For sitting quietly in a darkened room, films are a surprisingly good way of getting to know people – and London in particular is choc-a-bloc with interesting movie clubs for you to join. Which one to choose though? Deliberate not: we’ve laid out the complete guide to every possible cinematic configuration and permutation from which to pick. Enjoy obscure documentaries? We’ve found one. Want a group in the South East? Yeap, it’s here. Fancy watching your pictures with a glass of champagne? Tick. Here is our complete guide to London’s Film Clubs.
Cult films tend to be the genre of choice when it comes to movie clubs, and if you like your picture pleasures in the Tarantino & co. oeuvre, here is a selection to investigate. Out in Dalston, the hip-eclectic bar The Alibi runs regular events of all assortments, including a weekly Film Club and a Music Doc Club. Recent screenings have included Boyz in the Hood and Machete Kills, and there is also a semi-regular Jerry & Larry night (Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David) if you are feeling particularly acerbic. On the darker end of the cult scale is Cigarette Burns. This roaming group screens retro horror and thrillers exclusively on celluloid and has had dates in The Prince Charles, The Barbican and Regent Street Cinema. See their website for locations and film times. Also worth discovering is The Oval Space Cinema Club, a low-key monthly meet-up hosted just off Cambridge Heath. Films will range to the very arty, but many are cult films that aren’t popular enough to be cult yet!
Arthouse & Independent
For the serious cinephile, only a film club dedicated to the rarer screen delights will do – you can just go to a multiplex for anything else! If this sounds like you – and you know your Epsteins from your Eisensteins – this collection will fit the bill. British independent director Joanna Hogg founded a screening collective, A Nos Amours, in 2011 along with close friend and filmmaker Adam Roberts, and since then it has gone on to be a sleeper hit. The films shown tend to fit into the mould of European/Asian arthouse – a university film theory class’s termly “to watch” list, roughly speaking – but company and discussion will be some of the most devoted you will find in the capital. Not far behind is the excellently named Horse Hospital and its KinoKulture wing. This Bloomsbury terrace was once a stable and is now a multipurpose arts venue. On irregular nights they screen often perplexing avant-garde cinema, alongside challenging documentaries. Also check out the selection of events at Kennington’s Cinema Museum. Every Wednesday an old classic is shown for you to discover: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, movies dug up from the archive of the museum’s vaults.
Going more independent still, The Close-up Film Centre in Shoreditch is a hive of rare film – stuff even seasoned Sight & Sound readers are unlikely to recognise. It’s more of a cinema than a film club and screenings (sometimes multiple screenings) happen every day, but if you are just dead set on seeing something utterly unique, Close-Up will not do you wrong. Finally, Kino London is London’s open mic night for film. Anyone can submit their short film to this monthly event, and filmmakers get up on stage and advocate their masterpieces in person. It’s the ultimate meet-and-greet club for those looking to make contacts.
Stepping away from the alt-grunge and into the high-life, lots of restaurants and hotels are now setting up experience film nights in their purpose-built mini-cinemas. The Soho Hotel has one of the city’s most luxurious screening rooms, and you can come down to their Sunday showings and have a meal and a glass of champagne alongside your curated picture. Movies tend to be recent releases a month or two behind their opening – so if you are looking to catch up, this is doing it in style. Not dissimilar is the Roxy Bar & Screen. Food is cheaper and films are more regular (almost every night), but it’s still high dining with a movie. Last of the fancy few, keep an eye out for the Gaucho Film Club. This, the classiest of Argentine restaurants, does film-themed immersive events. Past screenings have included Pulp Fiction and Cocktail – you can imagine how fun this could be. They are expensive, but a totally unique experience.
Most of the clubs mentioned so far have been in Central or North London. If you want something closer to your south-of-the-river home, here are a few for you. To the south-west, Wimbledon Film Club is a hugely popular fortnightly event. Movies are a total mix – everything from 1970s classics to last week’s fad – and company is similarly varied. Guest speakers also come down from time to time to do intros and Q&As. Moving east and the SE1 Community Film Club runs irregular screenings. Venues are occasionally grand – the Tate Modern, anyone? – and the films are often underrated gems. One to check out if you’re a Southwark local. There’s also Stanley’s Film Club, a regular Wednesday screening out in Norwood. It’s sponsored by the BFI and Film Hub London, so it’s got clout behind the scenes. Expect crowd-pleasers and the odd unknown treat. You could also go to Beckenham’s Langley FilmBox – another BFI sponsored club – for more similarly mainstream affair.
A Bit o’ Everything
If we’ve still not sparked your film-going imagination, here are a last, miscellaneous few. The BBC has a film club (who knew?). They have screenings of big openings often around the time of release and prices are cheap. You have to be a member to go along, and booking in advance is a must – but once you’re a member you can also attend their Film Club Workshops and try your hand behind the camera as well. For kids, The Barbican has a specialist movie group of children’s favourites. Pixar, Mary Poppins, Studio Ghibli: these weekly screenings show all the best stuff – if only it was ok for adults to go along! Lastly, The London Movie Meet-up Group on MeetUp is a good place to be to keep up-to-date with. The club organise regular trips to the cinema and anyone can join in by RSVPing. They have 17,000 members (!) and being one of them is as easy as can be.