London for film lovers

Love film? Here’s our guide to the best cinemas, shops, and recreating your favourite scenes.

Just like the movies

Hollywood frequently visits London, along with famous British film makers and art house directors. And who can blame them? With its beautiful parks and grand architecture it’s no wonder the city ends up in the movies.

The famous travel bookshop in Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, was an antiques store at 145 Portobello Road the time of filming, however it was based on a real shop called The Travel Bookshop at 13-15 Bleinheim Crescent, which has since closed down. Just a few minutes’ walk from here is Princes Place, and no 49 is the studio where David Hemmings did his David Bailey-inspired portrayal of a jaded photographer in Blow-Up. The park where he meets Vanessa Hemingway, and where he may or may not have captured a murder on film, is Maryon Park in Charlton.

Over in South Kensington at 38 Pembroke Square is where John Schlesinger filmed mainstream cinema’s first ever gay kiss in 1971’s Sunday Bloody Sunday. Roman Polanski’s 1965 thriller Repulsion, starring Catherine Deneuve, was mostly filmed in South Kensington too, but the claustrophobic flat where she descends into madness and bludgeons her suitor to death is at Kensington Mansions on Trebovir Road, right by Earls Court tube station.

Stanley Kubrick used Wandsworth Prison as the place where main character Alex is imprisoned and forced to watch violent images as part of his rehabilitation. The sci fi drama also uses Thamesmead’s housing estates as an apocalyptic backdrop.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels began a trend in British cinema for East End gangster flicks, so much of the action was filmed around Shoreditch. Among the locations are the Royal Oak at 73 Columbia Road which became Samoan Jo’s, and the interior of Bethnal Green Town Hall which served as ‘Hatchet’ Harry’s office.

Back in the world of rom-coms, in Bridget Jones’ Diary the hapless heroine goes on a date with Hugh Grant at Italian riverside restaurant Cantina del Ponte. She is also seen buying cigarettes from BK News on the Strand, and waiting outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

Also on the Strand is neo-classical Somerset House, which has been used to help recreate turn of the century Manhattan in Sleepy Hollow, as well as pose as the Ministry of Defence in Bond caper Tomorrow Never Dies. This veteran of the silver screen also been featured in Love Actually, Bride and Prejudice, and The Day of the Jackal.
Spy thriller The Bourne Ultimatum has many scenes in London; the offices at 78-83 Hatton Gardens serve as the Guardian newspaper office, although their former building on Farringdon Road also appears in an aerial shot. Bourne, played by Matt Damon, can be seen surfing the net at the hip Scooterworks Café.

What is now an opticians’ called The Glass House in Leadenhall Market, was used as wizard’s shop The Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


Aside from the many Vues and Odeons, there are many alternative cinematic experiences to choose from. Show-offs can strip off and pretend to watch movies at Hot Tub Cinema, where – you guessed it – instead of seats attendees splash about in hot tubs on a roof top. If you’d rather stay dry but still like the idea of watching films at high altitude, the Rooftop Film Club show classics at venues that have previously included the Bussey Building and Kensington’s Roof Gardens. The same group operate a drive-in cinema in the car park of Brent Cross Shopping Centre.

For times when it’s best to be indoors, Riverside Studios have frequent double bills, particularly of independent and world cinema. If you like smaller cinemas, check out Prince Charles, Rio and Rich Mix; these also tend to be cheaper than mainstream ones.

For the luxury experience the Lounge at Odeon Whiteleys operates a restaurant with a menu by acclaimed chef Rowley Leigh. Food is ordered at the bar and can be served while the film is on, staff can be called via a button on the arm rest.
Film memorabilia

Fans of movie posters can head to the Vintage Magazine Shop, which also stocks T-shirts, calendars, back issues of magazines and plenty more for lovers of kitsch. If you want to spend a little more there’s the Movie Poster Art Gallery, which has film stills and classic posters.

The London Film Museum hosts exhibitions that may focus on important figures like Charlie Chaplin or filming techniques, while the permanent collections have props and costumes from major feature films. There are two sites, in Covent Garden and the South Bank.

For wannabe film makers

Most further education colleges offer courses related to film making, whether they’re short evening courses in scriptwriting or a more formal courses leading to an academic qualification. Private film schools like the London Film Academy tend to charge higher fees. Hot Courses is a good place to start looking.

Once you’ve started making your film Shooting People is a good resource for finding cast and crew members, networking and promoting your work.

Premieres and festivals

Premieres for big blockbusters usually take place at either the Odeon or the Vue on Leicester Square - be prepared to queue with hundreds of others if it’s a star-studded event. Check out who’s appearing when here.

Every October the BFI London Film Festival takes place, with hundreds of new films from around the world showing at many different cinemas. Renowned actors and directors take part in Q&A sessions after screenings, or grace the red carpet in the case of big premieres.

The Raindance Film Festival in late September is the indie alternative; submission of feature films, shorts and music videos is open to all.

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