The Best Outdoor Cinemas in Sydney
Whatever your favourite type of movie, you've seen plenty at the movie theatre or at home on your couch. But have you tried an outdoor cinema? Similar to outdoor cafes and restaurants, watching a movie outside brings a fun, new element to an experience you've maybe taken for granted. Fresh air, gorgeous scenery, excellent snacks and, of course, giant screens help create an atmosphere quite different from that of a traditional theatre or your home. It's sort of like going to the movies, a picnic and a low-key festival all at once.
Whether you're already an open air cinephile or ready to try something new, get ready for a movie-watching experience unlike any other with the help of the best outdoor cinemas in Sydney.
Westpac OpenAir Sydney
OpenAir Sydney is a truly unique moviegoing experience and a shining example of what makes Sydney such an amazing city. With jawdropping scenery in the background, you'll want to make sure you get there early to take it all in. OpenAir Sydney touts itself as "The world's most beautiful cinema" and, from where we're sitting in one of the 2,000 seats in front of the massive 350sqm screen rising from the water, it's hard to argue.
Located at the Fleet Steps of Mrs Macquarie's Point, this open air cinema experience is exactly that – a true experience. You can grab a meal or traditional movie snacks from an on-site restaurant or upgrade your ticket to gain access to lounge and dining areas before the show.
Watch the sunset over Sydney Harbour in one of the country's most picturesque locations, while enjoying a film. The only downside? It might be hard to keep your eyes on the screen as they naturally float over to the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
How to get there: Since this one is in the heart of the city, you're better off taking public transport if possible. There are plenty of options, including grabbing a ferry to Circular Quay, a train to Circular Quay station or a bus.
What to bring: There is a grandstand for seating, so no need for picnic blankets or pillows. You can bring a small seat cushion for comfort. No outside alcohol allowed, but snacks are permitted in the grandstand.
For more than two decades, the Moonlight Cinema has been offering Sydney outdoor theater fans fantastic nights.
Located in the massive Centennial Park (at the Belvedere Amphitheatre on the corner of Carrington Drive and Broome Avenue), this outdoor cinema is quite different from the aforementioned OpenAir Sydney. You can still buy snacks from stalls around the perimeter of the seating area, but you won't find a grandstand here or seated dining. Instead, this is more of a BYO situation, which means it's time to load up your picnic baskets, chill your drinks and get ready to get your picnic on. If you want to lux it up a bit, you can rent a bean bed (though numbers are limited) or go all-out with Gold Grass tickets which feature reserved seating, a bean bed and waiter food and drink service before the show starts.
How to get there: If you're driving there are some coveted free parks in Centennial Park, but you might want to head in extra early to get them. Also be aware you might have to hunt an exit, as some gates close at sundown. There are plenty of buses that will take you close to Centennial Park, and Bondi Junction train station is about a 20-minute walk away.
What to bring: Since this is a more DIY affair, you'll want to make sure you pack a picnic blanket, your picnic snacks, that fancy wine bottle chiller or esky you have, cups, plates and serviettes.
The Sunset Cinema
The North Sydney Oval is where you'll find the excellent Sunset Cinema, one of the most family-friendly outdoor cinemas in Sydney.
This is another grassy affair, so you're encouraged to bring picnic blankets and the like. However, there are a few restrictions in terms of what you can sit on in the oval. In general, if you're bringing chairs, you'll need ones that have longer, flatter bars on the bottom as opposed to pointed "feet" on the ends. Also, as with most outdoor cinemas in Sydney, if you do want to sit in chairs, you'll be asked to set up toward the back of the viewing area so as to not block anybody's view. It's just good outdoor cinema etiquette.
Of course, you can also leave the chairs at home and go for one of the many seating options on offer. Super comfy bean chairs and folding chairs are available for rent. Treat yourself with an upgraded Lawn Lounge ticket for a reserved bean lounger in a prime location. There are also unreserved benches in the Grandstand.
How to get there: There's plenty of street parking within a 10 minute walk, as well as the Ridge Street Car Park just a few minutes away. There are also multiple bus stops on Falcon Street and Miller Street that put you within walking distance. North Sydney train station is 15-20 minutes away by foot.
What to bring: Pack up the kids (for an appropriate movie, of course), the blankets, pillows and cushions. Bring some snacks, too, but leave the alcohol at home. This is a fully licensed operation, so no BYO permitted.
Time to go back in time with Skyline Drive-In's fun twist on outdoor cinema. For more than five decades, people have been cruising out to Blacktown for a fun film experience unlike any other in the area.
Open up the back of the van, sit in the bed of the ute, put the convertible top down or simply recline the front seats for a good old-fashioned time. Grab some food at the old-school 50’s diner to scratch your Americana itch. If you really want to get into the mood of yesteryear, opt for a fun double feature.
How to get there: This one's pretty easy. How do you get to a drive-in? Drive (or ride), of course! Parking should be pretty self explanatory, too.
What to bring: Make sure the FM radio in your car is working so you can tune in for a more immersive experience. Or bring a small portable radio to keep the volume pumped. And, since this is a drive-in, after all, you'll want to be sure you've got a designated driver ready to roll.
Sydney outdoor cinema packing list
Here are a few things to make sure you have when you head out for some movie magic:
- Sunscreen and sunnies if you're arriving early to get a good spot or hang out in the summer sunshine.
- Bug spray to ward off the mozzies.
- Portable phone charger so you have flashlight capabilities to pack up all your bits and bobs when the show ends.
- A jumper or blanket for when the sun goes down.