Whether you’re a movie buff, a history-lover or looking for a unique night out, you’ll love a trip to the Tyneside Cinema. Built in the 1930s and with a heritage as long as the Godfather trilogy, it’s the UK’s last surviving newsreel theatre still being used as a cinema. Lovingly restored to its former glory in 2008, many original features have been kept. There’s the quaint coffee house, original stained glass windows and mosaic floor tiling - but this isn’t just a trip back in time. Its varied programme of films from all over the world keeps things fresh, as does the fantastic Bar Cafe and contemporary artworks. All in all, it’s a must-see venue that’s well worth the train fare to Newcastle on its own. But while you’re in town, why not make a weekend of it by booking into a Newcastle hotel? There’s a Premier Inn near the Tyneside Cinema and because it’s right in the heart of the city, you’ll have a front-row seat to all the other hot-ticket cultural attractions in town.
Tyneside Cinema may be a cutting-edge cinema and digital arts venue today, but when it started life back in 1937 it was equally groundbreaking. Back then it was called the News Theatre and was dedicated to the UK’s hottest craze - 75-minute newsreels played on a continuous loop where your sixpence entrance fee let you enter and leave at any time. Newsreel theatres were hugely popular, because they allowed people to watch moving images of real events and celebrities for the first time.
It was built by local entrepreneur Dixon Scott (great uncle of film giants Sir Ridley and Tony Scott). A widely travelled man, Scott wanted his cinema to look like a Persian palace, full of opulent gold, greens and purples - colours that were brought back in its restoration. Within a decade of opening it got a reputation for showing independent and British films you couldn’t see anywhere else. But, as with many cinemas, the advent of television saw it fall into decline. After closing briefly in 1968, the British Film Institute took it on and, after another brief closure in the mid 70s, it was renamed the Tyneside Cinema. By early 2000s, the building was in such a state of disrepair it was forced to close. It reopened again in 2008 after a two-year restoration. Today, the Tyneside Cinema welcomes almost 500,000 visitors each year.
To properly immerse yourself in some 1930s nostalgia, head to the cinema at 11.15am for the free daily showings of archive newsreel footage. Equally free, the cinema also offers guided tours of the building each Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 11am. Led by expert guides, they give you the chance to peek behind the scenes, learn about the building’s restoration and see the permanent exhibition.
Film-wise you’ll find that pretty much every art house film released will be screened here, along with some of the best of Hollywood’s creations. Alongside new releases are weekly screenings of classic films, with the cinema’s website often allowing visitors to vote for what should be shown next. Look to see if your visit coincides with any special showings, such as Halloween all-nighters, Valentine’s Day love stories or the yearly screening of It’s A Wonderful Life in the run-up to Christmas. The cinema also gives movie buffs the chance to meet the filmmakers behind the latest releases, with post-film discussions and interviews with directors held after the screening of their work.
Although you’ll admire the authentic art-deco splendour, the cinema’s also plush and contemporary with plenty of modern features designed with your comfort in mind. Here’s all the information you need to make your visit a box office smash.
You’ll find the cinema at 10 Pilgrim Street Newcastle NE1 6QG. While screening times vary, the cinema building is open from 10am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday at 11am to 11pm. It’s open every day except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Ticket prices vary, but the most expensive seats in the venue cost £12.50 and they’re for the highly prized sofas with lots of legroom in the Classic Circle. Normal full-priced tickets cost £9.75, but if you go before 5pm tickets are £1 cheaper.
There are three screens on offer, but to really get your full art deco fix, make sure you take a peek at the Classic theatre - it’s the original newsreel screen and still has a deep red curtain and plush, art deco decor. All 263 of the Classic’s seats have good legroom, but the Circle contains the highly prized sofas. One floor up is the smaller-sized Roxy theatre with its pretty green seats, while on the top floor you’ll find the Electra. Set out stadium style, it has 144 high-backed electric blue chairs and a row of sofas at the front.
Tyneside Cinema has three cafés and bars. There’s the main Bar Cafe with its delicious meals and drinks, the Vicolo cocktail bar and the original Tyneside Coffee Bar which opened in 1937 and is still going strong today. In addition, all of the cinema’s screens are licensed so you can grab a drink at the bar and take it to your seat (provided it’s in a plastic cup!). The cinema has a popular children’s Film Club Films held every Saturday morning. Tickets are £4 per person and each child gets a free lolly.
There are accessible toilet facilities on three out of the four floors at the cinema, and lift access throughout. The Classic stalls are inaccessible to wheelchair users but a free upgrade to the balcony level is offered, with an accompanying carer admitted free of charge. The closest Blue Badge parking spaces are on Nelson Street and Nun Street. In addition, the cinema offers a programme of special screenings for people with autism, learning disabilities or additional needs and their families. These are open to everyone.
On a budget? Think about visiting Tyneside Cinema on a Tuesday before 5pm because tickets cost just £5.50 per adult, instead of the usual £9.75.
Eating and Drinking
If watching a film just seems wrong without popcorn, rest assured you can still get your fix, although there are more interesting things to tempt you here too, like flapjacks, cake, nuts and olives. But if you fancied making a night of it with a pre-cinema meal (or post-cinema drink) what else is on offer? Here’s a rundown of all your options, both inside the venue and out.
Inside the venue
So good it’s featured in the 2018 Good Food Guide, The Tyneside Bar Café is a fully licensed café with an ever-changing menu. It wins rave reviews for its food but what really makes it special are the events. A section of the cafe has its own screen so you can enjoy afternoon tea with a Hollywood weepy, Sunday brunch with a cult classic or gin cocktails with a murder mystery.
The cinema’s newest eaterie is a stylish cocktails and coffee bar that also serves home-baked ciabattas which they charge for by the inch. Make sure you save some room for their famous pastries, like pistachio and strawberry or salted caramel and praline eclairs. Come on a warm summer’s evening and enjoy a cocktail on one of the pavement tables under a canopy of twinkling lights.
A Newcastle institution, the Tyneside Coffee Rooms opened on the second floor of the Tyneside Cinema back in 1937 and is just as popular today. The menu is just as quaint and old-fashioned as the 1960s decor (great if you fancy a ham and pease pudding sandwich) which just adds to its charm. It’s fully licensed so whatever you choose to eat can be washed down with some delicious wine or beer.
Outside the venue
One of the city’s most-talked-about venues is just a stone’s throw from the Tyneside Cinema. A celebrity favourite, The Botanist has tasty cocktails (try the Blueberry & Apple Cooler) and some equally tasty food (their famous hanging kebabs are not-to-be missed). You climb three floors to get to the restaurant, but the views over Grey Street make it well worth the hike.
If you’re in the mood for a drink after your film, head to the cosy Lady Grey’s. This popular pub has a great atmosphere, along with vintage dark wood interiors and soft chandelier lighting. With a fine selection of whiskeys if you fancied a nightcap, it’s also a perfect spot if you love trying out different beers - Lady Grey’s have more on tap than anywhere else in Newcastle.
If your film doesn’t start until later in the evening, there are plenty of ways to spend the day just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Tyneside Cinema. The cinema is less than two minutes’ walk from Grey’s Monument, where you can join a tour of the Grade-I-listed monument to Lord Grey, climb up the 164 steps and take in great views of the city. Also nearby is the Laing Art Gallery, where you can browse works from some of the biggest names in historic, modern and contemporary art. Free to enter, you may be lucky enough to catch one of their events or family activities.
But if shopping’s more your thing, Grainger Town has beautifully restored arcades packed with independent boutiques - and the market’s great for a quirky souvenir or two.
Getting to Tyneside Cinema
Although its neon sign lights up Newcastle’s busy Northumberland Street, the entrance itself surprisingly small and tucked down a side street, meaning it can be tricky to find. Here’s all the travel information you need to get you there.
If you’re driving, head to the multi-storey car parks, either on New Bridge Street or John Dobson Street. You can park your car for free if you get there after 5pm.
Take any bus that goes into the city centre. Get off at either the Haymarket or Eldon Square bus stations and the cinema is just a few minute’s walk away.
Arriving into Newcastle Central Station? The cinema is just a ten-minute walk. Or grab a Metro - the Monument stop is less than a minute’s walk from the Tyneside.