If you want to catch a film while in Hanoi, be it as a break from roaming the streets or drinking coffee and bia hoi, or because a must-see blockbuster has just been launched, a few large cinema complexes are located around the city, such as Megastar at Vincom Tower. While these places offer comfortable seating, the usual cinema snacks and drinks, and decent screens and sound systems, they have one major downside: the other people. Unfortunately, the concept of silence during a film isn’t big in Vietnam, so you can expect to be confronted with loud conversations (in person and on the phone), phones ringing and texting tones. Suffice to say, this can be annoying.
Cinemateque, on Hai Ba Trung, a few minutes’ walk from the south of Hoan Kiem Lake, is not only comfortable and well located for hotels in the Old Quarter but also quiet. And while there are no mega-sized boxes of popcorn and litre cups of Pepsi, there’s a courtyard bar and restaurant right outside — and you can take your drink into the cinema. Yes, wine during a film. Lovely.
Cinemateque is an independent cinema, and shows a diverse range of films: from 1940s black and white classics, to 2011 Cannes winners and Vietnamese documentaries. One genre it doesn’t show is modern Hollywood blockbusters, so if you’re looking for somewhere to watch the latest Batman, this is not the place for you.
As a members-only cinema, it’s not priced ideally for passers-through and so for a single visit will work out more expensive that the Megastars of this world: membership is 200,000 VND, and lasts for a year, and there’s a 50,000VND ‘donation’ for each film. If you only make it for one film it’s not great value, but if you get along for a few it’s not so bad. Also, there are often free screenings or open-to-all events, which don’t require membership. Friends of Vietnam Heritage often put on screenings, sometimes getting the director along for a Q&A.
As for what’s on, as a member you’ll receive weekly emails, but if you’re not a member you’ll need to check out their spot on The New Hanoian or look on Hanoi Grapevine for special events, as they don’t have a website. During the summer they only have showings at the weekend, but most of the year they’re open seven days a week.
As well as the cinema, there’s a large room which is used for music and other events, and the courtyard bar and restaurant is a very pleasant spot to while away a few hours, either before or after a film or just because you can.
A final note — it can be difficult to find. The entrance is down a very nondescript alley, and it’s 100 metres or so along. Don’t be discouraged!
How to get there
The entrance is down a very nondescript alley -- it’s 100 metres or so along. Don’t be discouraged, it's worth the effort!