It wouldn't be summer in London without an onslaught of pop-up outdoor cinemas and rooftop film screenings. Whether you're into classic flicks or the newest releases, check out where you can get your al fresco film fix in summer 2023.
1. Rooftop Film Club 2023: Peckham and Stratford
King of the summer cinema scene Rooftop Film Club brings screenings to rooftops in Peckham (Bussey Building) and Stratford (Roof East) again this year.
RFC's winning formula involves mixing cult classics (Anchorman, Trainspotting, Clueless) with new releases (Rye Lane — which you can watch in the eponymous location, Cocaine Bear, The Whale) and perennial favourites (Mamma Mia!, The Notebook).
Food and drink is available from well-stocked bars and carefully-selected food vendors (Share a Slice pizza in Peckham, and a selection of traders at Roof East in Stratford). No rustling, please.
New for 2023 is an LED screen at the Peckham venue, meaning films can be shown during the day as well as at sundown. This means more family-friendly daytime screenings at weekends and during school holidays. Speaking of family, Peckham is a dog-friendly venue, with (well-behaved) canine companions welcome at all screenings.
Our recommendation? Head for the Bussey Building in Peckham for seriously impressive views over the London skyline at sunset.
Rooftop Film Club 2023. From 28 April at Roof East (Stratford) and from 1 May at Bussey Building (Peckham). Schedules and tickets are released around a month at a time.
2. Adventure Cinema 2023: multiple London venues
Touring outdoor movie screen Adventure Cinema rattles around the UK at a whiplash-inducing rate, swinging from Ayrshire to Plymouth and, thankfully for us, making a couple of pitstops in London — at rather beautiful venues to boot.
It's a fairly standard outdoor cinema set-up — bring your own picnic chair or blanket (unless you've splashed out for VIP tickets) to watch classic and newish releases (Elvis, Dirty Dancing, Top Gun: Maverick) in stately surroundings.
Most venues have food and drink stalls on-site, but you can bring your own picnic/snacks if you prefer. Alcohol rules vary between venues so check before you pack the vino.
3. Free open-air film screenings at Merchant Square, Paddington
Each year the open-air screen next to Paddington Basin plays popular films, which anyone can turn up and watch for free. Deckchairs and bean bags are provided (though you'll have to get there in plenty of time to bag one) or you can bring your own picnic blanket, though note that bringing your own chair or other furniture isn't allowed. The Merchant Square outdoor cinema has a bar selling nachos, churros, ice cream and the like, as well as cocktails for adults.
As for the programme? It begins with a special Mental Health Awareness Week screening of 2015 Pixar animated feature Inside Out (18 May) followed by Mean Girls, The Devil Wears Prada, and other outdoor cinema classics throughout August and September.
Outdoor cinema at Merchant Square, Paddington. 18 May-13 September 2023. FREE.
4. Lower Marsh Lates... at the Movies, Waterloo
Wa-wa-wa-Waterloo is the place to head for singalong outdoor film screenings this summer, beginning with (what else?) Mamma Mia.
On the last Thursday of every month, May-September, a large screen and deckchairs are installed on Lower Marsh, for free screenings of Mamma Mia, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray and Grease. Live entertainers from VAULT Festival are on hand to entertain you before the film begins, and drinks are available from local bars.
Lower Marsh Lates... at the Movies. FREE, 25 May-28 September.
5. The Luna Cinema 2023: multiple London venues
Combine cinema with sightseeing courtesy of The Luna Cinema. It brings its outdoor screenings to some of London's most spectacular venues. This year's London locations are (deep breath): Kew Gardens, Dulwich Park, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Westminster Abbey, Clapham Common, Marble Hill, Kenwood, Chiswick House, Wandsworth Park, and Wimbledon Park... That's some pretty swoonworthy architecture to admire — just try to keep your eyes on the screen.
Luna Cinema doesn't provide seats, so bring your own blankets, picnic chairs and the like. Each venue has a bar and food and drink stalls, and some venues will allow you to bring your own picnic in (no alcohol, glass, or sharp cutlery), but rules vary so check when you buy your tickets.
Every summer cinema staple you can think of is on the programme — Grease, Frozen, Moulin Rouge, Some Like It Hot — as well as newer releases such as Top Gun: Maverick and Everything, Everywhere All At Once.
Luna Cinema 2023. 14 June-14 September.
6. Screen on the Canal, Granary Square, King's Cross
Everyman Screen on the Canal returns to the canalside steps at Granary Square in King’s Cross with a
full programme of blockbusters, family favourites and cult classics. Films are screened during the day and evenings, and the screen also shows sporting events such as Wimbledon. It's free and unticketed, but always popular so worth arriving in plenty of time to get a prime spot on the steps.
Everyman Screen on the Canal, Granary Square, King's Cross. 22 June-6 August 2023. FREE.
7. Movie Nights at Canary Wharf
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In the past, outdoor film screenings in Canary Wharf have felt like an afterthought, following a summer of cricket, F1 and Wimbledon screenings. But it's all change for 2023, with weekly (and free!) Movie Nights kicking off in June. Films include Bend It Like Beckham, Black Panther and Kinky Boots — shown on the big screen in Canada Square Park
Additionally, on selected Saturdays throughout the summer, Family Film Club screenings show U and PG rated films including Sing, Encanto, Toy Story and Paddington. Top tip if you take the kids to this: there's a free and very colourful mini golf course nearby where you can let off steam afterwards.
All Canary Wharf screenings are free and on a first come first served basis, so get there early to bag a good spot. Bring your own picnic blanket, and drinks and snacks — or pick up food from one of the nearby shops and cafes.
8. Kew The Movies at Kew Gardens
Enjoy five days of film screenings in Kew Gardens courtesy of Luna Cinema, with morning, afternoon and evening events — ideal for school holiday entertainment. The daytime screenings are family-friendly films including The Little Mermaid, Moana and Encanto, while the evenings are more for adults — think Top Gun: Maverick and Star Wars: A New Hope.
Kew The Movies 2023. 30 August-3 September 2023.