Vue Westfield: London's Newest Cinema
Tom Huddleston heads west to Shepherd’s Bush to find out what filmgoers can expect from London’s newest picture palace.
High in the shiny rafters of the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, the capital’s newest cinema is almost finished after a delay of over a year. Westfield opened its doors in October 2008 and the original plan was for its in-house cinema to follow on swiftly under the banner of Showcase Cinemas. Showcase pulled out, leaving Vue to step into the breach and open its twelfth cinema in London.
When Time Out visited at the end of last month, it was still a building site. But on February 12, the cinema will take its place as one of London’s boldest examples of the multiplex art. And the timing couldn’t be better: as ‘Avatar’ sweeps past the two billion-dollar mark and 3D drags film audiences off the couch, 2010 looks set to be another big year for cinemas.
So what can we expect from this new picture palace? There will be 14 screens, housing 2,891 seats in total. All screens are digital (the most in a single cinema in Europe), five are 3D and two are what the chain calls ‘VueExtreme’ which, with its 18x10 metre screen, approaches IMAX in size but only costs £1 more per ticket. Predictably, it’s a functional affair: each screening room is the familiar black box filled with chairs – no faux-classical statuettes or soothing multicoloured lighting strategies here.
But precedent proves that Vue does no-frills moviegoing better than most: steeply inclined seating means you’re unlikely to be craning round the beehive of the girl in front, and the screen always fills the available space, so it never feels like you might as well have stayed home and sat closer to the telly. All this, plus the usual vats of Coke, buckets of popcorn and platters of nachos with cheese-flavoured napalm which moviegoers have come to love.
Vue Westfield is also taking the fashionable ‘boutique cinema’ route with three new ‘Scene’ screens, in which couples can enjoy an over-18s-only evening with booze, reclining chairs, a cloakroom and a private bar area to keep out the riff-raff, all at the higher price of £15 for a standard seat. Whether cinemagoers will be willing to fork out an extra few quid for the sake of a bit of peace remains to be seen, but after a day trawling around Westfield, it might seem like a good idea.
Steve Knibbs, Vue’s chief operating officer, is proud of the company’s latest venture. Opening the new 14-screener right around the corner from the existing 12-screen Shepherd’s Bush multiplex (which will stay open, at least for the time being) offers, he says, an unparalleled freedom of choice for cinemagoers – and gives programmers greater leeway to try new things. ‘We’re offering more choice,’ he says.
As proof, Vue Westfield will screen 40 films in its first week of business alone, including two previews (Oscar-nominated music-biz tale ‘Crazy Heart’ and ultra-slushy romcom ‘Leap Year’), an exhaustive programme of this year’s awards contenders and some special treats for Valentine’s Day.
Author: Tom Huddleston
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