Indie cinema of the month: Zeffirellis, Ambleside

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We head to the Lake District, as we salute another of the UK’s finest independent cinemas – this time, Zeffirellis.

Wordsworth once called the Lake District ‘the loveliest spot that man hath found’ and, as a poet of some note, we can trust that he probably knew how to use a superlative accurately. Lovely as frolicking with squirrels in the sunshine may be, what if, instead, you felt the urge to while away your hours in a darkened room, forgoing the pleasures of nature to revel instead in The Secret Life Of Pets 2? Well, at the Lake District, you can do that too.

Nestled away in the picturesque village of Ambleside lies Zeffirellis, a multi-screen, independent cinema combined with a restaurant and hotel. Named after the late, legendary Italian director who popularised Shakespeare on the silver screen (its sister restaurant and cinema is named after Fellini!), the cinema has been offering enticing dinner and movie combinations since 1980, where The Shining was one of the first movies to be offered in such a style. (Personally, I need to eat dessert immediately after any viewing of The Shining; Danny isn’t the only person who hears voices in his head telling him to eat ice cream…)

Zeffirellis is the heartland of cinema in the Lake District; there’s a total absence of multiplex competition nearby. In fact, with five screens the cinema is able to offer multiplex levels of choice, including first-run films, but offered with independent sensibilities and service. Being in such a scenic location, the venue is a hotspot for tourists, but also enjoys a loyal local following. In fact, Managing Director Dorothy Smith credits the steadfast support from its neighbourhood for the numerous awards Zeffirellis has won. The cinema is proud of its position as a bastion of the arts too. It worked extensively with the late Ken Russell, and in 1987 it even hosted the premiere of the immortal Withnail & I, a project shot on location in Cumbria.

Despite retaining 35mm film projectors, the cinema dove into digital early, in 2007 in fact, making it one of the first cinemas in the UK to do so. Impressed by both image and sound quality, as well as the logistical ease with which the format could be transferred between screens and venues, Zeffirellis made the transition quickly and hasn’t looked back since.

Happily, the future looks bright for the cinema. From a simple idea that progressed into a five-screen picture house replete with restaurants and live entertainment, the cinema continues to innovate and widen the breadth of its offerings. On a recent visit, veteran actor Brian Cox was so impressed that he’s now involved, mentoring the cinema as it plans an upcoming film festival. So should you ever find yourself wandering through the Lake District, feel free to take a page out of Wordsworth’s book and spend a couple of hours penning an ode to the daffodils… or maybe check the cinema listings and nip in to see The Lion King followed by dinner. The daffodils will still be there tomorrow.

Address: 2 Compston Rd, Ambleside, LA22 9DJ

Phone: 01539 433845



Instagram: ZeffsFellinis

Twitter: @ZeffsFellinis

Facebook: @zeffirellis

First ever screening: Barry Lyndon

Dream double bill? My Fair Lady & Amadeus

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