’s new musical In The Heights, as well as Cruella, The Father and Space Jam: A New Legacy (alongside a host of old favourites). A concessions tent offers cinema classics, such as popcorn, hot chocolate and nachos, while more substantial food and drink options are offered by a roster of local vendors that change for each venue.

Tickets from £15.99, hideawaycinema.com

Read more: The new films and TV shows to stream this summer