The best cinemas in Canberra

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The inside of the Arc Cinema in Canberra

The National Film and Sound Archive’s Arc Cinema is one of the most recommended cinemas in Canberra. Photo: Sam Dignand.

If you’ve ever found solace in the gentle glow of the big screen or felt your heart beat in time with that perfect cinematic soundtrack, you understand the allure of a great cinema experience.

Whether you’re a cinephile seeking the latest blockbuster or a family in search of entertainment, Canberra offers an array of cinematic delights. In this article, we’ll delve into what makes a cinema stand out in the nation’s capital and guide you to the finest movie-watching destinations in Canberra.

What makes a great cinema?

Choosing the right cinema can elevate your movie-watching experience from ordinary to extraordinary. Here are some key traits to consider when selecting the perfect venue:

  • Immersive atmosphere. A great cinema transports you into the heart of the film. From comfortable seating to state-of-the-art sound systems, an immersive atmosphere is essential for an unforgettable cinematic journey.
  • Diverse selection. Variety is the spice of life, even in the world of cinema. The best cinemas curate a diverse selection of films that cater to different tastes and preferences.
  • Exceptional customer service. Attentive staff and seamless service can make all the difference. Whether it’s assisting with ticket purchases or ensuring a hassle-free experience, exceptional customer service is non-negotiable.
  • Cleanliness and comfort. A clean and comfortable environment enhances the enjoyment of any movie. From tidy facilities to well-maintained amenities, attention to cleanliness and comfort is paramount.
  • Community engagement. Beyond screenings, the best cinemas foster a sense of community. Through events, collaborations, and outreach programs, they enrich the cultural fabric of Canberra.

The best cinemas in Canberra

Riotact’s editorial team has combed through years of feedback to compile a list of the most recommended cinemas according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each cinema must have consistently received positive feedback on Riotact and Facebook, as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

NFSA's Arc Cinema

Arc Cinema at the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is a platform unlike any other, and Canberra’s go-to spot for the culturally curious.

Arc Cinema offers a curated selection of Australian and international films, including 35mm film prints from the national audiovisual collection.

Discover a diverse program of oddball cult favourites, beloved family classics, recent releases, high art, guilty pleasures and digital restorations of culture-shaping cinema, presented in a stunning art deco space equipped with the latest audiovisual technology.

Ask questions, trade ideas and push boundaries with post-screening Q&As, thought-provoking discussions and panel events featuring leading Australian artists and thinkers.

For those who enjoy connecting their viewing experience with the history behind it, The Library at NSFA presents a unique opportunity to browse audiovisual artefacts from a range of timelines, uses and cultural backgrounds.

On an intermission between viewings? The intimate Mediatheque has footage rolling from NSFA's Australian collection, or for a breath of fresh air, relax in the nearby 1930s courtyard.

Matt Thompson said on Facebook, "A must for ANY film, TV or sound buff (or combination) whilst in Canberra - great display of Australia's audiovisual heritage! First class staff too."

Arc Cinema is more than just a cinema. It's a space of conversation, collaboration and wonder.

Dendy Cinemas

Dendy Cinemas has been an Australia icon since the 1940s. Canberra's own Dendy Cinema is located in the Canberra City Centre, up on level 2.

Known to cater to the more discerning movie lovers, Dendy offers a mix of mainstream, independent, international and special viewing films.

Abdulla Alsubousi describes the cinema as, "...a great place for movie lovers! Comfortable seating and great sound system, it provides a top-notch viewing experience. We hosted a couple of film festivals here."

The Sunset Cinema

Bringing a seasonal edge to outdoor viewing, The Sunset Cinema in Canberra is a summer staple for local movie lovers.

Open from November to February (exact dates may vary) on Eucalypt Lawn at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, this cinema is complete with its own licensed bar and food truck, plenty of fresh popcorn and other movies snacks. The best part? If you don't want to pay for hired seating, you can bring your own blankets, pillows, picnic rug or lawn chair.

Kambri Cinema

Located on the ground floor of ANU's Kambri Cultural Precinct, the Kambri Cinema is about as immersive as it gets.

Boasting 300 seats and a 10-metre screen, this cinema's state of the art surround sound system brings each and every story it shows to life. It's the ideal setting for film festivals, private screenings, product launches, special events and more.

"Great venue for a book launch," Michael de Percy said in a five star review on Google.

Palace Electric Cinema

Nestled into the NewActon Nishi complex, Palace Electric Cinema is an eight-theatre cinema complete with its own prosecco bar.

Having recently won the People’s Choice Award for Canberra’s Favourite Entertainment Venue for the third year in a row, Palace Electric showcases a range of local, national and international films, art-house projects, blockbusters, operas and more, and is renowned for its film festivals.

"Recently discovered this theatre and it has become my favourite," Pooja Ahuja says online.

If you’re looking for more information on the best attractions in Canberra, you might also like our articles on the best art galleries, tours, wine tours, and skydiving and adventure activities Canberra has to offer.

Your experience with cinemas in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the Canberra cinemas listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get a discount at my local cinema?

Most cinemas provide discounts and concessions for students, children and seniors. There are also number of film clubs in Canberra including the ANU Film Group, Reel McCoy Film Group and UC Film Society, which offer membership discounts at certain cinemas.

Are Canberra cinemas comfortable and accessible?

Most Canberra cinemas are wheelchair accessible and offer assisted audio for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. If in doubt, check online ahead of your screening. Many mutliplexes across the city have premium seating options - some even dedicate entire cinemas to a luxury experience with recliners and seat service.

Can I bring food into Canberra cinemas?

Generally, the answer is no. Most cinemas have a no outside food or beverages policy.

Can I take a bag into Canberra cinemas?

Most cinemas will allow you to bring in your own bag or backpack, but reserve the right to inspect it for restricted items, food or drink.

What are the different types of cinemas?

There are a number of different types of cinemas, including standards screening cinemas, outdoor, mobile and drive-in cinemas, multiplexes and megaplexes, 3D and IMAX, multi-medium theatres, and more.

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