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Location, location, location
UCI Cinema (Norwich)
Member Name: ermintrude
UCI Cinema (Norwich)
Date: 04/02/01, updated on 14/08/02 (2918 review reads)
Advantages: Good service, Ben & Jerry's, reasonably convenient
Disadvantages: Price, location and surroundings, lack of discounts for pre-booked tickets
The UCI in Norwich was the cinema of choice for me and my friends for some time, mainly because Ster Century, in the middle of town, wasn't nearly as good service-wise when it opened. However, the problems have been ironed out for the most part, and because Ster is closer, we tend to go there now. To be fair, UCI was the first real multiplex in the city, and got it right from the start, but now there is little of significance to choose between the two, and it primarily comes down to which is easier and faster to get to for you.
UCI is situated on the Riverside development, a major new leisure complex in Norwich. Not only is it close to a number of bars (Squares, Norwegian Blue) and restaurants (Old Orleans, Frankie & Benny's), a club (Time) and a bowling alley (Hollywood Bowl), but it is right opposite the station, on a 24hr bus route, and allows you free parking in the adjoining multi-storey. All this added entertainment can mean that the car park fills up early, though, and there is little alternative parking nearby. You can walk from the city centre in 5-10 minutes, but as more bars and clubs open on Riverside, and especially Prince of Wales Road (the main access if you are walking), it is actually increasingly unpleasant to walk to/from the area late at night, especially on a Friday or Saturday.
Walking in, it's clear that this is a cinema first and foremost, rather than an addition to a shopping mall like Ster Century. There are a number of cashier desks, but still there are often queues as not all are open at the same time. Pre-booked tickets are collected elsewhere, so this is a good idea as long as you don't want discounted entry (which cannot be done over the phone).
food and drink area is roomy, with no real crowd flow problems even when it's busy. On one side is a bar, and in the middle there is the usual concession stand, but over on the other side is Heaven. The Ben & Jerry's franchise was a huge selling point at first, but recently Ster seem to have realised this, and got their own. At £1.25 a tub it's maybe a little pricey, but you have to admit it's a cut above a big bag of Maltesers. These cinema stalls have flavours you never see in the shops, such as Double Trouble, which contains little chocolate cows, and Southern Peach.
If you're early, there's a little seating area which shows trailers and previews, but otherwise you just migrate to the screen you want. "Cast Members" (ushers to you and me) are always on hand for those lost in the dark, labyrinthine passages which lead to the screens. You choose your own seats, so arrive early if you have a preference. At busy times you may well find yourself queueing for a long time while some poor sap with a bin-bag tries to clear up the mess left in your screen by the last lot of patrons.
The pre-film adverts hark back to the days of little local cinemas, advertising local companies to the accompaniment of piped cheesy chart music. Occasional teasers are included along with the ads, but they have a limited number, so after a couple of visits you've seen them all.
A "feature" of the Norwich UCI which is supposedly a great success is the Gallery. I haven't tried it personally, but here's the gist: for £12 (each, you understand), you get a complimentary drink and snack, a larger and roomier seat (the normal ones are by no means bad), and you are allowed to drink alcohol. The downside? These seats are the back two rows of a normal auditorium, separated only by a rope. So, you pay £12, get a cup of coffee and some nacho crumbs, and get to sit way up at the back, a million miles from the screen, and
you're still in the same room as the plebs! Umm, no thanks.
But the plebs (students included) get a decent deal anyway, so it's hardly a loss. Just £3.90 gets you a fairly comfy seat in a position where you don't need binoculars to see the screen, and you're spared most of the munching, rustling and slurping coming from people trying to get their £12 worth of munchies. The seats are okay, not as comfy as Ster Century but they do have the bonus of being able to lift up the arm rest if you feel the need to get closer to your neighbour :) A final note on the sound - it's loud. Very very loud. Too loud, I think, but apparently "that's how it is now".
Overall, the UCI has gradually lost out to Ster Century on a series of small things. The seats are slightly less comfy, and the sound is a bit too loud. Ster have put their prices down to £3.50 for everyone, whereas UCI is £3.90 for students and more (getting on for £5) for others. Also, running the gauntlet of drunken people to get to/from UCI is increasingly off-putting. All this, coupled with the greater likelihood of finding parking in the city centre late at night, means that UCI is probably not such a good bet these days, unless you're planning it as part of a full night out on Riverside.
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