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Pick of the flicks: Devon’s independent cinemas

Fancy making a date with 007 somewhere more intimate? Swerve the multiplex and support local with our guide to the cutest indie screens around the county.

TOTNES CINEMA, 27a High Street, Totnes

This retro cinema has to be one of Muddy’s most exciting ‘finds’ recently. I can’t believe I’ve been walking right past it for years! My excuse is it’s tucked away down a passageway (opposite Love Frankie) on Totnes’ High Street – a real hidden gem.

The building dates back to the late 19th century, originally the town Temperance Hall, then in the 50s it became the Romany Cinema and finally, most locals remember it as the former town library. It’s now being restored by owners, Jane and William (he works in the film industry), who bought it in 2014.

Films are a mix of blockbusters, indie and foreign language, and when they aren’t playing, here doubles as a cool cafe (Weds-Sat, 10am-2pm), with a bar which runs the length of the auditorium in front of the screen.

You can quaff a coffee or cocktail, play chess and chat, by night the lights dim and you can either sit at tables arranged bistro-style downstairs or in two tiers of rows on the upper deck. What it lacks in surround-sound, it more than makes up for in character and charm. A real must-see, and very insta-friendly too. Go, go, go!

CINEMA AT STUDIO 74, Exeter Phoenix, Gandy Street, Exeter

This 74-seater within the city’s buzzing culture hub hosts a wide range of indie films, sometimes with director Q and A’s alongside, and film festivals – a brilliant place to catch something unusual from an emerging local film-maker. Get there early for a snifter from the cafe-bar, or if you fancy getting on the other side of the camera, check out their courses for budding film-makers. Plus, it’s the only cinema in the West Country to be partly powered by solar energy.

PLYMOUTH ARTS CINEMA, Tavistock Place, Plymouth

Plymouth’s only indie cinema is a new, custom-built 118-seater cinema at Plymouth College of Art’s main campus where they screen new indie films from around the world, classics, festivals, and events with special guests from the film industry. Come summer, they max out on their Ocean City setting with themed open air cinema at Tinside Lido overlooking the Sound (above), and just outside on Tavistock Place. The autumn programme includes a fundraiser for women and girls in Afghanistan, Relaxed and Bringing in Baby screenings, and a Halloween Double Bill.

BARN CINEMA, Dartington Estate, Dartington

Dartington’s screen is a historic red-velvet affair, under a rafter roof in a converted 14th century barn and showing what they describe as an eclectic mix, going back to the 1960s. They had the BAFTA-award wining Bait by Cornish director Mark Jenkin when no-one else was showing it (and well before it won the gong).

If you want to park up and make a night of it, book in at The White Hart just a short trot across the courtyard for ethically and locally-sourced dishes in a Games of Thronesy-style Great Hall which dates back to Medieval times.

LYNTON CINEMA, Lee Road, Lynton

We adore this quirky cinema, a cute 68-seater in Lynton’s Methodist Church on the North Devon coast which Time Out just name-checked in its 50 best cinemas in the UK and Ireland. Showing films daily, with a tuck shop selling sweets and ice-cream in true old-fashioned style, but with the modern perks of air con/heating and full digital surround sound. Current box office movies – hello, Time to Die – are screened around two weeks after their first release date. Plus, it’s dog-friendly. Woof.

5 comments on “Pick of the flicks: Devon’s independent cinemas”

  • Stephane November 3, 2021

    Katherine Lacy, it’s no longer independent in Tiverton! Owned by Merlin Cinemas now.

  • Katherine Lacey October 24, 2021

    Some cinemas we must try out but I’m surprised you didn’t mention the fabulous independent Tiverton cinema??

    • lisabuckland October 26, 2021

      Thanks for telling me about it – on my radar now!

  • Dai Jones October 21, 2021

    No forgetting the Blue Walnut Cafe & Cinema in Churston…

    One of the smallest cinemas around showing a mix of shorts and art cinema – also available for hire for private screenings of your favourite film.

    • lisabuckland October 26, 2021

      Sounds like a real cutie, will check it out, thanks.


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