“Why the Multiplex Cinema is Dead to Me”

Around a year ago I was in my local multiplex cinema not enjoying myself. Sat there in the dark, I realised I hadn’t been enjoying it for some time, and this visit just about summed up what I had come to expect.

In the not too distant past, a trip to the cinema would have been considered a veritable treat. A chance for my younger self to escape a drizzly Saturday afternoon or bank holiday, and enter another world on the big screen – the gateway to which was always the local multiplex.

So what has changed? Well for a start, the price. You’re a lucky person now if you’re not paying over ten pounds for an adult ticket, depending on where you are in the country. If you are going to the flicks in London you are likely to pay at least a fiver more than that. And for what? I asked myself on that last visit.

On my lap sat an overpriced and over-sized bag of popcorn, and to my right a fizzy drink of similar proportions was squeezed into the cup holder. En route to my seat, the floor had become almost sticky enough to remove the shoes from my feet, and when the film eventually started I could hardly hear the powerful surround sound over the din of giggling teenagers and fellow snackers rustling and slurping. Oh, and it was too cold.

I decided at that moment that in future I would forego this multiplex madness whenever possible, and seek out better cinematic conditions. But where?

Luckily for me, possibly due to increasing numbers of multiplex experiences like mine, the movie theatre market is now changing. And it seems film-goers are not turning away from the pictures altogether, but are being welcomed in by the ever rising number of boutique chain, and independent cinemas.

Indeed, Birmingham has two fine examples right in the city centre. The Electric is the UK’s oldest working cinema and has retained much of the art-deco charm that has kept it around since it opened in 1909. Here you can sip on a lovingly-made cocktail before your film and order from a range of tasty snacks to be delivered to your seat (which is a sofa). Then there is the boutique new kid on the block, Everyman – located in the Mailbox. Here you can enjoy much of the same pleasures, with extensive food options cooked in an actual kitchen and enjoy a craft beer or chilled glass of wine from a grown-up bar. What’s not to like?

Everyman, Mailbox, Birmingham. Picture by Sam Bagnall

Step into the foyers of these places and they seem a world away from the service station-like hurly-burly of the multiplex – think soothing lighting, mature music, and helpful staff. This considered, it’s not hard to understand why boutique venues are popping up all over the country, particularly from leading brands Curzon, Picturehouse and the aforementioned Everyman. In fact Everyman, which already has 22 locations to choose from, plans to increase that number by opening another 14 in the next year.

It may be that I’m being too harsh on the multiplex cinema. After all they do still have their uses, especially if you have children. But as long I can get a far more comfortable experience elsewhere for not much more money, I’m afraid you’ll find me where the seats are soft, the people are quiet, and the drinks are alcoholic.

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