As the capital sees a rise in baby-friendly cinemas, Leila Latif rounds up the best
As a new parent, it’s easy for once-avid cinephiles to forgo the idea of seeing the latest releases and settle into endless reruns of Homes Under The Hammer instead. After all, once baby is bathed and in bed, the idea of a two-hour showing at 9.30pm sounds less than appealing for tired parents. But what you might not realise is that the first year of your child’s life could potentially be jam-packed with wonderful trips to the big screen, even if all the pair of you want to do is snuggle up and nap. London is filled with amazing baby-friendly screenings that even the most flustered new mums can settle into.
Unless you are lucky enough to be sitting front-row at the Lexi in Kensal Rise, eschew a pram (if you can) in favour of a carrier or car seat, and free up your arms with a backpack. Bring a couple of swaddles and blankets to create a cosy space for baby, and stock up on drinks and snacks on arrival so you can use this as an opportunity to eat your lunch.
Most importantly, going to the cinema is a great way to get you out of the house, even on rainy days, and make great daytime dates with dad or friends. With that in mind, here are our picks in the capital.
This Notting Hill institution is now owned by private members’ club Soho House, which has lovingly restored The Electric it to its former glory with leather armchairs and two-seater sofas, complete with cashmere blankets and footrests. Park your pram at the end of the row or at the back of the auditorium and bed down with baby while drinks and pastries are brought to your seat from the bar. electriccinema.co.uk/portobello
Going to the Lexi in Kensal Rise feels a bit like visiting an old friend’s house. The popcorn is in bowls, the tea is in mugs and the ticket prices are low, with all profits going to charity. Above the screen there is a gorgeous Bruce Munro light installation, which you may find has a hypnotic effect on your little one. Be sure to arrive early, as the prized seats are right at the front where you can park you pram by your feet. thelexicinema.co.uk
Nestled inside the sprawling concrete building, the cinema at the Barbican is surprisingly cosy. Prams are left at the back of the screening room, with plush chairs and excellent coffee and snacks to hand (if you’re feeling peckish, the crêpes are just the ticket). Lighting is left on, too, so there’s no risk of falling asleep. barbican.org.uk
Thursdays, from 10.30am
Set in a beautiful art deco building on Dalston’s Kingsland High Street, this community cinema may not be the most luxurious screening experience in London, but it is definitely one of the best. The bar offers exceptional coffee and artisan snacks – think chicken-salt popcorn, onion bhajis with a mint yoghurt dip and salted caramel, miso and chocolate ice cream sandwiches. It’s one to pack light for if you can, as prams are left in the lobby and you’ll need a free hand for all that snacking… riocinema.org.uk
Set in the heart of Barnes, Olympic Studios offers a sophisticated cinema experience. Prams are left by the door, so be sure to bring a blanket to curl up with your little one in the roomy, reclining seats. It’s a perfect place to meet up with other parents, as the adjoining restaurant is bright and spacious enough for even the bulkiest pushchairs, and offers an indulgent seasonal menu. olympiccinema.co.uk
Everyman Maida Vale
Wednesdays, from 10am
This branch of the Everyman cinema is worth the admission just for the chance to curl up with baby on the lovely sofas. Tickets come with a hot drink and a slice of cake, brought to your sofa-side table. Prams are parked at the end of the row, so bring a blanket to place your slumbering baby on. These mornings are very popular, so be sure to book in advance. everymancinema.com/maida-vale
Honourable mentions: Everyman Hampstead; Everyman Belsize Park; Greenwich Picturehouse; The Phoenix, Chelsea
Code of conduct:
– If baby cries, you have a minute to try and sate her in your seat, at which point you should go to the end of the aisle and jiggle her. You then have another three minutes, at which point you should head into the lobby.
– Noisy snacks are encouraged. You deserve nachos, you’ve just had a baby.
– Preferably, nappy changes should happen in the bathroom, but during exceptionally interesting parts of the film a quick wet change is permissible.
– It’s fine to keep your phone on (on a dim setting) as chances are you will get distracted, miss critical movie moments and need to check the Wikipedia plot summary to keep up.
– No shushing, sighing or rolling of eyes – we are all in this together!