Rooftop Cinema Club – The Best Combination of Drive-in Movies and Traditional Theaters

Although we live in a time of “peak TV” many folks are finding it fun to get outside the house for their screen entertainment. Despite wobbly box office receipts, traditional theaters are holding their own in the face of increased ticket prices, improved offerings from a plethora of streaming services and more bang for the buck with home theatre equipment.

But one fairly nascent development maximizes the out-of-the-home movie going experience. Rooftop Cinema Club is sprouting up in cities around the world.

After a thoroughly pleasant evening watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” atop the Grand Hyatt Manchester in San Diego, I spoke with Gerry Cottle, the founder of Rooftop Cinema Club.

Gerry was born in Wimbledon, south of London and always liked what he heard about the drive-in movie experience in America.

Brad: How did you start Rooftop Cinema Club?

Gerry: A wing and a prayer and a ten grand loan from a bank. I quit my job in PR on a Wedensday and opened my first Rooftop Cinema Club on a Friday. No one was doing it in an urban setting. I found a great space on top of a bar. I have always wanted to watch some of my favorite films on a big screen, rather than on TV, as I missed them when they were in the cinema. I wanted a community feel, to rejuvenate the social nature of chatting about the film before and after. I wanted to offer food and drink before, during and after the film. It is a different experience in a shared environment.

Brad: Like most folks, we arrived well before the start of the film, ordered drinks and food, marveled at the views and played some games like Uno. What have been some of your biggest takeaways since your first opening?

Gerry: people love watching film, but the love for experiences is an even broader group. A big screen is hard to beat, and folks love being outdoors. Social media is a driver for the business, which was a positive surprise. It was in 1933 that the first drive-in opened. But there was a tapering after 1960s. Rooftop Cinema Club offers better food, service and options.

Brad: What have been some of your biggest challenges since opening?

Gerry: Mother Nature. We started in London, not a city known for steady clear weather. We will give out ponchos if it looks like it is going to sprinkle, and we have evolved to offering folks a right to cancel immediately before the screening starts. In SoCal that is less of an issue. Finding good rooftops is a challenge. I knocked on doors in NYC for two years. The good rooftops already had a bar or a pool, and if unoccupied, there is probably a good reason. We are rolling out 4-6 spots in the next year, with the possibility of multiple sites per city.

For more information about Rooftop Cinema Club, visit



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.