Open-Air Cinema in London at Somerset House 2

Somerset House Open Air

The Somerset House website describes the even in the following way: Each summer, The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court hosts London’s most beautiful open-air cinema; Film4 Summer Screen. A highlight of the city’s summer calendar, the series features a range of films, all showing on a state-of-the-art screen with full surround sound.

I love attending open-air cinema events. As a child we would go regularly and it was always a summer highlight. Since we’d seen the musical with Glenn Close, we decided Sunset Boulevard was the right film to watch. Especially because I, gasp, hadn’t ever seen it before. I know, I know.

Now, about the film: Possibly the greatest performance of an actress, I’ve ever seen. Gloria Swanson is fantastic as the aging Hollywood star Norman Desmond. The character itself is one of the most intriguing and fascinating characters, I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch.

About the event: I loved it. Not much more to add.

Somerset House - Open Air Cinema

We were there early, having traveled on the tube like two homeless people carrying bags filled with pillows and blankets. Somerset House offers its courtyard but it offers no seating. Cobbles are hard and tend to poke your bones in awkward and painful ways. Next time we’re considering bringing something thicker than a picnic blanket, something padded, like a duvet.

Somerset House - Open Air Cinema

Doors open at 18.30, but already there was a queue. People all around us seemed to have had a better idea than us: they bought pizza from the nearby Pizza Express, instead of bringing homemade sandwiches. There’s a thorough bag check before you’re allowed to enter the courtyard. If you’re not there when the door opens, you’ll find yourself searching for small gaps in a sea of blankets, so be there early, bring a book, a beer and something to eat.

Somerset House - Open Air Cinema

The film starts once the sun goes down, around 21.00. If you find the right spot you can watch it lying in a fort made of blankets and pillows. If not you find yourself with a stiff back, since back rests aren’t allowed (apparently, if there’s need to evacuate, back rests are dangerous, not all the picnic baskets lying about, nope.)

The prime spot is possibly right in front of the projection stand, since the barrier kind of provides a back rest.

If it rains, you ask? Uhm, stay home? Bring waterproof blankets, pillows and several ponchos and hope for the best?

Somerset House - Open Air Cinema

There’s plenty of staff, the toilets are clean and the event provides great sound and picture. No complaints from me whatsoever and we were lucky with the weather.

Two hours snuggled up in a blanket, watching a film, what better date idea can you think of?


  • Country: England, Somerset House in London
  • Weather: Sadly, having bought the tickets weeks in advance you can’t really choose, can you?
  • Budget: £
  • For further information: Official website

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2 thoughts on “Open-Air Cinema in London at Somerset House

  • Abby

    Hi Olivia! The Open-Air Cinema seems like a fun activity and although I’ve never go to one before but reading this makes me want to go. You had me laughing when you said you were taking the tube like homeless people with the blanket and pillows in bags :)

    • Olivia Post author

      Thank you. And yes, go if you can, they’re always fun, well, except for the risk of rain! And we definitely looked homeless with our bags filled with blankets and pillows!