The new Cineworld in Speke is open.



Film  Back when I saw more films at the actual cinema rather than on my largish tv at home, I'd often travel out to far flung multiplexes like the Showcase on East Lancs Road or the Odeon at Switch Island.  With just a five screener on Lime Street and the 051 art house, some films simply weren't delivered into the city centre and I really disliked the tired old screen house at Edge Lane which seemed to be in managed decline from the moment it opened as the MGM, through Virgin and finally as a Cineworld.  That last film I saw there was Snakes on a Place which I chose deliberately because I knew the experience was going to be as potentially awful as the film itself.  Sure enough a group of teenagers chatted through the whole thing, the seat was uncomfortably rigid and the print, still on celluloid, looked like a car had driven over it.  That's now been closed make way for a newer model as part of a new development and we'll see how that goes.

But it was with some excitement and trepidation this morning I took what for me was an old school longish bus ride to a multiplex, the new Cineworld at the New Mersey Retail Park.  Having a cinema on this site has been long promised - there were rumours as far back as when I lived in the area and now, finally, after the demolition of a massive Currys, here it is with its generic architecture and identikit eating choices, the film going equivalent of a fast food restaurant.  Which sounds like a criticism, but after all of the recent debarkles at FACT's Picturehouse were presenting a film has become an inconsistent challenge, it's quite the pleasure to turn up somewhere, pay for a ticket, buy some refreshment and be able to sit with a film for a couple of hours without any major hassles and with a toilet within spitting distance of the screen and not on a completely different floor unless you want to feel guilty for using the designated disabled WC (as is the case at FACT).

Having only been open a couple of weeks, the Cineworld Speke still has that plastic scented freshness which you wish cinemas could retain.  At the front of the building is a Starbucks although its a franchise owned by Cineworld so won't accept the chain's payment card.  But its nice to even have a Starbucks back at New Mersey Retail Park after the one inside the Borders closed.  As you can see from the photo there are also multiple restaurants on site which I presume will also be franchises - is that how this works?  Honestly, none of this is something I'd ever expect to even be in Speke, especially when I was living there.  Back then the height of excitement was when Iceland opened in the Parade or when the EU's cheese mountain was distributed in massive chunks through the local community centre.  That was the first time I'd seen so much cheddar in one place.  Plus our closest cinema was the Woolton Picture House, but that's another story.

The box office is upstairs.  It's about as you'd expect for a multiplex box office in 2018, a confection stand which also just happens to sell tickets, although there are self service machines across the foyer.  One innovation is the ability to choose a designated seat from a tough screen attached to the till, although without much indication of how big the screen and the placement of the chairs, at this point selecting A6 was pure guesswork.  The ticket was cheaper than expected, £7.70 (with a concession), which considering that an average price about twenty years ago for a matinee was about £3 isn't that much of a mark-up.  Screens with innovations (gimmicks) like ScreenX (another attempt at Cinerama) or SuperScreen (an image that sits floor to ceiling) are more expensive.  Threed is mentioned everywhere but I can't remember seeing a film which actually required glasses.  It looks fun, if disorientating.

The screens are arranged around a central waiting area rather than the corridor system you see elsewhere.  I didn't dawdle, I was already running late after the bus was late.  Screen 9 has stadium seating reaching pretty well backwards to the ceiling with a large fixed screen.  Oddly, the seat arrangement didn't match the map I'd been shown at the ticket buying stage, so I pretty much sat anywhere, which was three seats back from the front.  This was confusing enough that all of the audience members, both of us, went out and checked we were in the right screen.  Annoyingly, the stairs are almost directly in front of the screen so its impossible to sit centrally which somewhat makes sense in a massive screen, but in a smaller unit like this means that everyone is at an angle.  The seats have a PCV covering and recline with cupholders directly in the armrests.  You're glazing over, I can tell.  For some of you, this is a typical cinema going experience, but let me enjoy the novelty. 

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is stunning and like every installment since M:I III renders the James Bond franchise irrelevant without some new innovation (which I still think should be to start again with faithful period adaptations in the correct sequence beginning with Casino Royale again).  It's not so much that the action sequences as concepts are new, it's the way their shot, with Tom Cruise quite clearly doing all of the wackier stunts himself creating a jaw-dropping level of verisimilitude.  That earlier film is still my favourite (its funnier), but it's incredible that this is a franchise which began twenty-two years ago is still as kinetic as this without feeling the need to reboot.  Can we please have a White Widow vs Ilsa spin-off?  There seems to be a homage to the music in Star Trek's Arena in one of the sequences.  Its also hilarious that Cavill could quite easily have worn a prosthetic moustache until it grew back but the filmmakers seem to have forced DC/WB into a corner for shits and giggles, ruining Justice League through CGI lip distraction because they could. 

Speaking of distractions, within seconds of the film starting, I became aware of a screen like on the right edge of the screen.  Unlike FACT with its large screen interfering fire exit lights, Cineworld have gone with a more subtle square of red LEDs which presumably change in the case of an emergency.  Next to this is a green light which flashed on and off intermittently through the entire film, which was particularly distracting during the darker sequences.  None of this managed to spoil the film, but you can bet I advised the cinema management on the way out.  Also about the square box of light reflecting from the window in the projection box at the top of the screen.  The manager said he'd noticed the latter at least and would have someone look at the former.  Neither of these irritants were enough to spoil the film which is presumably another measure of how exciting the film is.  If it had been a wash, I probably would have sat watching that green light flicker off and on and off again.

Afterwards I had planned to see something else, but the waits were too long for anything I would potentially be interested in seeing and with M:I VII having a duration of two and half hours there's only so much time my old eyes can spend in front of a screen these days (I'm 43).  That I was contemplating such is quite the thing and you're as surprised as I am.  It doesn't take much for me to reject a cinema but this experience was good enough that if these is another film I'd consider watching in the future that I'd probably travel out to Speke instead of the city centre.  However passionless multiplexes are, there was an effortless to the experience.  Plus having screenings which begin this early feels incredibly civilized.  You can see a film and then have the rest of the day to play about with, which is the jam.  I'll report back when I've had a chance to have the ScreenX experience.  It might just enough to get me to see Aquaman at the cinema.

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