Free evening? Visit one of south London’s secret cinemas

Earlier this week, our north of the river sister site, Kentishtowner, tapped into a hot topic in their neck of …

garrison screening roomEarlier this week, our north of the river sister site, Kentishtowner, tapped into a hot topic in their neck of the woods: KT has no local cinema, and the website is campaigning to get one. The northsiders’ campaign was sparked by the impending closure of NW5’s Pizza Express, as the grade II listed building it is in would – they reckon – make for an excellent celluloid appreciation space. You can read all about it over at Kentishtowner and, judging from all the reader comments the story is generating, we really should feel ourselves lucky here below the river.

Why? For we are spoilt for choice for places to watch movies out. Aside from delights like annual outdoor screenings in Brockwell Park (if the rain holds off, we’ll be at the one happening this weekend), and local free film festivals, we also – in Clapham, Brixton and Greenwich – have our beloved Picturehouses. But there are also many other, tinier, more off-beat and often little-known cinema screens in Lambeth and Southwark. Here’s our pick of the best – and we’re sure you’ll have a few more to throw in too. Do let us know about them. Meanwhile…

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Credit Photo: Paul Winch-Furness / Garrison
The little basement room downstairs at this renowned Bermondsey gastropub (main image and above) is a joy. Beautifully decorated with white wood panelling, antique plates on bare brick walls and old glass bottles, backlit to twinkly effect, the space is calming, stylish spot. A curved banquette around the back wall sits about 20, with pretty tables and chairs dotted elsewhere. Each Sunday they host free evening screenings from 7.30pm – they’ll even throw in the popcorn, though you can also order food and drinks from the pub upstairs to eat as you watch. This month you’ve got some Richard Curtis, while next month it’s Tarantino season. You can also hire it out with a group of friends – just bring the DVD of your choice. Follow them on Twitter for updates on screenings.
99-101 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB. Tel: 020 7089 9355 @TheGarrisonSE1
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whirled cinemaWhirled Cinema
Tucked down a graffitied alleyway under the railway arches in Loughborough Junction is a real south London gem. Whirled Cinema is a top-floor, bare-brick walled space with a little outdoor area and a corner bar which can be hired out as a rehearsal room and for parties (we’ve been to some really good ones there). But its core purpose is to screen cool movies – specifically arthouse and indy films. It seats 60 on lovely old wooden pews, and you can order pizza at the bar. Become a member for £65 a year and go (with a guest) to screenings for no additional cost, or pay as you go for £8 or £10. Films are usually shown Wednesdays-Sundays and right now the excellently dark comic Brit flick, Sightseers, is on.
259-260 Hardess Street, London SE24 0HN. Tel: 020 7737 6153. Email:
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shortwave cinema roomShortwave Cinema
Back in SE1, this teeny but brilliantly formed independent cinema and bar – opened in 2009 – is part of the slightly patchy Bermondsey Square development, which always feels a little half-finished to us. Nevertheless it is a great spot on a summer’s evening, away from the throngs of Bermondsey Street and Borough Market up the road, and the light-filled cinema bar will keep you cosy in the winter. The screening room is wee (it sits 52) but proper, with real cinema seats arranged on a slope and surround sound. Films veer towards the arthouse or classic and there is also a focus on promoting emerging film talent – but that doesn’t rule out some mainstream movies too. This month, they’re showing The Look of Love, I’m so Excited and Star Trek: Into Darkness.
10 Bermondsey Square, SE1 3UN. Tel: 020 73576845 @shortwavefilms
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Montpelier pubThe Montpelier
This recently revamped Peckham boozer has a door at the back of the bar you could easily miss. Behind it is a mini cinema. It seats just 30 (again on wooden pews, so you might want to bring a cushion) and tickets for their 6.30pm or 8.30pm Monday, Wednesday and Sunday night films are £3.50 (that soooo beats the big pricey multiplexes doesn’t it?). You’ve just missed the creepy thriller, Compliance, and upcoming is Doin it in the Park, an american basketball documentary. There are also some short films courtesy of the Flat Pack Cinema residency, and a bit of 1970s Warren Beatty in a free showing of The Parallax View.
43 Choumert Road, SE15 4AR. Tel: 020 7635 9483 @montpelierpub

Words: Kate Burt

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  • Louise Perry

    Whirled Cinema is amazing – and in such an unassuming spot underneath those railway arches. I particularly like walking past the garage with it’s bizarre collection of freakish dolls on the wall – you don’t get this sort of thing at the multiplex!

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