10 of the best . . . independent cinemas

The lowdown on the best independent cinemas in Britain
10 best cinemas: Tyneside
The Tyneside Newcastle upon Tyne The original 1930s newsreel screen still functions in the magnificent art deco auditorium, and you can bring in a cocktail from the circle bar for company and watch mainstream and arthouse films from leather sofas. The Digital Lounge masquerades as a private living ­room with sofas drawn up round the big screen; for snugness there’s the Roxy, while the Elektra does stadium-like magnitude. The complex had a £7m revamp in 2006, but the 1930s tea room remains intact. You can buy your tickets along with your wine at the bar to save on queuing. Courses on cinematic themes, including filmmaking, are ­ongoing in the on-site studios. 10 Pilgrim St, Newcastle upon Tyne ­(tynesidecinema.co.uk, 0845 217 9909)
Photograph: PR company handout
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: The Electric
The Electric Birmingham This is one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK. It focuses on art films and the more intelligent block-busters and if your concentration needs a prod you can text a waiter to bring a glass of absinthe (one of the nation’s only absinthe fountains survives here) to your sofa seat. Feed off olives, scones and handmade chocolates from the art deco bar. You can hire a room to show a film of your choice, and the in-house orchestra plays along live to a screening a handful of times a year. Station Street, Birmingham (theelectric.co.uk, 0121-643 7879)
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Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: Duke of York's
The Duke of York’s Brighton The cancan legs waving from the roof identify this vintage pleasure palace, which celebrates its centenary this year. The homemade cake is reason enough for a visit, and its eclectic programme entices celebrity regulars from Ken Loach to ­Fatboy Slim. Weekly showings cater for mothers with babies, the over-60s and people with autism, while Brighton’s flamboyance is harnessed with fancy-dress premieres. You can buy a glass of wine in the tea room and take it to one of the ­sofas on the balcony to watch the film. Preston Circus, Brighton (www.picturehouses.co.uk, 0871 704 2056)
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Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: The Cornerhouse
The Cornerhouse Manchester As much a cultural forum as a cinema, the Cornerhouse shows what artistic audacity can do to an old furniture shop. With Helen Mirren and Damien Hirst among the patrons, it was established as a charitable trust in 1985 and houses three art galleries, three cinemas, a cafe and bookshop bar. The idea is to mingle filmmakers, artists and audiences to ­debate ideas. The focus is on independent films, but you’re as likely to taste culture in the cafe, which is beloved of pop groupies and emerging bands. Oxford Street, Manchester (cornerhouse.org, 0161-200 1500)
Photograph: PR company handout
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: The Cameo
The Cameo Edinburgh The stately opulence is more opera house than cinema – the interior was restored to its original 1914 glory in the 1980s, while the bar is defiantly 21st century, with leather sofas and a lengthy cocktail menu (you can take your glass into the auditorium with you). Programmes, spread over three screens, tend to be a tour through ­cinematic history, from vintage classics, through foreign-language films, documentaries, arty stuff and current hits. Home Street, Edinburgh (www.picturehouses.co.uk, 0871 704 2052)
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Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: Hyde Park Picture Palace
Hyde Park Picture Palace Leeds Opened inauspiciously just as the first world war broke out, the Hyde Park ­described itself as “the cosiest in Leeds” – a compliment the cinema still tries to live up to. Gas lights illuminate its audi­torium, which is dominated by an ornate balcony; each screening has an interval for refreshments; and a resident cat stalks the premises. ­Unusually, the cinema is owned by Leeds city council, which saved it from closure in 1989. This is a hideaway for serious film buffs. Brudenell Road, Leeds (hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk, 0113 275 2045)
Photograph: PR company handout
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: Zeffirellis
Zeffirellis Ambleside, Cumbria You can book a bargain meal-and-ticket combo and dine first in the stylish vegetarian restaurant before settling down with a bowl of olives in one of the five screens. Or there’s homemade cake in the all-day cafe, and live music in the jazz bar at weekends. There’s a new ­digital studio with its own Italian ­restaurant for cosier screenings. It’s family-run, and films (foreign-language, arthouse and intellectual mainstream – gratuitous violence is banned) tend to be chosen with Guardian readers in mind. Compston Road, Ambleside, Cumbria (zeffirellis.com, 015394 33845)
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Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: Cube Microplex
Cube Microplex Bristol Film is only part of the Cube’s -function. Founded as a not-for-profit co-operative in 1998 by a couple of stilt walkers and two colleagues, it is an experiment in wild music, cult and mainstream film screenings, off-the-wall exhibitions, festivals and -burlesque. “A pig bag” is how it -describes its programmes. The building began as theatre for amateur dramatics and the old stage is still well trodden, often with the big screen being used as a back drop. Princes Row, Bristol (cubecinema.com, 0117 907 4190)
Photograph: Alamy
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: Ultimate Picture Palace
The Ultimate Picture Palace Oxford This miniature cinema deserves a mention for its lovable eccentricity. Tucked down a residential side road, with little to indicate what’s showing (or even that it’s trading) bar a few leaflets in a box, it is definitely a bohemian route to culture. Admission is by raffle ticket from the outdoor ticket office (these rely heavily on honesty, however, since a street door leads straight into the auditorium). ­Recent blockbusters take their turn with 1960s Korean films or Hollywood classics. Jeune Street, Oxford ­(ultimatepicturepalace.co.uk, 01865 245288)
Photograph: Martin Godwin
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
10 best cinemas: Broadway Arts Cinema
The Broadway Nottingham A startling, glass-fronted palace with a programme of old and new, quirky and mainstream across its four screens. Cinema professionals are occasionally brought in to introduce a film, and there are special screenings for older people, people with autism and parents with infants. Paul Smith designed one of the revamped auditoriums, adding funky striped sofa seats where you can down the in-house beer (Broadway Reel Ale) and delicacies imported from the cafe. An £11.95 deal provides a film ticket and meal in the bar. Broad Street, Nottingham (broadway.org.uk, 0115 952 6611)
Photograph: Alamy
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
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