We always love to see a movie when we travel. It's a great way to get a break from all the walking, exploring and eating and actually enjoy a movie we haven't seen yet. It's also a great way to blend in with the locals. Many times, we are the only foreigners in the movie theatre. Cinemas are a strange mix of the familiar and the new: you are totally off the beaten track but in a familiar environment of a movie theatre, and vice versa: movie theaters are similar all around the world but with small differences: what are the seating arrangements? Are there trailers before the movie? What do people eat and drink? Do they talk during the movie?
We encourage you to go see a movie in Prague. Czechs absolutely love movies, or at least the ones we know. You do not need to learn Czech to enjoy a movie here: due to cost cuts, most movies are not dubbed but subtitled only (with the exception of family movies and some 3D movies), so if you understand the original audio (English, French, Spanish and so on), you just disregard the subtitles and you'll be fine.
We also want you to visit the smaller, independent movie theaters in Prague. While you can see a Hollywood blockbuster in a huge, multiplex movie theatre, but why? They'll have the same things you are used to from home. Popcorn? Check. Soft drinks in ridiculously large cups? Yep. Bored teenage attendants? Yes sir. Instead, we suggest you visit an independent cinema here in Prague - there's more local life here than you would imagine.
Here are our six most favorite independent cinemas in Prague:
If you want to see a great movie but don't want to venture out of the centre, head over to the Svetozor cinema. This cinema offers a great selection of new and older movies in two screening halls. Svetozor is also home to many film festivals so if you like a great documentary or movies from other parts of the world, this is the place to go. This is also an "English friendly" cinema (just like Bio Oko and Aero below): if the original audio is English, it will be noted in the programme.
The Svetozor also includes a really great shop called Terry's Posters (Terryho ponozky in Czech), which sells vintage Czech and Polish posters for American and other movies that were shown in the Czech Republic and Poland under Communism and after its collapse - the perfect souvenir from Prague in our mind!
When there, make sure you stop at the bar to buy a glass of Kofola, the Czech answer to the Coke. Many Czechs have very fond and warm childhood memories associated with Kofola: it is often sold on tap and served in beer glasses, so even the kids had "their own beer" to drink, just like the adults. However, no popcorn is served at Svetozor, as clearly shown in this cute advertisement:
What to do before and after the movie? If you want to grab a quick meal before the movie, make sure you stop at Home Kitchen at the Jungmannova street nearby. One of our favorite bistros in town, Home Kitchen really does look like a home kitchen: two large tables do not sit more than a dozen people or so, but still, their great soups and breads lure people from afar. You can take something to the Franciscan rose garden at the end of the street and have it on a bench when the weather is fine. The movie theatre is just next door. After the movie, you'll want a drink (or at least we do). Walk up the Wenceslas Square and turn to Krakovsta street, the last on the right. You'll find Parlour, a small but great cocktail bar, in the middle of it. There's nothing like talking about a movie you've just seen over a nice drink. Trust us.
Nestled in the same building as our rental apartment, Bio Oko is one of the few old-school cinemas with a balcony remaining in Prague (they also offer "alternative seating" - a few beach stretchers and even a car that you can sit in for that drive-in feel. It is seated in a 1930s Czech Bauhaus (functionalist) residential building and features a great bar in the entrance lobby, which can be very lively at nights. You can get some beer or our favorite Fentimans soft drinks before (or after) the movie. Bio Oko is the natural center of the district and attracts young and independent crowds.
What to do before and after the movie? Well, for culture, you can head over to the National Gallery just around the corner. From there, you can visit Page Five, an independent bookstore and publishing house at Veverkova street, and Bistro 8, a local favorite for younger and artsy types that offers homey dishes throughout the day. After the movie, walk back to the centre through the Letna park that offers fantastic views of the city and a popular beer garden during the warmer season.
The mother of all independent cinemas in Prague, Aero is the place to go for a truly serious movie lover. Again, you can have Kofola or beer at the bar and there's a fast food stand right in the courtyard of the cinema. The feeling is relaxed but the movies shows are all top quality.
What to do before and after the movie? Definitely visit the National Memorial at the Vitkov hill before the movie for the best view of the city and a great exhibition about the recent history of the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. The park virtually leads to the area that houses the cinema. After the movie, we recommend you take tram no. 16 to the Namesti Miru stop and finish the day off with some Czech cuisine and beers at Vinohradsky Parlament, a Czech pub where Staropramen, a Prague-based brewery, really wants to replicate what Pilsner Urquell did with Lokals - a great pub with great beer and honest Czech dishes.
Evald cinema has a special place in our hearts: we went there for one of our first dates (and boy, what a memorable date it was: we chose the White Ribbon, and let us tell you - it's not a date movie. The movie theatre is very small but cosy inside with nice and comfortable seats. Very small cafe inside, so we'd suggest you bring your own drinks and food. Again, the movies shown in Evald are higher quality movies. The location is very convenient, right next to the MyTesco store at Narodni triad street.
After the movie, we would head over to RedPif for a nice dinner and some wines. If you like modern design, you will love RedPif: bare concrete and minimalist interiors with custom-made, wine-inspired window blinds and nice staff make for a great atmosphere. After that, cross the river and have a walk through the Kampa park.
The smallest cinema in Prague with only 46 seats, the Mat feels more like a bigger room than a smaller movie theatre. Housed in a functionalist building from 1934, the cinema was installed in 1994 in the former nuclear bomb shelter in the basement. The building also includes a small cafe and restaurant. We don't recommend either, but the cafe will do to buy something to drink or eat inside.
What to do before and after the movie? We would start at the Vysehrad fortress, a place loved by locals and neglected by tourists, then walk down to the river, walk on the embankment to the next bridge and walk up to have some coffee at I Need Coffee, a lovely café owned by the former co-owner of Leeda fashion house. It feels like a bit of Berlin in Prague and we never miss the opportunity to go there when we are in the neighborhood. The Mat cinema is then a few minutes away by walk. After the movie, we would take the 22 or 6 tram to I.P. Pavlova and finish the day with some nice Czech dish and beers from microbreweries at the popular Nota Bene restaurant.
The victim of two floods in the past two decades, the Atlas movie theatre has always risen partly thanks to the contribution of its fans. The Atlas is located right at the border of the historical centre and the Karlin districts. Two cinemas (a large and a small one) and the cafe are housed in a listed functionalist building from 1942.
What to do before and after the movie? You should explore the Karlin district: have coffee to go at Muj salek kavy, something small to eat at Mozaika Crystal Bistro and some Czech sweets at Simply Good and walk towards the centre and the cinema. After the movie, have a great Asian-fusion dinner at the nearby Sansho restaurant, or enjoy some beers at Pivovarsky Klub.
The tickets to all these smaller art house cinemas will cost around CZK 100 (USD 5, EUR 4), but the experience will be, as they say, priceless.