The term, “hidden gem” could have been invented for Bournemouth Colosseum.

Situated downstairs at the Lavish Life coffee shop and art gallery in Westbourne Arcade, the niche cinema boasts just 19 seats and is believed to be the smallest in the UK.

Arty film prints adorn the walls, there are cushions and blankets stacked in the corners in case film-goers find the air conditioning too chilly, and the building even has its own royal box.

The cinema prides itself on its niche market, showing classics and Indie and foreign films, and hosts regular theme nights as well as private parties.

“We are mainly a members’ club,” said owner Paul Whitehouse, who set up the cinema around six months ago after finding a gap in the Bournemouth market.

“We strive to entertain people locally with a fun cinema experience. Our films range from 1927 to 2014 – classic art house, thrillers, horror, comedy and kids’ films.

“On Tuesdays we show foreign films with subtitles (the best from around the world) and hold lots of private parties – Christmas dos, birthdays, girls’ nights out.”

The Colosseum also hosts regular themed nights, such as James Bond black tie, an Argentinian night including a meal of Argentinian steak, and a horror festival at Halloween.

“Overall, we try to be flexible and help give our members or customers who have booked private events a great night out,” said Paul.

“The cinema for me is a fun labour of love.”

There are generally three film showings a day at the cinema, many of which are requests from regulars or cafe customers.

“A lot of the time we take requests from groups of people in the cafe upstairs,” explained manager James Barber.

“If there are enough of them, we put the film on for them. We also do a Ghibli night – we do a double bill once a month, that’s really popular.

“We are trying to appeal to so many different people.”

Business is growing at the Colosseum, as more and more people discover the delightful little venue, which is also used by students who are studying a particular film, or French classes wanting to watch a movie without subtitles.

“People walk past and say ‘is there a cinema in there?’ It’s a nice little place for people to come,” explained James.

“It’s just having a place in Bournemouth that appeals to more niche film-goers. It’s everything you could get from a niche cinema in London, but it’s unique in terms of the number of seats we’ve got.”

  • Bournemouth Colosseum charges £9.90 a year for membership of its bar, then £4.95 a ticket for films. To find out more, visit or call 01202 769092