We know that times are tough. Much of Europe is currently under the threat of renewed lockdown measures and other regulations that are impacting the lives of travelers and locals alike. But what better time to at least daydream about visiting a few of the continent’s cinematic treasures and small movie theaters as the nights remain long and there’s a chill in the air everywhere from the streets of London to the snow-covered hills of Austria?
Imagine going on a journey that will take you from Ireland to the United Kingdom before you wind your way to Czech Republic. Along the way you can pine for having all the time in the world to catch up on the latest batch of Oscar nominees and blockbusters such as Spider-Man: No Way Home.
You could begin this trek at Dublin’s cherished Stella Cinema. This unique movie theater has two locations, but you should prioritize the Art Deco original in Dublin 6. It was lovingly restored to the glamor and glitz of its 1920s heyday in the late 2010s after more than a decade of neglect. Grab a cocktail from the bar before you check out the gorgeous ceiling moldings and mosaic tiling as you make your way to your seat or bed. Yes, you read that right. The Stella takes decadence to a new level with a series of double beds that occupy the front row.
Venture over to the U.K. next for a screening at London’s Electric Cinema. The Portobello location in the Notting Hill district dates back to 1910, and the interior looks more like an elegant church than a movie theater. Its extensive history includes the bizarre tale of an incident during WWI when a mob attacked the manager because it mistakenly thought he was a spy who was somehow using the building to send messages to German zeppelins. These days it screens big-budget Hollywood films as well as smaller arthouse fare.
Head across the English Channel to spend a few hours in Paris’s Le Grand Rex. It’s one of France’s most opulent cinemas and arguably one of the most gorgeous movie palaces on the planet. Its screening halls feature decor that echo various exotic destinations around the world and across the centuries. The Grand Rex’s “Great Hall” evokes an ancient Mediterranean city and boasts Paris’s largest movie screen in addition to a luminous arch and a fountain that’s rolled out for special events and pre-shows. Everybody from Quentin Tarantino to Britney Spears have stepped onto its stage during film premieres.
Roll down to Madrid’s Cine Doré next, one of the best small movie theaters in the world. Even if you’d rather focus on the city’s vibrant nightlife and bustling terraces over Paul Verhoeven retrospectives, it’s worth strolling past for the Art Deco exterior alone. Cine Doré is considered a landmark and is currently operated by Filmoteca Española (Spain’s National Film Institute). Cinephiles flock there for new films, timeless classics, and the occasional tribute to the freewheeling Dutch director responsible for modern cult flicks like Showgirls and Total Recall.
Over in Vienna you’ll find Filmcasino, which was built in 1911. Despite the name, you won’t find any blackjack tables or slot machines at this retro paradise. Instead, you’ll get to experience vintage Mid-Century Modern interiors. Fortunately, the scene and menu you’ll find at the bar are much more current. Try one of their six different empanadas or a selection off their cocktail list. They also host DJ nights and other events. As for the movies on tap, Filmcasino offers primarily arthouse films. Recent screens have showcased Drive My Car, The Summer of Soul, and The French Dispatch.
You can definitely go big if you’re willing to venture north to Oslo. Its Colosseum Kino contains the largest THX theater in the world. It’s housed inside one of the city’s most unique buildings, too. The exterior could be compared to everything from a 19th century military helmet to the cup of a bustier Madonna might have worn during her Blond Ambition World Tour in the ‘90s. It should go without saying that the main hall is one of the best places in Europe to catch The Matrix: Resurrections or any number of big-budget Hollywood movies that will be rolling across the Atlantic in 2022. Be sure to gaze up at the ceiling of the dome after you grab a seat. It’s likely to be covered in an elaborate projection inspired by the movie you’re about to watch. More low-key films such as House of Gucci are also screened in the cinema’s smaller halls.
Conclude your journey with an evening at Prague’s resplendent Kino Lucerna. It’s one of the oldest continually operating cinemas in the world and one of the most unique movie theaters around. The building that serves as its home was originally slated to become a hockey arena before it was converted into an entertainment complex. Stroll past the unusual sculpture Kůň, which features a rider perched atop a horse’s stomach, as you make your way to the box office. Kino Lucerna’s main hall resembles an opera house. Catch a film from America or the Czech Republic if you’re feeling a bit more bold. There’s also a once private screening room that is now open to the public.
As you step back out onto the streets of Prague, having completed a pretty epic trek across Europe, you could stroll to the nearest tavern to reflect on the experience while slowly sipping a Czech beer. You could also head back inside to find out what’s playing on that second screen. The choice is yours.