Pick of the pops

I’m going to indulge myself and it is, after all, my blog, and I can add what I like. I’m going off piste again, into the realm of cinema.

I promised a friend of mine: film.revstan.com , I would post a “top 10” of cinemas in the West Midlands general area. I have now visited a fair few and had set myself the goal of visiting as many as possible. I am now in a position where I believe I can make fair comment.

  1. The Spa Centre Leamington Spa. This comes out top for more than one reason. Firstly, the ticket price was an altogether humane £5 in Jan 2012 and they charged me a sensible price for a 500ml bottle of coke. Secondly the ticket machine was broken at the time of my visit and the guy in the ticket office wrote out the ticket by hand. This made me smile. A lot. Third; they have a projectionist. They need one because they project film from a real film print and focus it in the first few seconds. Ace. In my travels this is the only place I have come across which ahs not migrated to digital. Fourth, they have no plans for digital (too expensive and someone would lose their job…). There is another cinema in Leamington and I have not visited this establishment but it is a chain and I think I know what I will get. For the record I saw Coriolanus starring Ralph Fiennes and it was brilliant. Oh. I almost forgot. I can think of no other establishment where a fellow cinemagoer would produce a flask of tea and partake of this during a performance.
  2. Warwick arts centre, Coventry. This cinema usually shows all those films you can’t get anywhere else and it’s very close to home, so wins on the convenience front. The screen is comfortable and the ticketing system helpful and intuitive. Parking is straightforward. This cinema also provided me with two of my most memorable audience “moments”. The first concerned a verbal altercation between two very middle class and well spoken citizens. In the adverts before the film, there were some late (moot point) arrivers who happened to vaguely bump the seat in front as they moved to take their seats. The offended party turned to ask if they wouldn’t mind stopping doing ‘that’ to which the new arrival firmly stated “If you would kindly stop being such an arse….” Where the hell else would you hear such a phrase. I thought there would be fisticuffs. I could hardly concentrate on the trailers for the mirth this engendered in me. Easily a highlight of the visit; but the film was excellent (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo 2012). The second moment happened in the middle of “The Angels Share” and to give the reason why, I would have to spoil the plot, so I won’t. There was an audible gasp by the ENTIRE audience – brilliant.
  3. MAC (Midlands Arts Centre – CannonPark Edgbaston). This wins for having a lovely bar and some nice art to have a look at while you are waiting for a film to start. Get your beer or G&T and relax. It’s a great setting as well. This cinema was the only one in the entire area showing “Biutiful” by Alejandro Inarritu, a filmmaker I have admired for a long time. I also saw Tyrannosaur here (captivating performances but bloomin grim).
  4. Stratford upon Avon picturehouse. I liked this cinema. I’ve made one visit to see “Headhunters” and enjoyed the sensible prices for tickets and food and drink. It does lack cheap parking locally, but it’s Stratford and you just have to roll with that. It also means that I’m not visiting the RSC and that can be a bit of a drag.
  5. Cineworld Broad StreetBirmingham. This place has an inspired manager. They show a good range of films and you can often get a late showing of an obscure(ish) film which will never grace the doors of the usual multiplex. I finish work very late and like to use Orange Wednesday tickets and can get here by about 9PM. This can be a tall order, so my hat is off to their innovative scheduling. I’ve seen Kill List, The Awakening and Killer Joe in here recently (most memorably). They also have an agreement with the neighbouring NCP car park for free parking (bonus).
  6. The Birmingham IMAX. On the list at this point merely because it is so dammed good to have an IMAX locally. The ticket prices are lower than Odeon/Showcase and the experience is great. The Dark Knight Rises could not have been better like this (Nolan shot it in IMAX (I think) so you were always onto a winner at that point)
  7. StarCity (VUE). There are so many screens here, you would think that every film would be available. They are not. It is a bit selective and very mainstream but I have had some gems here (The Devils Double) and they get a big thumbs up for showing more 2D prints of Threed releases than virtually anywhere else I can think of locally. For instance I saw both The Amazing Spiderman and POTC4 (guilty pleasure) here in 2D.
  8. Odeon in Worcester – gets a mention merely for being the only cinema I could find that was showing “Attack the Block” when I could actually get the time to see it. Also has the honour of having a very bizarre screen where there are only about 4 rows in the room and you get a really immersive feeling. The only thing which marred my visit was the chap in the row behind, who showed up drunk and loudly snored through most of the film.
  9. The Electric cinema in Birmingham. I would have expected this to feature higher. It was a recent visit for me and it has some very good features. It has a nice bar with drinks served in glasses and some lovely nibbles to purchase. It has its sofas in the screens. It had a sensible sound level in the screen (NOT stadium PA in a small room (Multiplexes take note). It has sensible ticket prices and a very, very good schedule of films. What the hell let it down??? Its shabby – the seats are creaky and tired and it is desperately in need of a refurbishment. It was a full auditorium for an early evening showing of “Shadow Dancer” though.
  10. Cineworld in Solihull. This gets its mention for being so very close to a Wagamama. Gets a bit of a ‘thumbs down# for the most unhelpful carpark signage in the UK. Not the fault of the cinema, but I cant help that.

What didn’t make it?

Nuneaton Odeon….. Only a mile or so from home but so very awful… Chavtastic audience

Coventry Odeon Skydome… Convenient for work and therefore parking and does have free parking but is hell on a stick.

Coventry Showcase…. Functional and soulless with unhelpful staff (more than once Im sorry to say)

There you go. I did it. I have a new one on my list to visit: The Lighthouse in Wolverhampton and also the Empire in Sutton Coldfield. We shall see, we shall see.

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One Response to Pick of the pops

  1. Rev Stan says:

    Great list. If I’m ever in the West Midlands I’ll know where to go. In London I tend to go to the multiplexes only during the daytime and the more expensive ones in town as that keeps the riff-raff, mobile phone-using, imbeciles away.
    I started compiling a list of things I want out of a cinema about a year ago and it’s never made it up on my blog but this has inspired me. I also need to catch up with my reviews. It’s tough what with all the theatre…

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