There was a time when the cinema was a new, exciting, must-visit sort of place. Those newfangled moving picture shows, where a pianist jingled and jangled along with the silent action on screen, must have been one heckola of an experience.
Needless to say, movies are still a multi-billion dollar business. The amount of money that changes hands whenever the Avengers trundle on off on some mission or other is just mind-boggling. This is one of the biggest industries on Earth, right here, there’s no denying.
Nevertheless, it’s also a painful fact that times have changed. In the spangly new age of 2018, watching online has become the new going to the movies. We live in an age where movie posters have to advertise the fact that Tom Hanks’ latest rom-com is ‘an experience worth paying for,’ because fewer people than ever are actually doing so.
I find this really dang sad. For me, a trip to the cinema is just that. An experience. It’s about more than just the film, it’s about seeing it the way it was meant to be seen: on a gigantic screen in a super-loud, sticky-floored cinema, accompanied by about a hundred darn wrapper-rustlers and coughers.
But those are just regular cinemas. True movie connoisseurs should watch in real style, at some of these theaters. Have you ever been given a complimentary foot massage while watching, or revelled in the spectacle of the largest imax screen on the planet? No? Then you need to check out this rundown of the world’s coolest cinemas.
20 Austin, Texas: A Whole New World
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is a US chain famous for two things. Firstly, for insisting that proper cinema etiquette is upheld by visitors at all times. Secondly, for giving said guests just that little bit more.
There are branches across the United States, but the location in Austin, Texas is particularly popular. There’s full table service (both before and during the movie), offering excellent food which can be ordered without disturbing other moviegoers. There’s also a free-to-play Donkey Kong arcade machine, pre-movie entertainment… just about anything you could hope for. There are no trailers here, just short movies before the features. As Slash Film reports, when it comes to atmosphere, Texas’s Alamo Drafthouse cannot be beaten.
19 A Sci-Fi Themed, Indoor Drive-In?
Maybe you’re more of a casual movie dabbler than a dedicated connoisseur. Whatever the case, I’m sure you know the basics of cinema. Right there on the very first page of Movie-Watching for Dummies, for instance, it states in bold face: drive-ins are outside.
Disney’s Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios, however, has no time for your close-minded logical ‘rules.’ This fantastic, impossible place is actually indoors, kitted out with car-shaped booths. As you watch the show, you can enjoy traditional fifties diner-style food. Like so many of Disney’s quirky attractions, the place is super, super popular, taking reservations up to 180 days in advance of your visit.
18 Budapest’s Classical, Beautiful Wondercinema
To make your movie-going experience truly memorable, it’s not always about amenities or quirky charm. Over in Budapest, they’re cutting out the fifties diner experience and booth shaped like classic cars in favour of something that’s classical in a totally different way.
The Urania National Film Theatre in Hungary is one of the most elegant and glorious cinemas you’ll ever see. It’s an awe-inspiring building, a tourist hotspot in its own right. The gorgeous nineteenth century architecture belies a contemporary experience, with screens showing both modern and classic movies. As you’d expect, prices can be steep, but this is a place to visit for the setting alone.
17 Perhaps The Most Awesome View In The World
Now, as a Brit, I can tell you that open-air cinemas always have a certain romantic allure to me. They’re unusual, exotic, because we just can’t pull off that sort of thing around here. What with the cold climate and the fact that the rainy season began in… oh, about the 1400s and hasn’t stopped since, there’s little call for open-air anything. Swimming pools? Heck no.
Over in Greece, however, they certainly know how it’s done. Cine Thisio is a world-renowned open-air cinema. Not only do they offer a magnificent view of the Acropolis, but this family-owned business also serves homemade snacks (The Travel Porter heartily recommends their signature sour cherry sweet preserve).
16 The Pula Arena: Cinema, Concert Hall and Priceless Roman Relic
As anyone who’s ever visited Rome will know, the legendary Colosseum is probably the most essential tourist attraction the city has to offer. As with the dinosaurs, so many of us retain a deep fascination for this bygone period. The Colosseum is a rite of passage for anyone remotely interested in Ancient history.
Next, we’re heading over to Croatia, where another Roman wonder lies. The Pula Arena is one of the largest and best preserved Roman amphitheatres remaining in the world; and is a popular location for all sorts of functions.
Professional ice hockey games have been played here, huge names like Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti have performed here, and it makes for one brilliant movie theater.
15 Norway’s Colosseum: Colossal-ness Confirmed
Up next on our world tour of the finest cinemas, we’re taking a look at a very different kind of colosseum. It may not have that ancient pedigree, but man is this place a sight to behold.
Colosseum Kino in found in Oslo, Norway. It is known for its distinctive dome, as well as the fact that it’s… well, really, really dang big. The aptly named building is Northern Europe’s largest cinema, the biggest THX theater in the whole world. The characteristic dome boasts a 40 meter diameter, which rivals that of the renowned St. Paul’s Basilica.
Needless to say, this is another cinema that qualifies as a tourist attraction in its own right.
14 Would You Like A Foot Massage With Your Movie?
Bangkok has always been a super colourful and popular tourist destination. On arrival there, you’re sure to have a whole array of different things on your itinerary. Amongst everything else, spending some time at the movie theater may not be much of a priority. Perhaps it should be, though.
One of the city’s more underrated selling points is its vibrant VIP cinema scene (for those that can afford such things, that is). The super-fancy Nokia Ultra Screen theater is famous for its social vibe, not to mention the fact that they offer complimentary foot massages during performances! That’s truly thinking of everything.
13 When Three Dimensions Just Aren’t Dang Enough
I don’t know if I’m just being one of those miserly old dinosaurs who can’t deal with new technology, but the concept of four dimensions has never really made sense to me. It’s a bit of a novelty, like one of those touristy shows they put on at big destinations in London.
Do we need to smell, feel and touch movies? I suppose that’s a personal decision. Those who are into that sort of thing are recommended to stop off at the 4DX Theatre at Seoul, South Korea. It’s the home of this sort of technology, as CNN Travel reported back in 2011, the largest cinema of its type.
12 When You Upgrade From Movie Theatre To Movie ‘Palace’
Ah, the movie palace. What magnificent buildings they were. Between the 1910s and 1940s there was trend for big, beautiful, lavishly-decorated movie theatres. Following the takeover of television (and the United States vs Paramount Pictures case in 1948), these ostentatious buildings largely closed.
Some remained, though, including San Francisco’s impressive Castro Theatre. Designated as an historical landmark, the theatre is one of the few operational and successful movie palaces remaining, boasting a leatherette ceiling (what did I tell you about the décor of these places?) that could be the very last remaining in the world. Now that’s an impressive claim to fame.
11 Lakeside Movies In Kosovo
Ah, yes. Now this is how it’s done. If you’ve ever sat in a slightly uncomfortable regular theatre chair, the smell of someone’s abandoned nachos wafting your way, you’ve probably yearned for something a little different. Even by the incredible standards of everything we’ve seen so far, this one certainly qualifies as different.
Peja, in Kosovo, is home to a very unique cinema experience. Here, you can sit out on the lake in the middle of the vast park, watching from the comfort (well, that part’s relative I suppose) of a small boat. This was the setting for last year’s Anibar International Animation Festival.
10 You Call That A Cinema Screen? THIS Is A Cinema Screen
As I’ve already noted, the world’s greatest cinemas are an eclectic bunch. There’s no one true criteria that unites them all. Sometimes, it’s the ambience, the historical significance of the building itself. Other times, it’s the great food, the comfortable seating, the atmosphere… any number of these things.
What does Prasads IMAX in Hyderabad, India have to offer? Well, that’s simple. Here’s the selling point: that’s one heckola of a big screen right there. At a mighty 95ft by 72ft, Prasads was home to the largest IMAX screen in the world. It lost that status last year, no longer being an IMAX theatre. Allegedly, this is simply due to the fact that it’s now just too big for the new digital xeon projectors that IMAX uses.
9 Artiness And Creativity In Spades At Uplink X
As was the case with Bangkok, movies may not be your number one priority when taking a trip to Tokyo. The Japanese capital is known for boasting a embarrassment of riches, with the kinds of shops, shows and cultural experiences you can’t get anywhere else on Earth.
Nevertheless, there are some fascinating movie theatres to enjoy, if you know where to look. Uplink X in Tokyo isn’t the biggest or flashiest of cinemas, but it offers a unique range of activities and shows an excellent variety of very special movies and shows. It’s a real gem, particularly for fans of documentaries and such.
8 Because It Doesn’t Get Much Sunnier Than Australia
Now, if the wide and beautiful country of Australia is known for anything, it’s for being just a little on the hot side. Just a teeny tad. As such, when they call a place Sun Pictures Cinema, it’s fair to expect a whole dang lot of sun. This had better be some kind of magical outdoor paradise.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what thsis Western Australian beauty offers. Located in Broome, the Sun Picture Gardens is the world’s oldest ‘picture garden’ that’s still running. Patrons take comfortable seats in deck chairs for the show, and can enjoy multiple movies in the same night (which is highly unusual for outdoor cinemas).
7 Macedonia’s Beautiful ‘Honorary Cinema’
Now, granted, we’re stretching the definition of cinema a little with this one. Macedonia’s Kurshumli An In Skopje doesn’t display a regular timetable of movies, as is generally the case with movie theatres. Regardless, it’s a frequent contender for more beautiful cinema in the world, and it’s not hard to see why.
Located in Skopje’s Old Bazaar, this incredible backdrop has been the home for a festival celebrating socially-important documentaries and movies since 2010. It may not be a movie theatre in the strictest sense, but I’d certainly be content to sit back and enjoy the latest Avengers outing right here.
6 The Ultimate In Bollywood Style
Crossing back over to India now, let’s take a look at what is possibly the very last word in Bollywood extravagance.
The Rajmandir Theatre is found in Jaipur. It’s a testament to the idea that you never got the cinema for the movie alone, but for the all-round experience. They’re called movie theatres, after all, and they sure do put on a show at the Rajmandir.
The incredible art deco architecture is a draw in and of itself, but the pantamime spirit of the whole thing and the interlude in the middle of the movie emphasise what movies are all about for me.
5 Shush, It’s A Secret
Ah, yes. Secret cinema. This is one for those who truly appreciate cinema. Who want something a little more than the usual multiplex experience. Sticky floors, a coughing epidemic, having to re-mortgage your house to be able to afford popcorn and a soda? Secret Cinema goes a couple of stages beyond the standard movie theatre experience.
Secret Cinema’s speciality is a live movie experience. For instance, when they showed Back to the Future, viewers watched from a backdrop of a recreated 1950s Hill Valley. They also do smaller-scale showings, at a location that is undisclosed prior to the event, as well as one-off screenings of auteur cinema.
4 Familiar, Yet Oh So Different
So, the previous entries have introduced us to places that kinda sorta fit the cinema description. You know, if you squint a little. They have conventional showings and such, but they’re also something totally different. They have a wider scope, more cultural significance, than just being simple theatres.
In other cases, the opposite is true. Take Belgium’s UGC De Brouckere, part of one of the country’s most popular cinema chains. Chain it may be, but this is something totally special. It’s notable for being easily accessible by public transport, and for its gorgeous art deco-style auditorium. This one’s a little more accessible for the average movie fan, yet still a real wonder in its own right.
3 Well, Fancy That Paris!
Paris’s Cinematheque Francais is the next stop on our world tour, and it’s another that treads that fine line we’ve spoken about. In a conventional sense, it’s absolutely a movie theatre, but it’s also a heaping helping more than that.
What we’re looking at here is an archive of movies and movie-related memorabilia. One of the world’s largest, at that. The more dedicated fans of the industry can spend hours on end here, enjoy the centre’s variety of schedules shows, movies and documentaries, as well as all the items on show. This one’s a real treat for movie buffs everywhere.
2 On The Rocks, In The Best Possible Way
Now, this? This is definitely something I can get behind. The magnificent Film On The Rocks, at Red Rocks, Colorado, was the result of a collaboration between the Denver Film Society and Denver Arts and Venues.
As the venue’s official website states, the concept was to provide an opportunity for everyone in the community to enjoy an affordable and unforgettable experience at the Red Rocks amphitheatre. The location offers music and other live shows as well as movies, and… well, you’d be hard pressed to find a more inspiring setting. This is what it looks like when nature itself wants to put on a show for you (not literally, we’re not talking about the Northern Lights or anything).
1 Five Stars for the chef
Right from the off, Cine-de chef had a lot to live up to. This Kathmandu, Nepal location was dubbed as the country’s first five star cinema, which… well, I don’t know about you, but where I come from, those are fighting words.
What does cine-de chef have to offer that your average Nepal cinema doesn’t, then? For starters (yep, that pun was intentional, thanks for noticing), the site boasts a built-in kitchen, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. Movies are shown on different screens across two sites, some of which offer leather sofas for patrons (which recline, naturally). This is how you really enjoy a movie in style.
Resources: Slash Film, Insider, Buzzfeed, Bored Panda, Insider, CNN Travel