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A Guide for Watching Arthouse Films in Beijing

By Ashley Johnson , Add your comment Newsletter

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If you’re getting bored of going to the movies or even worse, watching terribly translated pirated DVD’s alone at home, it’s time to explore Beijing’s arthouse cinemas for a new or different way to experience films. It can be difficult to know how and where to see foreign/arthouse films in a Chinese speaking nation, therefore many foreigners stick to the sofa or megaplex movie cinemas. Over the years, Beijing has become more and more culturally diverse and intrigued with and inspired by western film; so while there are many large, commercial venues to watch blockbuster hits, it is never the same experience as watching a screening in an arthouse cinema. Since these little gems are not only limited but sometimes well hidden in Beijing, we want to highlight a few venues and groups that showcase foreign/arthouse films. While this isn’t a complete list, it certainly won’t let you down as a guide to Beijing’s foreign/arthouse films .


Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA)尤伦斯当代艺术中View In Map
Located in the Dashanzi Art District of Beijing, this venue for the contemporary arts was founded in 2007 by Guy and Myriam Ullens. Masterfully designed by Jean-Michael Wilmotte of Paris, the venue has elevated ceilings at 9.6 meters (31.5 feet) high and contemporary interior design which complements the historic character of the original structure. The UCCA showcases a variety of Indie, short and full-length films as well as documentaries and more. The films are primarily directed, written, acted and produced by Chinese nationals yet it draws a diverse international crowd. Live performances at the UCCA include music, drama, dance, improvisation and a host of other stage, art shows. In addition to film and live performances, the UCCA has ongoing exhibitions to showcase up-and-coming and established artists as well as design, fashion, music and other art media, serving as a channel to world of contemporary Chinese culture. If you are into contemporary style art and filmmaking, the UCCA is an excellent choice for film screenings.

Add: 4, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Beijing
Tel: 010 6438 6675
Opening hours: Tue-Sun, 10:00-18:00

Penghao Theatre 蓬蒿剧场View In Map
This quaint place is situated in the heart of Beijing's performing arts district. Previously a hutong house, this little jewel has been brilliantly restored with cozy décor making it a great atmosphere for artists and art lovers’ alike. Penghao hosts film screenings and festivals as well as other events to include music performances, actor workshops, improvisation events and the Beijing Youth Theatre Festival. The performance area of this privately owned theatre is rather small and seats less than 100 people, making it perfect for a small group of friends or a more intimate date night.

Add: 35 Dongmianhua Hutong (South gate of the Central Academy of Drama, off Nanlouguxiang South Avenue East), Dongcheng District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6400 6452, 010 6400 6472
Opening hours: Daily, 14:30-21:30 theatre; 10:00-00:00 café
Getting there: Subway 2 then bus 108 to Beibingmasi hutong
Price: TBD

Moma Broadway Cinema当代MOMA百老电影中心View In Map
Regularly hosting international film festivals, this venue has made enormous strides since opening in November 2009. Moma’s initial aim to become Beijing’s main platform for European Cinema and arthouse films is well in the works with their showcase of local and international film and screening events, film workshops and lectures as well as a lending library where customers can rent CD and DVD’s. With three screening rooms and over 400 seats it’s plenty big enough to take your closest friends and enjoy a real arthouse cinema.

Add: F3, Building T4,The North Area, MOMA, 1 Xiangheyuan Road,
Tel: 010 8438 8257, 010 8438 8258 ext. 8008
Opening hours: Daily, 12:00-22:00
Getting there: Take the subway to Dongzhimen. Exit the station from the northern exit, then take bus no.18 to Xiangheyuan Lu stop.

Electric Shadows
This multi-media company was founded by a young, creative filmmaker from the U.K. Derived from a literal Chinese translation of the word film, Electric Shadows serves as an awesome platform for bringing people together to experience short film screenings. There is no single venue for Electric Shadows; rather, they hold screenings at different venues around Beijing, including Space for Imagination, Penghao Theatre and more. They host events such as the Disposable Film Festival as well as produce and promote experimental film and music.

Contact info:

Cherry Movies ClubView In Map
Formerly known as Cherry Lane Movies, this is an excellent club for organizing Chinese film screenings such as classic Chinese films like Drunken Master or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as well as recent releases from China’s younger generation of film makers. The movie club features a different film (all with English subtitles) every other Sunday, usually at Yugong Yishan. They also host film-related culture events and seminars.

Add: Yugong Yishan, 3 Zhangzizhong Lu, Ping An Avenue (100m west of Zhangzizhong lu subway Statation), Chaoyang District, Beijing
地址:北京市西城区平安大道张自忠路3号 (地铁五号线张自忠路站往西100米)
Tel: 010 6404 2711

CNEX Saloon Café

CNEX  北北库文创咖啡沙龙View In Map
This non-profit organization is aimed toward helping professionals preserve Chinese culture through producing documentaries about communities throughout China. Each year an annual theme is chosen, which gives direction and motive for the years activities and screenings. The current theme is Crisis and Opportunity, which highlights the global crisis and its effects on China; the 2011 theme will be “Youth and Citizenhsip”. CNEX also features international documentaries with well known directors and commentators; a recent international documentary was a war-story of an American man captured in North Korea. Weekly screenings are held on Wednesday and Saturday and the cozy, CNEX Saloon Café serves western food, beer and drinks. This is an excellent place to learn more about Chinese culture and for those who don’t speak the language, all screenings have English subtitles. CNEX now has an online DVD store where you can purchase their documentaries as well.

Add: 1F-2F No.3 Guangqudonglu, Building/Warehouse No. 1 (near Image Base), Chaoyang District, Beijing
地址:北京市朝阳区广渠东路三号 竞园图片产业基地 1号库东2层
Tel: 010 8721 5576
Opening hours:
Tue-Sun, 13:30-22:00

There are other venues in Beijing such as Movie Thinking, Culture Yard, 22 Film Café and Duo Café, with weekly screenings of either Chinese (with English subtitles) or international films. For those who love classic and modern French films, the French Cultural Center has afternoon showings (Fri-Wed with Chinese subtitles). And for those with an interest in Spanish culture, the Instituto Cervantes often shows films too.

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Keywords: Arthouse films Beijing arthouse film guide Beijing foreign films Beijing arthouse cinema Beijing

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