The best alternative cinema experiences

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The notion that films must be screened in a dank, sticky-carpeted multiplexes staffed by pale indifferent teenagers is becoming old hat. Unshackled from the chains of the cinema chains, a new breed of ‘experiential’ cinema screenings is offering spectacular outdoor locations, immersive ephemeral experiences, ample opportunities for fancy dress, and – in at least one case – naked jacuzzis. Here’s our pick of the most interesting cinemas to break the multiplex mould this summer.

Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later

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It might be a bit more of an open secret these days, but when it comes to immersive cinema, Secret Cinema still leads the pack. They’ve mounted ambitious productions of Back To The Future and The Shawshank Redemption; now the live cinema pioneers turn their attentions to Danny Boyle’s modern horror classic 28 Days Later. Taking place in an abandoned London warehouse converted into a post-apocalyptic medical facility of the damned, it’s an evening of infectious panic, military barking, zombie peril, and occasional assaults on your wallet. The end is nigh – which is to say, the current run finishes in two weeks.

Until May 29; from £40.

Hot Tub Cinema

Alternative cinema Have you ever watched a film and thought, “This is all well and good, but what I really need to complete this cinematic experience is a continuous jet of warm water blasted onto my naked body”? That’s the logic behind Hot Tub Cinema, which abandons normal cinema conventions – and most of your dignity – for a raucous bikini-’n’-speedos party atmosphere. (It’s no surprise that the team has set up shop in Ibiza). This year’s programme is yet to be announced but previous summers have seen screenings of Hot Tub Time Machine (naturally), Pulp Fiction, and the hopefully-not-literal Free Willy.

Details TBC.

Nomad Cinema

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Perhaps the only thing more terrifying than watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is watching it in a cemetery, with real birds (presumably) lurking nearby. This is the tantalisingly scary opportunity offered by The Nomad Cinema, one of several cleverly relevant open-air screenings organised by the non-profit venture. London’s Brompton Cemetery will also host Hitchcock’s Psycho and Charles Laughton’s The Night Of The Hunter; while Hyde Park Lido will host screenings of Jaws and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich provides an appropriately opulent backdrop for Marie Antoinette and Orlando.

Until September 24, from £6.50.

Secret Cinema: Dirty Dancing

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Secret Cinema isn’t resting on its secretive laurels this year. After escaping a hellish zombie apocalypse, the experiential cinema torchbearers will be heading to the somewhat cheerier locale of Kellerman’s Holiday Resort for an immersive production of ‘80s cult classic Dirty Dancing. Catskills, NY, will be recreated in a secret London location, where ‘guests’ at the ‘hotel’ can expect sing-a-longs, dance-a-longs, back-breaking lifts, and various actors as corner-shunning Babies. You’ll have the time of your life, or your money back! (Refunds not guaranteed.)

July 15-24, from £40.

Edible Cinema

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Unsatisfied by the prospect of dry tasteless foyer popcorn, a team of ingenious food scientists has cooked up the delicious concept of Edible Cinema, which provides film-relevant nibbles to eat as you watch. At these one-off screenings, each audience member gets a tray of numbered canapés or cocktails, which they polish off only when given the prompt by a screen-side light box. Previous menus have offered a biscotti Stonehenge for Spinal Tap, and pine-scented popcorn during Pan’s Labyrinth’s forest scene; When Harry Met Sally...’s most famous scene, meanwhile, came with a cocktail entitled ‘Bombay Orgasm’.

Details TBC.

Backyard Cinema

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Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is already plenty ostentatious, a dazzling interpretation of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy with a distinctly ‘90s MTV slant. Backyard Cinema have taken it to another level for a special screening of the film in a candlelit London church, with a full choir singing some of the film’s most famous soundtrack cues, including Young Hearts, Everybody’s Free, and Kissing You. The live rendition of Prince’s When Doves Cry, in particular, takes on an extra resonance, given the sad demise of The Purple One earlier this year.

July 23-30, from £20.

The Rooftop Film Club

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The Rooftop Film Club has established itself as the frontrunner in top-tier film screenings, based in aggressively trendy London locales like Peckham, Hoxton and Shadwell. Cocktails and posh grub accompany a programme of cult classics (Purple Rain, Withnail & I), modern marvels (Inside Out, Pride), and the odd outlier (is anyone really paying fifteen quid to see Spice World?). Most multiplexes don’t offer sunset skyline views for backdrops, although admittedly, most also don’t have Great British Weather and the occasional passing plane to contend with. Pack a cagoule, just in case.

Until September; from £15.

Floating Cinema

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Britain’s many miles of waterways are well-known for their narrowboat weekend breaks and abandoned shopping trolleys. They’re perhaps less well-known for their waterborne art projects – and yet, Floating Cinema is now a regular sight in locks and docks across the country. Conceived in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, the 60-foot barge operates a mix of multimedia workshops, community projects and high-minded art commissions alongside more straightforward film screenings, with the boat acting as both mini cinema and floating projector. 2016’s theme is ‘Another Country’, to be curated by the novelist Hari Kunzru. Shopping trolleys, be damned.

Details TBC.

Experience Cinema

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Drive-in cinemas (or theaters, to use the parlance of the colonies) are no longer a relic of a dusty bygone 1950s America. You don’t have to be a teenage jock on a post-prom date with your best gal to enjoy a film from the comfort of your car: simply park up your vintage Chevy (other non-vintage automobiles are available), tune your FM radio to the cinema’s designated station, and push your seat into the ‘recline’ position, while waiters on roller skates bring popcorn and hotdogs to your window. Who needs Route 66 when you have the A109 just off the North Circular?

Details TBC.

The Luna Cinema

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Never mind dressing up and dancing around like fool. For a more sensible, grown-up approach to outdoor films, there’s always The Luna Cinema. Over 50 locations across the UK will host screenings in more rarefied locations, including castles, manors, palaces, country houses and private gardens. Bring your best camping chair, pack a picnic, and grab a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio while you’re there: this is outdoor cinema’s classy choice.

Until September 25; from £7.50.

Empire Live

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An extended version of Ridley Scott’s The Martian. A live Q&A with the people behind Labyrinth. A special preview of John Michael McDonagh’s War On Everyone. This and much, much more will be happening under The O2’s domed roof this September for two days and three nights of filmy fun. Whether you’re a cult film junkie, an animation addict or a blockbuster lover, you won’t want to miss it.

September 23-25, from £12.50.

Also try...

• Cinema... in a Tudor palace (Film4 Summer Screen)
• Cinema... in a Croydon car park (Lost Format Society)
• Cinema... in a park (Pop Up Screens)
• Cinema... on a beach (Brighton Big Screen)
• Cinema... with a picnic (Picnic Cinema)
• Cinema... with a deckchair (Cult Screens)