Bristol’s ultimate outdoor cinema guide 2019

The final revision, with The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Arnos Vale Cemetery

Queen are indeed the champions. As the critic-defying Oscar winner Bohemian Rhapsody races towards a staggering $1 billion in global ticket sales – a figure more generally associated with superhero blockbusters – it also dominates this summer’s al fresco film screening season. None of the big organisations serving up outdoor film events across the country are failing to offer a screening of Bohemian Rhapsody. One company – Adventure Cinema – is showing nothing else in our region.

Even hardcore Queen enthusiasts would struggle to claim that this rather sanitised and formulaic biopic is a great film. But it does have one very powerful thing going for it: an almost continuous barrage of those sturdy, unimpeachably magnificent songs (and Radio Ga Ga). That seems to be the secret of cinema under the stars success. The films that have traditionally done well in such settings are musicals that create a proper communal experience by allowing audiences to bellow along with the choons. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and The Greatest Showman have dominated previous summers, albeit not on quite the same scale as Bohemian Rhapsody.

For some reason, outdoor cinema has also attracted plenty of shysters, con artists and opportunistic data miners. We shan’t name names here, but social media is awash with people who claim to be organising such events that never actually happen or are mysteriously cancelled at the last minute. So our guide includes only those companies with a proven track record who have tickets on sale through reputable channels.

Summer Screens, formerly known as Cult Screens, returns to Bristol Zoo Gardens from August 28 to September 1. Their programme comprises old favourites Jurassic Park (Aug 31) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Sept 1) alongside Rocketman (Aug 28) and recent Oscar winner Green Book (Aug 29). Something missing? Oh, yes: Bohemian Rhapsody (Aug 30). If you yearn to watch a movie amid those unfortunate incarcerated beasts, a variety of bean bag and deckchair options are available. Food and drink will also be served.

Luna Cinema pays its second visit to Bristol for a run of three screenings at Ashton Court from Sept 20-22. Take your pick from Pretty Woman (Sept 20), Mary Poppins Returns (Sept 21) and – you guessed it – Bohemian Rhapsody (Sept 22).

Cheapskates will be delighted to learn that Big Screen Bristol, operated by We the Curious, has a fine selection of free outdoor afternoon and evening screenings in Millennium Square during July and August. Take your pick from The Lorax (July 31), Beasts of the Southern Wild (August 7), Bambi (August 14) and Avatar (August 21).

As the name implies, the Lanes’ Summer Courtyard Cinema Club offers screenings in its, er, summery courtyard, where you can partake of a pizza while watching a movie. Your choices include the Coens’ classic Fargo (July 23) and the acquired-taste Scott Pilgrim vs The World (July 29), plus many more on into September.

Wowcher Open Air Cinema is a newcomer to the city, and will be pitching up to show all the usual romcoms and musicals, with the prosecco no doubt flowing freely, in the Avon Gorge next to the Hotel du Vin for three days in mid-August.

Curzon’s historic Curzon cinema also ventures outdoors again in early September, following its hugely successful al fresco screenings last summer. You can see Fisherman’s Friends and Yesterday at Salthouse Fields and – surprise! – the singalong version of Bohemian Rhapsody at Portishead Open Air Pool.

Most of these events have strict rules about admitting children. But if you’re burdened with nippers and prepared to venture a little further afield, the Luna Kids Cinema – billed as the UK’s first open air cinema designed for small fry – comes to Kensington Meadows in Bath for the first time from Aug 28-Sept 1. Their packed programme kicks off at 9am most days with the last pre-bedtime screenings at 7pm. It includes Disney’s new live-action versions of Aladdin and Dumbo, plus The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun, The Incredibles 2, The Gruffalo and many more.

Should you wish to see Bohemian Rhapsody in other locations within reasonable distance of Bristol, Luna Cinema will also be pitching up at Bath’s Royal Crescent, Cardiff Castle and Lydiard House in Swindon over the coming months. Summer Screens are on manoeuvres to Swindon’s Old Town Bowl and Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester. And Adventure Cinema’s many venues include Bath Racecourse and Swindon Cricket Club (yep, they’re both showing Bohemian Rhapsody).

Aaand finally, Arnos Vale Cemetery has just announced a quartet of suitably spooky outdoor screenings in early October, with those mandatory outings for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Labyrinth and The Lost Boys – plus What We Do in the Shadows.

Read more: Go here for our comprehensive film listings

Summer Screens

Luna Cinema

Summer Courtyard Cinema Club at The Lanes

Curzon Cinema's Outdoor Screenings in Salthouse Fields and at Portishead Open Air Pool

Spooky Screenings in Boiling Wells Amphitheatre and Arnos Vale Cemetery