/ Travel & Leisure

Cineworld? I’d rather visit the Picturehouse

A row of red seats in a cinema

Multiplex giant Cineworld has bought the Picturehouse chain. Arthouse cinemas offer more choice and comfort, often at lower prices than your local mainstream cinema. Once you’ve gone arthouse, can you go back?

Cineworld has pledged to preserve the quality of Picturehouse cinemas. It’s unlikely that the takeover means that independent, arty films will get scrapped in favour of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Across the UK, arthouse cinemas seem to be thriving. Cineworld wants to get in on the action, and I can’t blame them.

While I was growing up, going to the cinema meant a trip to our local Warner Brothers multiplex to watch a mainstream hit like ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Jurassic Park’. It wasn’t until I was living and working in Cambridge that I started to look for more interesting viewing options. I discovered the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse and never looked back.

Tucked away behind a gigantic Wetherspoons pub, the Arts Picturehouse has one large screen and two smaller ones. You can choose your seats when buying your tickets online or at the kiosk, so you don’t need to worry about being there half an hour before the film starts just to secure a good seat. The standard of films is high, and even the pick and mix looks fancy. All in all, it’s a very civilised experience.

A golden age for the silver screen

Since moving to London I’ve discovered more arthouse gems. The Everyman Screen on the Green in Islington and the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton are lovely places to enjoy a film. My guilty pleasure is the Prince Charles Cinema, famed for its cheesy events and epic film marathons. It’s the perfect antidote to the monolithic multiplexes on Leicester Square.

Occasionally, I fancy watching a blockbuster movie. My favourite cinemas don’t always show them, so I have little choice but to visit a Vue or an Odeon to get my fix. Trouble is, I’ve become a cinema snob. I just can’t stand dealing with the crowds, outrageous prices and sticky floors that seem to blight the big cinema chains. I watched Skyfall, the UK’s highest-grossing film ever, at one of the big chain cinemas. By the end of the film I was crying out for my cosy, comfy little picture house. Am I the only cinema snob?


My local Picturehouse, in Greenwich, showed Skyfall and shows other blockbusters. I hope they don’t change as I find they offer both value and comfort.

By being a member I don’t pay booking fees and get food discounts, they don’t mind if you take in your own snacks, and they don’t charge extra for 3D films. They charge 50p per pair of glasses but when I went to return them the staff member told me to keep them for next time.

The other ones I’ve been to also tend to offer non-cinema entertainment – bands, crafts, activities, as well as bars, so I hope they don’t go.

Cineworld isn’t bad, they are a better fit than Odeon or Vue going on my experience. Only in an Odeon have I had to wrench my shoes from sticky floors.

My local cinema, Hackney Picturehouse, has been a massive success since opening a year or so ago, becoming a real community hub. With a lovely bar selling local beers, a great range of films and Q&As, and even a gig space upstairs, it’s much more than your average multiplex chain. It’s a space you can actually enjoy spending time in, rather than just a commercial space with the same old overpriced popcorn and soft drinks. I’d be really sad if it changes – fingers crossed that Cineworld will see sense not to interfere.

TheLadyWhoIsGaga says:
9 December 2012

I fear that Cineworld will recognise profit and profit only, but Picturehouses have been going mainstream for years anyway.