showcasing the best of the south west
Top 10 Independent Cinemas in the SW

Top 10 Independent Cinemas in the SW

The Electric Palace, Bridport, Dorset

This 1920s art deco picture house stood empty for years until a local family took it on and reinvented it as a cool new arts centre. Think gorgeous architecture and a quirky vintage décor – they kept the ancient velvet curtains, floral murals and Bob Hope portrait -  but in every other respect the Electric Palace is bang up to date. Latest developments include a massive cinema screen and Dolby surround sound and listings always include a mix of the latest big budget movies (Star Wars of course) with handpicked arthouse. It holds live screenings from the National Theatre and previously a satellite screening from the Met Opera in New York. Every April the venue hosts Bridport’s brilliant film festival From Page to Screen, featuring novel adaptions and talks from authors and screen writers. Prices are ridiculously cheap, cinema tickets from £4 and the environment is wonderful. This one’s a treat.

The Barn Cinema, Dartington, Devon

Housed in a barn on the beautiful Dartington Estate near Totnes, the cinematic experience takes a luxury turn. Kick off with a pre-film pint or supper at The White Hart, the estate’s gastro pub then wander (two minutes) to this lovely 16th century barn.  Films are handpicked, think less blockbuster, more cerebral.  Kate Winslet in The Dressmaker, Steve Jobs, Sunset Song, The Danish Girl.  Regular screenings of opera, theatre and ballet including (28 Jan) Les Liaisions Dangereuses live from the National Theatre.  In summer The Barn holds an Outdoor Film Festival with weekly screenings near the old tennis courts and there are family are looked after too with a bill selected for Barn Kids.

The Curzon, Clevedon, Somerset

Steeped in history , The Curzon (main image above) opened in April 1912 and its very first screening was a fund raiser for relatives of those who drowned on The Titanic. A beautiful red brick art deco building with the Curzon lit up in neon, the interior has crimson walls studded with tin tiles and a 1930s organ which is sometimes played by volunteers. Revamped thanks to Lottery funding and staffed by volunteers, this atmospheric old picture house now shows the latest blockbusters alongside old classics, foreign language and artsy flicks and hosts quirky events like Brief Encounter day and the Grease Drive Through. Prices are cheap and there’s even a bar – cinema how it used to be.

Watershed, Bristol

You won’t find a cooler cinematic venue in the West Country than this one. Housed in a Grade 11 listed harbourside building, Watershed was one of the country’s first media centres and 30 years on it still has the feel of new-age cinema. There are 3 cinema screens and a programme which covers the mainstream alongside the cutting edge and offbeat. Just the place to bring your geeky, pseudo intellectual date. Brilliant sound, comfortable seating, warmth and an interesting bill plus a fantastic café. Film nights including supper available for a wallet busting £15. Great bars and restaurants down by the harbour too.

Little Theatre, Bath, Somerset
Much loved art deco theatre which shows the latest films alongside arthouse, foreign language, kids movies. There’s a Silver Screen club and discounted tickets for the over 60s, Discover Tuesdays billing arthouse, a cult classic or a documentary and coming soon (16 Feb) Ted 16 DREAM, a screening hosted by TED’s curator Chris Anderson featuring artists, thinkers and storytellers discussing the greatest dreams. Gorgeous venue with great billing.

Plaza Cinema, Truro, Cornwall

The Plaza, a 1930s art deco picture house, goes the extra mile with its billing. You’ll find the latest blockbusters (Daddy’s Home, The Revenant, Creed) alongside satellite screenings from the Royal Opera House (the Bolshoi doing Taming of the Shrew), the National Theatre (Les Liaisons Dangereuses and As You Like it). Four screens, masses of choice, good seats and sound and the film critic Mark Kermode gives talks here from time to time.

The Tivoli, Tiverton, Devon

It’s such a worry The Tivoli, always on the brink of closure. Helen Mirren headed a campaign to save The Tivoli a few years back and now it looks like it’s under threat from developers again. Go while you still can to experience this tiny old school cinema which recently upgraded to digital and 3D and always offers the latest billings.  Find The Tivoli at 32 Fore St, Tiverton EX16 6LD phone 01884 2555554

Cube Cinema, Bristol, Somerset

Full blown artsy, hippy dippy credentials, the Cube is a microplex cinema which was set up by a group of artists, AKA “idealists, amateurs, fools, material positivists, stilt walkers, film directors, screen writers, occultists.’ You get the picture, no pun intended. Staffed by volunteers alongside regular film screenings  the Cube also presents cabaret, music, discussions, amateur film making nights, comedy, performance art. It’s run as a not for profit worker’s co-op, holds kids workshops, baby screenings, sells its own recipe Coca Cola (the real thing being the Devil’s Work, of course), feral trade coffee shipped in from Central America and the Cube even sent volunteers to Haiti to screen films for earthquake survivors. Cheap and wholesome and entirely free for asylum seekers. Only in Bristol. Love it.

The Phoenix
, Falmouth, Cornwall 

Part of the (independently owned) Merlin chain in Cornwall, The Phoenix has 5 screens, shows all the latest flicks (it’s all here from Joy to The Hateful Eight to Star Wars), live classical screenings and an interesting blend of arthouse. Big, comfortable seats, a great bar and cheap Tuesdays to keep the student population happy.

The Westway, Frome, Somerset

A word for The Westway in Frome. Yes you’ll sometimes need to keep your coat on, yes the loos are the opposite of flash and it’s a little grimy but The Westway is also cheap as chips and brilliantly old school, in a blink and you’re back in the Seventies kind of way. Sweets, drinks and popcorn are sold from a tiny kiosk – bottles of pop, little cups of popcorn, Mars Bars, pints of beer. Arrive early and you can grab a booth with a table.  Places like this are virtually extinct. Plus they show the latest movies – Star Wars, The Danish Girl, the Hateful Eight. In the spirit of arthouse you can also catch the best classical screenings – pre-book now for Richard Eyre’s La Traviata from the Royal Opera House and the Bolshoi’s Taming of the Shrew.  A step back in time with old fashioned prices – tickets are a fiver – but you’ll need to take a sense of humour with you.

Lynton Cinema, Lynton, North Devon

And now for the truly quirky, this tiny 68 seater opened in 2001 in a converted Methodist chapel. Seats are comfortable there are two performances a day, one matinee, one evening and a vast screen with Dolby surround sound. In a village with a population of 2000 it's kind of crazy which is what we like about it.

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