Summer is here so if you are a film aficionado there is nothing better than getting your film fix under the stars.

Watching films al-fresco with unbeatable surround sound is a trend over a century old, and some digging on the internet led me to find out some history behind open-air cinemas. The first open-air movie screenings began in the Greek capital of Athens back in the 1900s, where this love affair is said to have started in cafés via projectors, where films were in black and white and silent.

To this day, Athens has at least 60 outdoor cinemas operating which places it at the top of the cities with the most outdoor cinemas in the world and they even host the Athens Air Film Festival every year.

Open-air cinemas did not stop in Athens but spread globally and in Europe, the first drive-in that still operates today is in Frankfurt, Germany and further afield, Broome in Western Australia won a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the oldest picture gardens still in operation called The Sun Picture Gardens which was founded back in 1916.

In 1933 the world’s first patented drive-in film theatre opened in Camden in New Jersey and the inflatable screen with the brand named Airscreen was brought to life in 1994 by German engineer Gunter Ganze-Voort, which certainly revolutionised open-air cinemas.

When it comes to open-air cinemas in Portugal, I found out that they show films in their original language and offer subtitles, making them accessible to all. With some background out of the way, let’s get into some main contenders when it comes to outdoor cinema options here in Portugal:


Casa do Vinho Verde hosts outdoor cinema cycles called “Cinema na Vinha” which includes wine tasting and an open-air cinema session overlooking the Rio Douro in different farms of the region as well as in the gardens of the Casa dos Vinhos Verdes, during the months of July, August and September. “All film sessions are accompanied by tastings of different profiles of Vinho Verdes: from the lightest and freshest, to the most intense, structured and guarded Vinho Verdes. Settle into the grass, and watch a good movie while enjoying your glass of Vinho Verde.”

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This summer’s edition was curated by Paulo Cunha and Tiago Fernandes and has at its heart the theme of “Land”. In viniculture, the concept of terroir refers to a unique space, with very specific human and territorial characteristics, which contribute to the process of creating unique wines. In cinema, we can associate the concept of terroir with a type of cinema that also focuses on a particular territory, with distinctive features and that reproduces singular images and sounds that serve as raw material for unique works. This Film Cycle is part of a journey that begins in Japan and ends in Brazil, passing through various latitudes and cultures.

Credits: Facebook;

Throughout the month of July, there tends to be free open-air cinemas at Praça da Batalha and Casa Comum, Universidade do Porto also does frequent open-air cinema viewings.

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There are multiple venues in Lisbon where you can enjoy films under the stars but the two most enchanting ones are Cine Society and Black Cat Cinema. Established in 2017, Cine Society is Lisbon’s original rooftop cinema and is located at the foot of the breathtaking Convento do Carmo ruins in Chiado. You can get cosy in their wooden and canvas deck chairs, and enjoy popcorn, Portuguese tapas and even personalised cocktails, which makes this probably one of the best summer activities in Lisbon. The film options they are showing this summer include: American Psycho, The Wolf of Wallstreet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and A Star is Born. On their website, they have announced screenings until October.

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Black Cat Cinema has multiple venues in Lisbon including charming Sintra. The venues include Santos O Velho, which is an incredible 17th-century landmark at the centre of one of Lisbon’s most beautiful neighbourhoods. Arroz Estúdios is a hidden hub of creativity in the heart of Lisbon’s Beato district and Escala 25, which is one of the most spectacular modern locations in the city and finally Praça Hub Criativo, which is based in a huge industrial complex. In Sintra, the open-air cinema location is Casa Holstein which is a heritage hotel. Some of the films they are showing this summer include Grease, Blade Runner, Catch Me If You Can, Casablanca and The Dark Knight.

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“The popcorn will be freshly popped all night long, the bar will be fully stocked, and we work with some of the best, locally produced, food vendors in town. So, you can relax with a proper drink and a bite to eat while watching the sun go down.”

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It is worth mentioning that most municipalities in the Algarve host film cycles in open-air venues during the summer months, these are usually announced on the municipality Facebook pages or on their official websites.

However, I did come across Creative Ape Outdoor Cinema in Lagos Marina, which screens a mixture of new releases, blockbusters and classics for the whole family during the months of June to September. Current viewings include The Lion King, Cruella, The Jungle Book, Big Wednesday, The Avengers and Pete’s Dragon. They also have a plethora of choices to eat and drink as they have an extensive bar including many movie snack favourites as well as burgers galore and a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

In the summer months, Quinta do Lago also does ‘Movies in the Park’ on Tee 1 of their South Course, next to North & South Clubhouse, which is a wonderful setting for the whole family. You can also hire a buggy which includes popcorn and drinks.


Following undertaking her university degree in English with American Literature in the UK, Cristina da Costa Brookes moved back to Portugal to pursue a career in Journalism, where she has worked at The Portugal News for 3 years. Cristina’s passion lies with Arts & Culture as well as sharing all important community-related news.

Cristina da Costa Brookes