These International Movie Theaters Are Their Own Vacation
From a classic Hollywood cinema to a candy-colored Bollywood movie hall, these theaters are absolutely worth traveling for.
Buttery popcorn, dim lighting, and surround sound so heavy you feel it in your bones—for movie buffs, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the cinema, no matter where you are in the world. If watching the latest blockbuster is your go-to rainy-day activity or you’re looking to participate in the local culture, catching a flick while traveling can be a memorable travel moment.
Whenever I touch down in a new country, I scour the showtimes for an easy (and often affordable) evening out. I’ve surrounded myself in pink during a Singapore showing of Barbie, caught the latest Marvel movie in Tokyo, and sunk my feet in the sand for Life of Pi on a private island in the Maldives. But not every movie theater is built alike.
From cinemas tucked into the shadows of fjords to historic megaplexes with multiple screens, movie fans will love these unique theaters around the globe. So grab some local snacks and a monster-sized fountain soda and settle in: These are some of the world’s coolest movie-viewing experiences.
Los Angeles, USA
It doesn’t get more Old Hollywood glam than this. Opened in 1926 as a playhouse, it was converted to a movie theater in 1941 to show Orson Welles' masterpiece, Citizen Kane. Today, its fully-restored opera house allure and movie star history can be felt in each one of its 1,550 seats. Owned by Disney, it’s often home to the studio’s movie premiers, paying homage to its Hollywood history.
El Capitan’s prime locale on Hollywood Boulevard and its flashing neon marquee make it hard to miss. Book tickets in advance and arrive early to listen to its famous 2,500-pipe Wurlitzer organ play before the red curtains part and the title sequence rolls.
Ancient Acropolis views, homemade sour cherry juice, and Ryan Gosling on-screen… What could be better? Cine Thisio is Athen’s oldest movie theater, welcoming movie lovers to its open-air rooftop since 1935.
Operating during the spring and summer, the team here spends winters watching movies, selecting a handful of beloved classics to play alongside the latest Hollywood favorites throughout the warmer months. Instead of popcorn, do as the locals do and grab a tyropita, a traditional cheese pie, for your movie snack.
As you can imagine, this romantic movie setting is in high demand, so arrive at the box office early—tickets can’t be purchased in advance. You won’t want to miss a screening of Hercules while looking out over the Acropolis.
Pretty in pink, this candy-colored movie theater is a cultural symbol of Jaipur. It first opened in 1976, and with 1,300 seats, it’s one of the largest movie halls in Asia. Home to hundreds of Hindi premiers, the first movie ever screened here was the iconic Bollywood film Charas.
Take one look at this building, and you’ll understand why it was under construction for ten entire years. A series of architectural zig-zags, swoops, and curves make up its exterior, while its palace-inspired interiors are just as eye-catching. Live bands can be found serenading ticket-holders before the latest Bollywood screening, where dancing and singing along are all a part of the fun.
The Australian Outback has been the backdrop for films like Wolf Creek and The Dressmaker. Sun Pictures, in remote Western Australia, has been showing movies like these in its garden since 1916, making it the world’s oldest operating picture garden.
Filled with local history and folklore, Saturday nights were once known as “picher nights” for the town’s teenagers, and tidal flooding often meant movie-goers had to lift up their feet to keep from getting wet. Over the past 100+ years, the theater has changed hands many times—but it’s secured a spot in the State Register of Heritage Places, meaning movie lovers will have a home in Broome for years to come.
If you’re passing through, claim a seat under the original corrugated iron roof or a bean bag on the grass and watch the latest releases. Here, you can look up at the stars and the planes before they land at nearby Broome Airport.
Cape Town, South Africa
With an appearance like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, the Labia Theatre is the perfect place to see the auteur’s latest movie. Its colorful blue exterior with lush vegetation and old-world indie charm has been welcoming arthouse lovers since 1949, making it South Africa’s oldest independent theater.
This isn’t a cookie-cutter cinema; each viewing room has a different design and aesthetic, but all are tricked out with the latest technology for optimal screenings. Before or after the movie, head to the Labia’s coffee bar, where quaint outdoor seating under the fairy lights makes for a charming place to try one of its signature alcoholic slush puppies and mulled wine. In fact, the Labia is the only place in Cape Town where you can snag a cocktail and head into the cinema. Pair it with a homemade piece of cake and the latest Scorsese feature, and you’re in for a cinematic treat.
East Iceland’s only cinema is run by two American-Icelandic movie lovers. Known as one of Iceland’s most creative towns, Seyðisfjörður is a place where young artists flock, making it an ideal spot for an independent cinema.
The one-screen movie theater is the perfect mix of small-town quirk and artist cool. Originally built in 1956, the building initially served as a community center, hosting town meetings and movie screenings. The theater itself has limited stadium seating and a smaller screen placed further back, so it’s really more about the experience than the crystal-clear quality. As is tradition in Icelandic theaters, there will be an intermission halfway through the movies where you can head back to the concession stand for more Appelsin and black licorice.
Known for being a little over the top, Dubai’s movie theaters are no exception. Snow Cinema is one of the coolest theaters in the world—literally. Situated right on the slopes of Ski Dubai inside the Mall Of The Emirates, it’s the world’s first theater in an indoor ski resort.
The big screen shows the latest and greatest movies in freezing cold temps. But don’t worry; the cinema will give you all the goods to keep warm, including fleece gloves, socks, boots, a hat, a blanket, a bag of popcorn, and plenty of hot chocolate—all included in the price of a ticket. And although tickets don’t exactly come cheap, this once-in-a-lifetime cinema experience is worth braving the cost and the cold.