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Clapham Picturehouse: A Boutique Quirky Cinema

BY Boon Koh
Published 25 December 2012

With the cinema scene these days dominated by the two big boys, Cineworld and Odeon, its rare to come across a cinema that doesn’t smell like stale popcorn and have the same mass-produced look and feel to them. Luckily, there are still some independent cinema chains out there, like Picturehouses.

The Clapham branch of Picturehouse Cinemas is one quirky, but friendly neighbourhood cinema. I only regret that I’ve not discovered it earlier. Because Cineworld have just announced that they have bought the Picturehouse chain, and I worry what they’ll do to this one once the corporate consultants have been in to see how they can squeeze business efficiency out of it.

But never mind – my article is not to discuss the impending acquisition, but to talk about the merits of the Clapham Picturehouse. This fine cinema is tucked away just around from Clapham Common tube station on Venn Street. A street where, on certain days, hosts a rather lively local market.

When you walk in, you first come across what seems like a very chilled out bar area – with huge leather sofas, soft music playing in the background, and a bar that stocks some very interesting wines and beers. You wouldn’t know there was a cinema above – until you see the concession stand at the far end. Alas, although I fantasize of homemade popcorn at independent cinemas, the Clapham Picturehouse gets theirs in big plastic bags from a faraway factory. To go with the obligatory huge cups of Pepsi.

Skipping the refreshments and heading upstairs, I enter Screen One – in what I assume is the biggest at the Picturehouse. It won’t cause the Odeon Leicester Square any sleepless nights, but its a good sized cinema, with around 50 seats. I hand over my printed out e-ticket, expecting it to be scanned. Surprisingly, the usher had one quick look and just pointed us to our seats. Presumably, they don’t get many skiving teenagers trying to get in to the movies for free here at the Picturehouse.

The screen is not the biggest either, so if you’re going for a big blockbuster where you want to see car chases magnified 20x on screen, then the Clapham Picturehouse is not the place. But the picture & sound quality is good. I watched Life of Pi 3D there, and it was top notch all the way in both regards. Remember though if you have an old pair of RealD 3D glasses at home from another cinema, you can use them here at the Clapham Picturehouse and save the £1+ they will charge you for a new pair.

But where the size of the screen and cinema might disappoint, the seats more than made up for it. They were extremely soft and comfy, so much so that you sank into them when you sat down. The delightful part was that the seats recline, so instead of the uncomfortable upright position you have to put up with in normal cinemas, here you recline quite far back. It was a treat watching a movie almost lying down! There was also lots of leg space, hence how you can recline back so far. A very comfortable film viewing experience indeed.

Wine is also allowed inside the screens, which was a bonus and a plus for any wine lovers out there!

Overall, the experience at the Picturehouse at Clapham is a very positive one, and the bonus of course is that its a very grown up place, away from screaming kids and noisy teens, where you can sip your wine and enjoy the latest films. Price-wise, its quite standard at around £10-£12 per ticket. They do have a membership for devoted cinephiles where you can get £2 off your ticket each time.

Moneysaving tip: combine your trip to the Clapham Picturehouse with a meal at the Pepper Tree nearby. They do a cinema ticket + meal combo for around £13 I think on Mondays to Thursdays. Great value for money, in my opinion, as the Pepper Tree does some pretty decent asian food.

Clapham Picturehouse
Address: 76 Venn Street London, Greater London SW4 0AT‎
Parking: None – on street parking available nearby but with restrictions and not free
Website: www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/Clapham_Picturehouse/

  • Dan

    Screen 1 holds almost 200 seats, not 50!

  • http://www.london-insider.co.uk Boon Koh

    Hmm, having looked at the seating plan on the Picturehouse website, it is closer to a 100 seats, maybe around 120… but definitely can’t be more than that! The place looked tiny.