Recently, I've been conducting a bit of an experiment: rather than going to see lots of films in grimy mulitplexes, I've been shunning the mainstream and going to fewer blockbuster releases, but all of them in awesome, luxury cinemas. "Oh, you dirty hipster" I hear you cry -- but while I might be perilously close to skinny-jeans-and-gratuitous-glasses territory, I can promise you that ditching the mulitplex is totally worth it. Here's why.
Most films (I'm excluding total bollucksed-up piles of crap like Battleship here) are tender works of art. Their directors have slaved over them for years, paying attention to the tiniest blip in the soundtrack or the precise fall of a bird's shadow, or something else that you or I don't consciously notice but makes films amazing. Especially with the advent of 3D, films are an immersive experience. This is why you should go to a luxury cinema -- not to gorge on popcorn for a few miserable hours, but to be briefly taken away from your world and deposited in another. That's the magic of film.
You know what ruins that magic? Some arsehole talking on a phone during a film. This actually happens in mulitplexes, despite all the scary guilt-tripping Orange adverts. (True story: some complete dickhead actually answered his phone during the tense final scenes of Skyfall. I'd never actually been able to feel an entire room of people genuinely united in disbelief/hatred until that point.)
But it's not just the phones. Mulitplexes provide a flawed cinema-going experience all round. There's the aforementioned phone-using self-centered jerks, there's the itchy, uncomfortable seats, people sticking their feet in your backs, clueless staff, and big, vacuous screening rooms. It's a soulless experience, and from the first step you feel like all the cinemas are interested in is nabbing your money and spitting you back out.
Luxury cinemas change that. You're cosseted in a warm ball of care that's just enough to make you feel special, while not quite crossing over into the world of intrusive. Reclining leather seats make everyone's life better (that's just a fact, don't bother to argue), and being able to consume well though-out food rather than microwave nachos is nothing short of sublime.
Moreover, the small viewing screens add a much-needed sense of intimacy to the film. It's hard to quantify why (though it might be something to do with 3D working better in the smaller environment), but the films that I've seen in luxury cinemas have all felt far more immersive that those I've viewed in multiplexes. There's also the added benefit that no matter where you sit, the small room means that you've got a good viewing angle (rather than being rammed up painfully close to the screen).
So, by this stage you're hopefully already halfway out the door with wallet in hand, and a firm promise to never again grace your local multiplex with your presence. There is, though, a slight sticking point: price. There's no escaping that luxury cinema tickets are often somewhere in the region of double the price of their pedestrian counterparts, with prices normally in the £15-30 range. But you know what? I think it's worth it. If your economic situation dictates, I would go to the cinema less often, but almost always go luxury. You'll enjoy it more, I promise.
So that now I've got you sold on luxury cinemas, where are the best places in the UK to find them?
My favourite of all the luxury cinemas for pure decadence. The screens are small 50-seaters, with armchairs and sofas at the back; all leather and all recliners. Imaging tech and sound is spectacular, as is the food delivered straight to your seat at any point during the screening. If you wanna impress a date, go here, then stick around for a drink at the bar afterwards. Tickets £18
The classic London luxury cinema, found on Portobello Road. It suffered a serious fire in June 2012, and only reopened around a month ago; despite that, it still features man-heaven leather seats, and a bar in the auditorium. Tickets £15-18 for seats, or £30-45 for a sofa.
The Roxy is the hipsterist of hipster cinemas, mostly doing multi-bill screenings of awesome old films. Don't let that put you off, though: the screening area is intimate and homely, mostly old sofas with a scattering of sit-down tables. The food is as good as the movie bills, and served straight to table. The best thing? They also do live sports, and are possibly the best place in London to watch England thrash New Zealand. Tickets from £6.00, but a year's membership is only £15 and allows you to reserve seats and free entry to all screenings.
There are 5 Curzon own-brand cinemas and a bunch of affiliated franchises; depending on the particular cinema, they can be just another mulitplex or an actual high-quality luxury affair; prices reflect this, at around £15 for new releases.
A 2-screen multiplex/luxury combo in Birmingham, showing new releases. Premium seats are £13.50 (minimum of 2 people for a sofa). Premium seating also allows food orders to be delivered straight to your seat during the show.
Boutique cinema in Edinburgh showing new releases; 4 screens with plush armchairs, tickets from £9.50.
The Odeon of luxury cinemas, but don't let that put you off; 9 cinemas around the south of England bring you quality viewing in fairly unique cinemas. Tickets around £14, depending on film/cinema.
Know of any good local places? Let us know in the comments!