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How many types of cinema are there?

Let’s take a look at what each type of cinema has to offer…

There are four types of cinema here in the UK; Multiplex, Independent or Art House, IMAX and Drive-In:


A multiplex is the name for a single building that houses more than five auditoriums containing movie screens. In 1930 the first ‘multiplex’ opened in Manchester in two rooms that were converted from two large meeting halls, closely followed by Studio 1 and 2 in Oxford Street in London in 1936. These would have shown silent films and motion pictures later on.

The first purpose-built complex opened in 1985 in Milton Keynes and since then, well over 300 have opened their doors in the UK, and they are developing all the time. Many now contain luxurious auditoriums with wider seats, greater legroom and ever-larger screens.

The largest of these complexes can sit thousands of people and are sometimes referred to as a megaplex. These need to house more than 14 screens to quality for this title, generally have stadium seating and many have other amenities often not found at smaller multiplexes. There are currently 5 megaplexes in the UK, ranging from 18 to a whopping 25 screens.

Latest releases and big box office attractions, usually with longer run times, can be found in a typical multiplex theatre. If one has 18 screens, this does not mean they will be showing 18 different films, often the same film is shown concurrently on multiple screens each day.

Independent or Art House cinemas

Independent cinema theatres are those that are not part of a franchise, a cinema chain, or a complex. These types of cinemas are more than likely, old film theatres steeped in history, often becoming a part of building conservation efforts and the Regent Street Cinema falls directly into this category.

Much to the joy of the film industry, there’s been a revival in independent cinemas not just in the UK, but across the globe, and it’s a trend that’s indicative of a larger shift in film-going tastes. People are drawing away from an industry that provides attractions such as 3D or vibrating seats.

Instead, audiences are setting their sights on an overall experience, influenced by independent picture houses that have been providing bespoke entertainment for years.

The Independent Cinema Office (ICO) give five good reasons why you should go to an independent cinema today…

  1. Support your community – all you have to do is buy a ticket from your local cinema and -voila! – you have just become an important part of keeping theatre alive and kicking.
  2. Make your opinion count – Every person who buys a ticket from an independent paves the road for that cinema to play more of that kind of film in the future.
  3. Make a friend – The wonderful thing about independent cinemas is that the crowd is made up of hardcore film buffs, and would love to talk about the film, any time, any day.
  4. Try something different – Everyone has their film gaps – someday, one of those films you missed will play at an independent cinema near you.
  5. Open your mind to the cinema – The UK has an astounding amount of incredible independent cinemas, and each one is programmed with the utmost care by people who believe in every film that has been chosen.


IMAX means Image Maximum, which is a method of filming with higher image resolutions, as well as showing larger images on IMAX specific size movie theatre screens. These must be filmed by crews that specialise in IMAX technology movie cameras. IMAX generally run films for popular film franchises or epic movies due to their higher budgets.

IMAX claims that every note of a soundtrack and every scuff of a shoe is clearer, with a complete overhaul of each movie’s audio overseen by the film’s director. All the pristine sound is then pumped into a theatre that has been customised for an optimal experience.

The remastering process fully transforms every frame of a film to produce the best possible version of a filmmaker’s vision, with two projectors, run simultaneously to provide the perfect image with a balance of warmth and sharpness.


Drive-In’s are most popular in the United States, although the first drive-in movie took place in New Mexico in 1915, whereas well as seating for theatre-goers, parked cars also had a view of the screen. It was in the decade between 1950 and 1960, that the drive-in acquired wide-spread success when there were more than 4000 drive-in theatres around the country.

Drive-In’s have become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years, and at last count it exploded from just three to around 40 during the coronavirus pandemic. Today, there are only three hundred or so drive-in theatres operating in the US.

“The beauty of the drive-in is that you can have a fantastic experience at the movies and always be safe within your own car. We’ve had some great responses from audience members who have been shielding and feel safe enough at our events to come out of their homes to have fun for the first time in months, which is lovely to hear.” James North @TheDriveIn

For a version of a cinema that truly falls into the independent category, come and visit us at the Regent Street Cinema, just two minutes north of Oxford Circus at 307 Regent Street. We have London’s biggest independent cinema screen and show the very best in independent and studio films to support film audiences and makers.