BBC Culture

The 10 most beautiful cinemas in the world

About the author

Christian Blauvelt is deputy editor of BBC Culture.

  • Avoca Beach Picture Theatre

    Sitting just 100m (328ft) from the Pacific, the Avoca Beach Picture Theatre in a suburb of Australia’s Central Coast, near Sydney, looks like a surf shack or beach bar. Its single screen shows classics from throughout film history, and film appreciation societies host lively post-film discussions on the gorgeous outdoor terrace. Built in 1951, the cinema, situated harmoniously within its seashore environs, is consistently hailed the most beautiful in Australia. (Courtesy of Avoca Beach Picture Theatre)

  • The Castro Theatre

    San Francisco’s legendary Castro Theatre is a fusion of architectural styles befitting California’s great melting-pot city. Architect Timothy Pflueger, a Bay Area design legend, shaped its facade to look like a Mexican cathedral and blended Spanish and Asian motifs for its interior. Since it opened in 1921, the Castro has received many additions, like its neon sign – hoisted into place in the late 1930s – and an elaborate Art Deco chandelier. An icon in San Francisco’s gay community for decades, the Castro remains hugely successful showing new releases, repertory classics and communal sing-alongs. (Proehl Studios/Corbis)

  • Cine Acapulco

    A landmark of pre-Castro architecture, Havana’s Cine Acapulco opened in 1958, just before the Cuban Revolution deposed President Batista. It is a masterpiece of late Art Deco design, from the provocatively forward-slanting font of its marquee to the wall-length mirror that appears to expand the lobby to infinity. Today there are only 40 cinemas operating in Cuba – and all under strict government control – but prices at most of them, including at the Cine Acapulco, have not changed since the 1950s. (Becario)

  • Cinematheque Français

    The Cinematheque Français is legendary for its peerless collection of film prints, meticulously assembled over decades by famed archivist Henri Langlois. But for most of its existence dating back to the 1930s, the repertory cinema’s beauty was confined to the silver screen itself. That changed in 1993 when a whole new Cinematheque designed by Frank Gehry opened. All swooping curves and space-slicing angles, the theatre’s facade – which recalls Gehry’s design for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – is more than matched by its cavernous lobby. Flanked symmetrically by twin staircases it is like a terminus for movie lovers waiting to be carried away by cinema. (

  • The Tampa Theatre

    The Tampa Theatre is a temple to the 1920s Baroque, an exquisitely preserved example of silent-era movie palace excess that could double for a set in a Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler. The cinema was erected in the ‘Florida Mediterranean’ style, meaning that it includes touches of Moorish, Spanish, Byzantine, Italian Renaissance, and Greek Revival influence. Its ceiling is painted to resemble the night sky and even includes 99 ‘twinkling stars’, tiny embedded lightbulbs and its Wurlitzer organ, featuring nearly 900 pipes, provides accompaniment before and after screenings of the latest arthouse and indie offerings. (John Coletti/JAI/Corbis)

  • Cine Thisio

    There are many outdoor cinemas in the world but none is more spectacular than Athens’ Cine Thisio, nestled at the foot of the Acropolis to afford patrons a glorious view of the Parthenon. Its one screen shows mostly new releases and is open only during the summer but it has been delighting film fans since 1935. (Courtesy of Cine Thisio)

  • Colosseum Kino

    Oslo’s Colosseum Kino is the largest cinema in Scandinavia with over 1,000 seats for its single screen. It also distinguishes itself for its crystal-clear acoustics. But Norwegians may know it best simply for its striking spherical dome which adds some geodesic flair to Oslo’s skyline. (Wikimedia Commons)

  • Raj Mandir

    Jaipur’s Raj Mandir is the most popular Hindi movie theatre in India, consistently sold out night after night. Designed in the Art Moderne style, with tile mosaics arranged in intricate geometric patterns and dimly lit alcoves suggesting a maharaja’s palace, the Raj opened in 1976. The lobby is lit with white lights before each screening and then with blue lights during the interval. And if that wasn’t already overwhelming enough to the senses, floral scents are pumped in via air conditioning ducts located under each of its more than 1,000 seats. (Corbis)

  • Rex Cinema

    Reopened in Berkhamsted, UK after a nearly 20-year hiatus, the Rex Cinema may be the most beautiful cinema in Britain. Looking much as it did when it first opened in 1936, the walls are covered in wave patterns with small lamps that peek above the crests like rising suns. The Art Deco cinema features the very latest in projection and sound technology – and boasts some very comfortable seats. (Robert Stainforth/Alamy)

  • The Music Box Theatre

    Billing itself as ‘Chicago’s year-round film festival’, the Music Box is a time-capsule movie palace that still looks much as it did when it opened in the 1920s. Flanking its giant screen is a simulacrum of a Tuscan courtyard, complete with balconies, sculpted loggia, and a ceiling painted blue to suggest the night sky. (Robert Holmes/Corbis)