Perhaps Norwich isn't at the top of your list when it comes to places to visit in the UK but we are the home of mustard and Christmas crackers as well as the first team to ever top the Premier League (okay it was just for the first week) However when it come's to cinematic matters then you really are spoilt for choice in the city but it hasn't always been that way. If you go back a few years then there were only two mainstream cinemas in Norwich. One was the Odeon, the other was the ABC. The Odeon offered only three screens while the ABC was only slightly bigger with 4. This meant that the majority of films on offer were just the mainstream with only the occasional glimpse of something more interesting or low key. In these cases the chances were that after a week you would have missed you chance to see it anyway. The only other in the city was and still is Cinema City, the single screen art house establishment where you could see those foreign films you'd heard about a well as the independent offerings. With the developments of the Castle Mall and the Riverside complex it was only a matter of time before the multiplex came to Norwich and thank god it did. Sadly it's seen the end of both the Odeon's and the ABC's reign in the city but that's no big deal when you actually consider what you were missing. At Riverside you have the UCI offering 14 screens and a lot of choice. There's also easy access to the cinema and free car parking although that isn't as great as it seems if you consider recent developments. Admission ranges from £3.50-4.50 for normal seats while you can also watch the big films in the luxury of the Gallery, you pay more for it but unlimited drinks and snacks means that those with bottomless stomachs will probably be getting a good deal. Because the complex has 14 screen you can normally find something to take your fancy. Of course the biggest films like Spiderman and Star Wars command
several screens. In fact Spiderman is currently showing nearly every half hour. This means that you're unlikely to be disappointed to find that a show is sold out. This would have always happened with the Odeon/ABC. The screens themselves are big and the seats are very comfortable with stadium style seating as well as drinks holders built in. Of course each screen offers high quality SDDS sound that makes the experience so much better than the old style Dolby surround that was on offer at Odeon/ABC. Of course drinks/food is overprices but that's the same at any cinema. It's how they make their money. Out of all Norwich Cinemas the UCI is the best because of their size but recently parking has become a problem. There is no doubt that the busiest time of the week is the weekend night. However the car park is always full by around 7.30 due to all the other recent clubs and pubs opening around the complex. This wasn't so much of a problem as there were empty car parks on the retail section of the complex. However all of them now close their gates at an early time which makes parking almost impossible close by. Something needs to be done to address this soon otherwise people may go elsewhere. The 8-screen Ster Century cinema located in the Castle Mall is a similar complex to the UCI. It offers the same kind of seating although it has to be said that their seats are slightly more plush and comfortable. The prices are around the same as UCI but their ticketing system isn't as good. They actually give you seat numbers to sit in, you don't really have much choice in the matter and the diagram you?re shown when you buy tickets doesn't always give you the best indication of where you'll be sitting. You also have the problem of trying to find your seats in the dark; you may then get the wrong ones and find yourself moving to the correct ones. Having said that the cinema is equipped with the new Dolby Digital EX surrou
nd sound in the biggest screens although I never have noticed much difference. The parking for the cinema is also free which isn't great during the day as of course it's the same car park that caters for the entire mall and queues are always possible. However during the night the chances of parking are very easy and this is where Star may find their customer increasing with what's happening down the Riverside. Some might say the customer service at Star isn't as good and I've had one bad experience where the screens were evacuated because of a fire alarm, afterwards we were made to wait twenty minutes after being allowed back in before being told the cinema was closing, trying to get a refund was like getting blood out of a stone. But these occurrences are few and far between. Local chain Hollywood Cinemas took over the Odeon complex about 18 months ago and they are still going strong. They have the best prices in town for mainstream films but they also suffer from having the old style presentation to offer. The seats aren't as good and the sound definitely isn't nowhere near the other two mainstream cinemas in town. But then again this cinema seems to cater for families and those who don't like the deafening sound on offer in a new digital environment. Their drinks and snacks are also cheaper which is a rarity. Although I'm more for the best presentation of a film there is a need for the likes of Hollywood and some praise must go to them for campaigning to get the Spiderman certificate reduced to a PG/PG12 in most parts of Norfolk. Now the youngsters can see Spiderman and not just look at the back of cereal packets. The Hollywood also has a small car park but having said that there are plenty of places to park nearby and chances are it won't cost you anything. Finally you have Cinema City, the art house alternative that shows the smaller films that you don't normally find elsewhere. Of course this is som
ewhere you won't find the mainstream audience but if you want to see films that aren't just effects and actually tell solid stories then this is the place. The cinema is a bit old fashioned, the seats aren't the best but that's part of the character of the place. Parking isn't the best as there are many car parks in close walking distance. This is because the cinema is located very close to the City centre. However admission is quite reasonable depending on what time of day you go. Not only that but it's the only cinema that sells Mars bars and if that ain't a recommendation then I don't know what is. Occasionally you may also find a guest speaker attending a screening. So I'm all for the multiplex and I'm glad Norwich finally got round to it. Otherwise the chance of seeing Apocalypse Now on the big screen would have been a distant dream.