The world's best outdoor cinemas

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Anna Brech
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As the sun goes down over the city on a balmy summer evening, grab yourself a blanket and a bottle of Pinot Noir and head out to watch a movie by moonlight.

Open air cinemas hold a special place in our imaginations, and no wonder. There are few more romantic experiences than settling down in a deckchair to watch a classic film - think West Side Story or Rio Bravo - under the stars, with the sound of the city all around and a sprawling crowd of all different ages and backgrounds held spellbound by one, giant screen.

Here's our pick of the world's greatest outdoor cinemas, from a sandstone amphitheatre in Colorado to lakeside luxury in Brazil, retro glamour on the rooftops of Perth and an ancient fortress on a hill overlooking Barcelona:

Have we missed out your favourite open air cinema? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.

Vivo Open Air, Brasília

Vivo Open Air film festival has become something of an institution in the Brazilian capital since its launch there eight years ago. Overlooking the city's picturesque Paranoá Lake, it takes place every May and offers "a mixture of sensations, where the pleasure of sounds is mixed with an explosion of images." This year's highlights included Django Unchained, Taxi Driver and E.T..

Cinespia Cemetery Screenings, LA

The gothic ambiance of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard - one of LA's oldest burial grounds - is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Audiences armed with wine and picnics can watch films surrounded by the great and the good of the movie industry who are buried there, including Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Janet Gaynor.

St. George Open Air Cinema, Sydney

Overlooking Sydney's iconic cityscape on Mrs Macquaries Point, this is a magnificent spot to catch a film. The screen rises up from Sydney Harbour with stadium seating and a harbour-side bar, where you can order treats such as an Elderflower Mule and Belvedere Pink Grapefruit Vodka. It hosts a number of film premieres, including (from the 2013 season) Anna Karenina and The Impossible.

Hot Tub Cinema, London

Twin sofas, eat your heart out - the latest way to watch a film is from the warm, bubbly confines of a hot tub. The idea for this evolved from a private party and it now takes place at rooftop locations across East London, with up to 20 hot tubs and a surround-sound system. Cinema-goers can book a whole tub for friends, or single tickets to share with fellow hot tubbers.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado

This spectacular amphitheatre is naturally formed by two 300-foot sandstone monoliths - Ship Rock and Creation Rock - that provide the perfect acoustics for outdoor performances. Little wonder its annual Film On The Rocks season is a sell-out hit, featuring cult-classic films in an area shrouded by 868 acres of pines, prairie and geological wonders.

Cine Thisio, Athens

Cine Thisio was built in 1935, making it the oldest outdoor theatre in Athens. It comes with backdrop views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon that are every inch as dramatic as the films being screened. Grab a homemade sour cherry juice made on-site and settle in to enjoy the programme of classic and contemporary cinema.

La Villette Cinéma En Plein Air, Paris

Every summer, Parisians and tourists alike flock to Parc de la Villette in the north east of the city as the sun goes down, to revel in its programme of cinema under the stars. La Villette's festival is free and features a good mixture of blockbusters and indie flicks, plus a vast manicured lawn where you can hire deck chairs or spread out with rugs and a picnic.

Sun Picture Garden, Broome

The Sun Picture Garden is the world's oldest outdoor cinema, located in the Chinatown district of Broome, Western Australia. Originally a tin-fronted store selling imported Asian foodstuffs, it opened its doors as an outdoor picture theatre in 1916, with a screening of silent sports film Kissing Cup's Race. It continues to screen films to this day, with restoration work carried out at the turn of this century.

Airstream Park Drive-In, Utah

Owner Mark Gudenas created Airstream Park as a nostalgic tribute to his childhood memories of drive-ins and searched high and low for a suitably exotic location, settling on this stunning park in the heart of the Escalante Mountains. Guests can choose from a series of classic 1960s convertibles to watch the evening's entertainment from, with an emphasis on '40s, '50s and '60s films.

Sala Montjuïc, Barcelona

Watch classics such as West Side Story and Donnie Darko in the shadow of a 17th-century fortress during the summer film season of Sala Montjuïc. It's not hard to see why locals love this annual festival at Montjuïc Castle: perched on a hill with sweeping vistas of the city, it's the perfect spot to catch a film - with stalls selling hot dogs, nachos and Cava nearby.

Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah

Film blends with architecture in Mirage City Cinema, a unique arts-based space in the UAE city of Sharjah. Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul worked with the Sharjah Art Foundation to curate this courtyard cinema, scattered with traditional floor carpets and surrounded by the city's ancient architecture. Evening screenings project sound from different directions for a surreal, dream-like effect.

Galileo Open Air Cinema, Cape Town

The Galileo Open Air Cinema is set against the backdrop of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a massive expanse of South African flora that forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every Wednesday evening between November and April, Cape Town locals can pop by for an evening screening and snacks including Las Paletas - gourmet ice lollies - and paella from a Cordon Bleu trained chef.

Rooftop Movies, Perth

Palm trees and astro turf abound in this roof-top oasis of an outdoor cinema, with 360 degree panoramas of the city. This urban slice of paradise only began in 2012 but it was so popular that plans are already in place for the 2014 season. With black and white striped deckchairs and vintage caravans serving snacks, it conjures up an irresistible air of retro cool.

Maple Drive-In Cinema, Beijing

Beijing's first drive-in cinema comes with a giant 3D screen and shows a mixture of Hollywood and Chinese blockbusters. Its size alone is impressive - it can house up to 800 cars - and it stays open to 4am during summer months. Located in Beijing's Chaoyang District, the entrance is heralded by a series of retro-style neon light installations and there are barbeque bars for hire within.

Secret Cinema, UK

Secret Cinema is a massively popular concept that gathers film lovers each month for immersive film screenings in a variety of extraordinary (and supposedly mystery) locations across the UK. This summer, audiences are being invited to a mass dance-along at a Dirty Dancing screening somewhere in East London - while Barnes Common hosted over 9,000 T-Birds and Pink Ladies at a showing of Grease earlier in the year.

West Beach Film Festival, Amsterdam

This annual festival takes place in September on the banks of Amsterdam's picturesque lake Sloterplas. It is located right beside the swimming pool Sloterparkbad and if it rains, screenings are taken indoors to the poolside bar. Screenings are free and critically acclaimed (last year's repertoire included Midnight In Paris and Black Swan), with short films at the beginning created by Film Academy graduates.

Riviera Maya Film Festival, Mexico

Now in its second year, the Riviera Maya Film Festival aims to promote the people and culture of the Mayan Riviera through film-making and creative projects. Screenings are held in April across various locations in the State of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico, including the Parque Fundadores in Playa del Carmen, the Papaya Playa in Tulum and on the whale shark sanctuary island of Isla Holbox.

Sunset Drive-In Cinema, Ahmedabad

The largest cinema screen in Asia resides at the Sunset Drive-In, a staple hang-out in India's north western city of Ahmedabad. With room for 665 cars and extra stands for people who don't have vehicles, it has hosted millions of cinema enthusiasts since it began life back in 1973. It's currently showing Chennai Express, a Bollywood action comedy.

Movies At The Murals, Seattle

Every Saturday this summer, you can enjoy free movies by moonlight just minutes from downtown Seattle at the city's Mural Amphitheatre. A gently sloping lawn leads down to a giant screen, with Seattle's iconic Space Needle tower rising up above you and the 1962 artistic mural by Paul Horiuchi that christened the amphitheatre nearby.

Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, London

Film4 Summer Screen is a seasonal highlight for Londoners, with screenings held in the courtyard of Somerset House - a majestic 18th Century building on The Strand. Films include classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and world premieres such as About Time, a 2013 comedy from Richard Curtis.

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Rex Features, Getty Images and cinemas' own.


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.