Magnificent cinemas from around the world

Light years away from the binge watching that constitutes today’s consumption of entertainment, these theatres provide cinephiles a chance to sit together and in silence, and collectively lose themselves in cinema – if for a fragment of time

Cine Times, Hong Kong

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The Cine Times cinema was an institution in its day. Located in Times Square, the mammoth shopping centre on Hong Kong island, the cinema offered the latest releases and proved an affordable form of entertainment for the masses. When it was shut down due to costly rents, so great was locals’ devotion that there was even a candlelit vigil at the mall to say goodbye. Two years on, the cinema reappeared on the 13th floor. Though now in a smaller space, its backers were determined to see the relocation as an opportunity, rather than a disadvantage. Interior design firm One Plus Partnership, tasked with reimagining the space, created a black and white palette that harks back to the romance of old Hollywood, with lights stripped straight from a movie set and wall panels that look like old film reels.

In a word: Glamorous


Archipelago cinema, Yao Noi, Thailand

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The drive-in movie theatre may be a stalwart of North American culture, but in Thailand, boats are infinitely preferable to cars. In the crystal waters of Nai Pi Lae lagoon, cinemagoers took to the seas to experience cinema on a floating stage, designed by the architect Ole Scheeren. Though temporary, the stage proved useful in other ways – once the festival was over, it became a pontoon for fishermen. 

In a word: Seafaring


Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah, UAE

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Inside the walls of a courtyard in the Middle East is a cinema that uses local traditions to create a moviegoing experience that contrasts the ancient with the modern. Mirage City provided an ethereal setting for the Sharjah Biennial; recycled coral was used on the floors, which were also scattered with traditional carpets for cinemagoers to sit on. 

Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul said of the space: “[It] reflects the idea of a place where a cinema of illusion arises and flourishes. A place of ghosts. I was interested in the moment when we free our minds and bodies of preconceived ideas.”

In a word: Otherworldly


Infoversum pop-up theatre, Worldwide

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A cross between a planetarium and a cinema, this soaring dome structure was created to make science more attractive to the public. Astronomy professor Edwin Valentijn wanted the space to give the audience an accessible introduction to science similar to an IMAX theatre, and hoped to lure the public in with the unusual UFO shape of the cinema. Inside, a 20-metre projection screen that wraps itself around the sphere proves an immersive experience, where cinemagoers must tilt back their seats to get the best view. 

In a word: Encompassing


Film on the Rocks, Denver, US

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In the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, 6,450ft above sea level, Mother Nature has created the perfect amphitheatre. Nestled between Ship Rock and Creation Rock, two towering red sandstone monoliths, a naturally occurring amphitheatre has provided near-perfect acoustics for concerts ranging from opera to rock for the last 70 years. The audience can content themselves with the knowledge that they are sitting amid immense history – fossil fragments of the giant 40-foot sea serpent plesiosaur, the marine reptile mosasaurus and flying reptiles have been found within the surrounding rocks. 

The 16th annual Film on the Rocks series includes nine events throughout the summer featuring cult classics such as The Princess Bride, Jurassic Park (naturally) and The Shining, and each film is preceded by a live concert and comedian.

In a word: Prehistoric


Raj Mandir, Jaipur, India

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Affectionately known as the ‘Pride of India’, this frothy pink confection of a cinema, with its truly 1970s attitude towards glamour, is a fixture on the Jaipur tourist trail. 

The hall of Raj Mandir is intentionally grand and built with the intention that moviegoers feel like they are “the royal guests of a palace”. One of its unique features is the lighting system – before the show starts, the lobby is illuminated by white lights, which change to blue in the interval. But beyond any kitsch factor, Raj Mandir is the best place to see the latest Hindi films, evidenced by throngs of locals who have made sure that, in its 25 years of opening, the house is always full. Queue early to avoid the cheapest seats, which leave your nose just inches away from the screen. 

In a word: Flamboyant


Cineteca Matadero, Madrid, Spain 

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A converted slaughterhouse is the unlikely setting for Cineteca Matadero, a cross-disciplinary arts centre that gives the audience a sensory experience that goes beyond cinema. The first and only cinema in Spain dedicated to non-fiction film, the Matadero looks to expand the horizons of those who love documentary cinema. 

There are several spaces in the centre, including Sala B, the Documenta Archive and the Cineteca Patio, which all make it possible to attend productions in different formats and styles. The standout feature of the Matadero is the lights, a surfeit of glowing woven tubes scattered up stairs and around screens that lend a magical atmosphere to the space. 

In a word: Luminous