Bizarre Movie Theaters from All Over the World


Last month, we took a look at some of the oddest-looking libraries from around the world, continuing our fascination with strange places to get our cultural fix. We’ve previously run down the best movie theaters in the world — but what about the strangest? So we scoured the Internet for unexpected yet wonderful locations where owners and programmers have converted, preserved, or augmented the moviegoing experience in unusual ways. Check out what we found after the jump — and if we’ve missed any good ones, make sure to let us know in the comments.

Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles, California)

The ten-year-old Cinespia is best known for their open-air screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where Los Angelenos bring blankets and chairs to watch a movie in the cemetery that marks the final resting place for Marion Davies, John Huston, Peter Lorre, Fay Wray, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, Harry Cohn, Bugsy Siegel, and the Black Dahlia. (Photo by Kelly Lee Barrett)

Sol Cinema (based out of South Wales)

Specialized “micro cinemas” have become all the rage in Brooklyn, but here’s one that makes them seem positively extravagant: the mobile Sol Cinema is an eight-seat traveling caravan cinema — run entirely by solar power.

Archipilago Cinema (Yao Noi, Southern Thailand)

German architect Ole Scheeren designed this floating auditorium, which screened films for boat-shuttled viewers in a lagoon off the Thailand island of Yao Noi at the Film on the Rocks film festival last spring. But don’t go booking your tickets just yet; after the festival, the cinema was taken apart and donated to the nearby village where it was built.

Kennedy School (Portland, Oregon)

The McMenamins hospitality and microbrewery chain bought this old elementary school and transformed it into a combination hotel, bar, and dining center — and, best of all, they turned the school’s auditorium into a movie theater. The 300 seat theater has a menu of family movies, indies, and mainstream releases (at $3 a ticket), but best of all, they serve their ales, wines, and spirits, offering the better-late-than-never thrill of getting legally good and drunk at school.

Ciné de Chef (Seoul, South Korea)

Admittedly, maybe some people wouldn’t find it bizarre to pay 60,000 to 100,000 won ($55 to $92) per ticket to go to a 30-seat luxury theater, get personally ushered via private elevator to an eight million won ($7300) chair, and eat a meal prepared by Le Cordon Bleu chefs before the film. But that’s so far from our stale popcorn and packed-with-texting-moviegoers existence that we couldn’t resist including it on this list.

Sun Pictures Cinema (Broome, Australia)

Our attention is usually grabbed by theaters converted from unusual spaces, or vintage locales painstakingly recreated. But this venue in Australia is noteworthy for its continuous refusal to change — Sun Pictures Cinema, which advertises itself as “the world’s oldest picture garden,” was tacked on, with iron and wood, to an Asian Emporium in Broome’s Chinatown district back in 1916. And there it’s stood, for nearly a century hence, basically as it was then; it is, per Guinness, the “oldest open air cinema in operation,” and in this 3D/TXH/RPX/D-BOX-infused, technologically obsessed era, Sun’s throwback aesthetic is indeed unique.

Shooting Star Drive-In (Escalante, Utah)

Drive-in theaters are scarce enough these days, and that’s a shame — those of us who grew up in them have fond memories of those late-night triple features, cheap concessions, and friends smuggled in trunks. The Shooting Star takes that nostalgia kick one step further: when you go to their drive-in, they’ll rent you an Airstream trailer so that you can enjoy the evening in true retro style.

Electric Dusk Drive-In (Los Angeles, California)

The disappearance of the drive-in is largely a matter of space and location; us city folk who’d like to frequent them often live in places where there’s just not room for them. And that’s the genius of the Electric Dusk in Los Angeles: their monthly (“sometimes bimonthly” their website charmingly hedges) drive-in screenings are held on the roof of an LA parking garage. If there’s a better nighttime use for garages, we can’t think of it — and there’s some karmic justice to it as well, considering how many wonderful old theaters were demolished to make way for parking garages.

Sala Montjuïc (Barcelona, Spain)

You can tell those multiplexes and converted vaudeville houses and gastropubs; if you go to Barcelona, you can go see a movie in a 17th century castle. This annual open air film festival invites crowds to bring their own chairs and watch classics, screened in 35mm, in a very classy location — and come they do, with thousands of viewers turning out every year.

Cine Thisio (Athens, Greece)

Part of the fun of drive-ins and open-air theaters is the enjoyment, and occasional distraction, of the view nearby. And that’s where Cine Thisio in Athens beats everybody else all to hell — this outdoor venue (operational since 1935) offers up a view of the Acropolis. The Acropolis, you guys. And, you know, the Parthenon in the distance. No bigs.

Did we leave off your favorite out-of-the-box moviegoing venue? Let us know in the comments!