Tips for Avoiding the Cold at Outdoor Cinema in London

tips outdoor cinema london
The view from Blythe Hill in South East London.

There are a lot of things I love about summertime. Long days at the beach, afternoon thunderstorms… and sunshine.

Life in London doesn’t always (ever?) avail itself to any of these things. So, thank goodness there is outdoor cinema to fill the hole that a 18°C “summer’s” day leaves in my heart.

However, outdoor cinema here is a different kettle of fish, to what one becomes used to in Australia.

If the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – well then I’m bonafide crazy. It’s the reason why I can’t wrap my head around a “train schedule” and why I continue to reach new levels of discomfort at outdoor cinema in London.

I remember the last time I attended outdoor cinema in Australia. A giant screen had been set up in Sydney’s Centennial Park, where a couple of friends and I watched a special screening of The Castle. It was Australia Day – a national holiday I, among many others, have mixed feelings about. Watching an Aussie classic in a beautiful park within my favourite city in the world was a nice way to celebrate the country I have an enduring love for.

[bctt tweet=”Here are some tips for staying warm at outdoor cinemas across #London this summer. #Travel”]

We wore shorts and t-shirts. We snacked on Malteasers. Bean bags were provided to keep us comfortable. It was a damn good evening.

I’ve been to outdoor cinema three times in London now. Despite only ever taking place in the summertime, the experience is an entirely different affair. Not that it’s any less enjoyable – you just have to approach the event with a fair bit of preparation.

Here are some tips and facts to consider.

Rain becomes a real threat

tips outdoor cinema london
Watching Jurassic Park in Crystal Palace Park on sodding wet ground.

I admire the way the English are resigned to bad weather, although I have not and possibly will not ever feel the same. All outdoor cinema events come with a note: This is kicking on in an open air space, no matter how crappy the weather may be, in so many words.

A couple of months ago, I bought tickets to go watch Jurassic Park at Crystal Palace’s Dinosaur Park. A DINOSAUR MOVIE IN THE DINOSAUR PARK. My excitement was palpable.

Related: Walking With Dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park in London

Typically, it poured for about eight hours before we were due to head to the venue (London also flooded and the trains were shut down, because the city can’t cope with any kind of weather). We persevered – as if I was going to miss out on the opportunity to see flipping Jurassic Park whilst surrounded by 170 year old dinosaur statues.

Yet because I’m an expat, here for a good time, but not a long time – I don’t have a lot of gear (such as picnic blankets, sleeping bags, but I have managed to accumulate a stack of useless knick knacks). So while people around us cuddled up on their waterproof blankets or garden chairs, we made do with a couple of bin bags and our raincoats.

Thank goodness Jurassic Park is still an awesome movie. My feet got very wet and I was cold. Which brings me to my next point…

Layer, layer, layer up

The first time I heard someone refer to their “summer coat” I laughed until I cried, but it is certainly a real thing here in the UK.

No matter how warm the day has been, the minute the sun goes down in London, the temperature drops with it. So you may think you’re comfortable in your light summer jumper and jeans at outdoor cinema, but you’ll be paying for it soon enough.

I would recommend packing the following:

  • Two blankets – one to sit on and one to cuddle up under
  • At least two heavy duty jumpers, or maybe even a coat
  • Pillows to lie on
  • A pair of ugg boots, or warm socks

When I was leaving my last outdoor cinema session at Somerset House, I saw a fellow who’d got so cosy in the sleeping bag he’d brought along that he’d fallen asleep.

Related: The Definitive (and Somewhat Alternative) Guide to Londoning Like a Local

Bring extra padding for your toosh

I’ve only ever had seats provided when I’ve been at Rooftop Cinema in Peckham. Even the blankets they handed out weren’t enough to keep as warm – we still froze our bollocks off while watching Dirty Dancing.

It’s likely you’ll be sitting on grass or hard ground. I think camping chairs or a picnic blanket would do the trick, with a couple of cushions thrown in. Keep in mind that some places (such as the aforementioned Somerset House) won’t allow chairs or inflatables. It’s worth checking up on this before you head in.

tips outdoor cinema london
London at ten o’clock at night during the summer.

Be prepared for a late night

You could easily have a film done and dusted in Oz in the middle of summer by 9:30pm, but the same can’t be said for London. The sun sets a lot later here, which is glorious in some ways and then seriously impacts on sleep in others.

Be aware that most films won’t start rolling until at least nine o’clock and have a game plan for getting home. London’s trains generally stop running by midnight, which makes sense when you consider that it is an INTERNATIONAL CITY AND ALL.

Related: London’s Coolest and Weirdest Cinemas

Pack a smorgasbord of food

This is the best bit about outdoor cinema – you get a built in picnic!

For maximum enjoyment, I recommend going to town on snacks. You could either cook your own, or buy some on the way in from your nearest Tescos.

Constant chewing is also another way you can keep your body temperature up, if you’ve forgotten to bring in the standard five layers of clothing that you’ll require to keep warm.

Bonus – Most places will allow you to bring alcohol in, as long as it’s not in glass bottles. Unfortunately, some tend to have certain restrictions on how much, mostly because they’ll want you to chip in and buy the alcohol they have on offer, at their own exorbitant prices.

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Just because it's summer in the UK, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be warm. Here are some tips for your outdoor cinema experience in London.

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  1. Love these tips – especially attempting to chew constantly to keep warm, ha! I have yet to visit an outdoor cinema in Edinburgh, but I can definitely empathise with the difficulties you face trying to enjoy a movie outdoors in the British “summer”.

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