The return of the ‘pop-up’ cinema

By December 2, 2015

Film, TV & Tech.


Photo credit: Christian Kremer

The outdoor/ pop-up cinema has fast become a world-wide phenomenon over the last few years, with Facebook events inviting people to ‘Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s under the stars’ inundating people’s newsfeeds and notifications on a regular basis. What is particularly interesting is that this is anything but a ‘new’ trend. There is a reason why so many of the films that are screened are deemed as ‘old-school’: they are the films that would have actually been screened in such venues back in the 1950s and 60s. Rather than being a new trend, it’s actually more of a homage to the past.

Drive-in cinemas became most popular in the 1950s and 60s in America, and were particularly suited to families wanting to look after their children, but also those seeking a romantic spot to enjoy a film. These days it seems like more of an attempt to recreate the past, driven from a nostalgia for the outdoors and the fresh air. It says a lot about our current cultural climate that the next step after 3D cinemas and Netflix is actually to regress to a tradition that was popular over fifty years ago.


Yet, whatever viewpoint you take in regards to the implications of this, there is something undeniably magical about being able to wrap up in a warm blanket with a mug of hot choc under the stars (theoretically anyway, perhaps not in the city) and enjoy an old classic. As well as the feeling of community these events create, there is something more…after all, you could argue that there is a sense of community that comes from sitting in the cinema with 50 + people. I think it’s more to do with a fascination for the past and a desire to recreate it, or at least feel like we are in some way part of it. It’s not dissimilar to the certain charm that authentic vintage shops possess, or the 21st century obsession with doing everything possible to ‘create’ them.

The nature of these events beg a special occasion to go alongside them, and this is something that companies are more than aware of, letting NO opportunity for a good old film screening pass them by. Summer was the perfect time, given the rare possibility of actually being able to sit outside, in ENGLAND, with less than 3 layers on. However, it’s not only outside. The nature of the pop-up cinema is that it really is able to ‘pop up’ anywhere. With Christmas approaching I’ve spotted several events taking advantage of the potential for the multi-sensory experience that cinema can offer.

Check out this website to see some of the festive events that are coming up over the Christmas period with London-based company Pop up Screens.


Whatever your opinion on the ‘Love Actually-is-the-best-Christmas-film-out-there’ debate (that isn’t even a thing but I feel strongly about it, so – for the purpose of this – it’s a well-known debate) you would be massively missing out not to make the most of the chance to get yourself down to London and sit in the gorgeous 20th century theatre in Notting Hill whilst gazing up at Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. And, let’s be honest here, Bill Nighy. You can scoff, but I dare you to even try and hold back those tears when you’re met with Joni Mitchell’s voice and Emma Thompson’s face…(this felt familiar, then I realized I’ve self-plagiarised myself here. Just take it as a reiteration of what I am trying to say.)


To summarise – whether you think cinema is all just a big commercialised scam and you would rather sit at home in the dark watching Netflix (don’t get me wrong – this is me on a regular basis down to sheer lack of funds) or you think it’s the best thing out there – you should also check out Sneaky Experience. They are based in the Leeds area and put on some amazing events at locations such as the undeniably beautiful Kirkstall Abbey. Sneaky Experience go above and beyond simply screening films in inventive locations, instead creating a thoroughly immersive environment through the use of actors, set, music, and dance. We also have a profile on them here, so check that out too.

Happy watching!

By Malak El-Gonemy