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Outdoor cinemas in Norfolk to visit this summer

PUBLISHED: 10:58 04 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:58 04 July 2018

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

ROBERT SMAEL

How outdoor cinema took over the summer up and down the UK

I am sitting on a camping chair with a glass of bubbles and a picnic at my feet; a magnificent stately home provides the backdrop. As Richard Gere sweeps Julia Roberts into his arms there is a huge cheer. It’s certainly not the sort of experience you get at your local multiplex.

Outdoor cinema was once the choice of warmer climes, but since its introduction to the UK, our love affair with watching movies in the great outdoors gets stronger by the year.

George Wood founded The Luna Cinema in 1998, literally by accident. A former Disney Club presenter and actor, he was knocked off his scooter and broke his leg. On hearing that he would be out of action for five to six months he decided to set up an open-air cinema. He never acted again. George originally came up with the idea when he saw an outdoor screening in Australia.

“I said to my Australian mates, ‘why don’t we do this in England, it’s such a great idea?’ Of course, their reply was, ‘Because your weather’s rubbish mate’,” he laughs. “Although we haven’t got a guaranteed hot summer each year, what we do have are incredible settings, places and great parks.”

From his hospital bed he called his council-run park in Dulwich, London. His leg was in the air, he had never produced an open-air event and had no idea how he was going to do it. But the event, which screened the classic Some Like It Hot, was a resounding success and this year the company will be screening 175 films around the UK – including two nights at Holkham Hall.

Despite our unreliable weather, audiences have embraced it. George feels there is something magical about the outdoor cinema experience.

“The multiplex cinemas are quite bland places; the cinemas that seem to be thriving are more interesting, they have a good wine list or sofas,” says George.

Each outdoor setting is unique. There may be planes flying over or birds chirping, but it enhances the experience and reminds you that you are in the open air. It’s even better when there is a historic venue.

We go to outdoor concerts so why not cinema? After all us Brits are a hardy bunch.

George says that foreign tourists often say it would only work in England. “It’s raining and people are watching a classic film they have seen 20 times. Maybe in other countries they would pack up and go home.”

He admits everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong – they once had a film begin in French – but these days the operation is much slicker.

The venue, he feels, adds to the experience – Jaws is being screened at Brockwell Lido, Brixton’s outdoor swimming pool, for example.

“Our audiences join in and clap and cheer at the end of the film. It’s a shared experience, which makes for a fantastic communal atmosphere.

“We get big groups of 15-20 friends or families in a whole age range enjoying the experience together, which is something that all too often is becoming a rarity these days.”

What to see in Norfolk

There’s nothing quite like watching a movie under the stars – and in Norfolk this summer, you will be spoilt for choice. Check individual websites for start times, licensing rules and any age restrictions.

Turn up early to soak up the atmosphere at The Creake Abbey Cinema Weekend, presented by The Star and Mouse on July 20 – 22.

Eat, drink and enjoy live music before a series of well-loved classics, including Casino Royale, Moulin Rouge and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You can even hire a hot water bottle. Tickets, £15, creakeabbeycafe.com; starandmouse.com

The most popular addition to this year’s programme is The Greatest Showman and although many screenings are close to selling out there are still a few tickets available, including Sennowe Park near Fakenham on July 29. £20 adults, £15 children, outsidelive.co.uk

Norwich’s Catton Park hosts four nights of films with Pop Up Pictures from August 23 – 26, featuring The Lion King, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Greatest Showman and Grease. Pop Up Pictures also has a programme of screenings at Fritton Lake on the Norfolk/Suffolk border from September 6 - 8 featuring The Greatest Showman, Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump. Tickets for both venues are £12 adults, £8 children, facebook.com/PopUpPicturesCo

One of the most romantic settings is undoubtedly Norwich’s historic Plantation Gardens, which has two weekends of screenings, July 19 to 22, and August 16 to 19. Presented by Cinema City, the films include Alpha Papa, The Greatest Showman, Top Gun, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Beauty And The Beast, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Stand By Me.

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