As might be obvious from today's reviews, I spent bank holiday watching films. Last night we managed to get late night tickets to Doomsday, so it was off to the Odeon in the Metrocentre (which I really hope is the one this section is meant for).
Waiting for tickets was quick and easy enough. We got there about two hours early as we were going for dinner first, and were served within five minutes. An adult ticket would have been £6.25, but I got a student ticket for £5.50. Not exactly a huge discount, but you know what they say - every little helps.
I was stuffed from dinner so didn't look too closely at the popcorn and sweets - it seemed to be overpriced as usual. I did notice however that they now also sell little bags of dried fruit - I haven't seen that anywhere before.
Cinema was very clean, if a little chilly - I found myself putting my fleece back on. We were asked to sit in the red seats - I'm not sure who the privledged blue seats are for. Members only, maybe? In any case, the place was nearly empty, so we easily got a good seat.
One small gripe - they left the sidelights on throughout the film, and the theatre was really too small for that much light. There might have been a much better atmophere had it been darker.
All together though, it was a decent experiemce. Well done, Odeon!
Let me start off this review with a bit of clarification. The large and lavish Paramount Theatre described in the category blurb provided by dooyoo is no longer the Odeon cinema in Newcastle; this building, fine as it was (indeed, it was grade 2 listed by English Heritage) closed down in 2002 and is now a sadly abandoned shell that has still not found another use, despite being de-listed. The reason for the Odeons abandonment of this little piece of architectural history was the decision to get in on a new development on the other side of the city centre, called The Gate. The Gate is an entertainment complex that was conceived in 2001 to provide a 3-storey shopping mall-type structure housing restaurants, bars, clubs and a casino; the new Odeon took over the top floor of this complex, making it within easy staggering distance of several of the citys newest watering holes. In May 2006, this cinema was actually taken over by Empire Cinemas, although it is fair to say that writing about this particular establishment under its old name is still perfectly viable as: (a) most people still think of it and call it the Odeon, (b) at the time of writing staff uniforms and most of the décor were noticeably Odeon, and (c) the last time I walked past The Gate, the sign outside still advertised this cinema as an Odeon. I am in a good position to review this establishment, having been a regular customer and working there for a six-month period, ending just after the cinema was bought out by Empire.
The Gate advertises itself as Newcastles premier entertainment venue; it is a building of shimmering glass frontage, flashing lights and loud music played incessantly in all public areas of the building. From the outside, it could almost be described as stylish and modern, but as much as I try to talk myself into that perspective, the image is lost as I enter the complex and having my senses assaulted with ugly neon lights, annoyingly loud music and the inevitable PR people shoving leaflets at me for things I dont want. One of the two lifts is frequently out of order, and the poor internal design of the complex was sadly revealed last winter, when the fatal combination of drunken people, low railings and first floor cash machines was revealed. In short, it is hideous.
The Odeon itself fares no better. After negotiating your way to the top floor, you are faced with further tackiness (strobe lighting, the sort of arcade machines you would expect in seaside arcades ) and a ruthless assault upon your wallet. The old Odeon was designed with the intention of providing a pleasant film-going experience in comfortable surroundings, but the new multiplex seems to be there only to extract as much money from customers as possible. As you enter the foyer, you have the food retail area to your left, an expensive café in front of you (in the process of morphing from a Haagen Dazs café to some unknown future brand) and the box office to your right. This I have always found to be an odd set-up, as most cinemas will have their box office in the most prominent place in the foyer, near the front or at least directly ahead. As a member of staff, I frequently noted how often this confused people who had never been before; customers frequently came over to the retail area tills to try and buy tickets as this was the first (only?) sales point they saw upon entering.
The foyer is also customer unfriendly from the point of view that it doesnt provide any seating (except for café customers) or waiting areas, despite the fact that people are not admitted through to the screens area until 20 minutes before their film starts which is a rule that incidentally is not advertised anywhere. On the flip side, this is not much fun for staff either. We were constantly berated by managers to stick to this rule, and by the public who found they couldnt go and sit in their (paid for) seats and had to stand around in the foyer because there was nowhere else for them to go, unless they wanted to spend yet more money in the café. The reason for this situation was because of the short turn around between films sometimes we had as little as 7 minutes between the end of the credits of one film and the start of the next showing to prepare the screen, and letting customers through early often led to people walking into screenings that were still running, thus disturbing the film. But of course, the more screenings you have, the more money there is to be made. Increasing the gaps between films would benefit both customers and screen staff, but might cost a few pounds, so naturally the cinema will not consider doing it.
Should you venture into the food retail area, you will find the usual array of junk food awaiting you: popcorn, hotdogs, nachos, pick & mix, chocolates, crisps and drinks. All with a very large mark-up, naturally. This part of the cinema was obviously designed to fit in with the (ahem) aesthetics of the building alone, as it was completely impractical and poorly laid out. The very small service area became impossibly cramped when just two staff members were trying to prepare food orders for customers; on a busy Saturday, there could be as many as five people working retail and it just became impossible as we would all get in each others way, thus slowing down service to customers and annoying us. I could also never understand why self-service popcorn stands were available, as they led to a lot of mess and wastage, and surely ended up costing more than the small amount saved by not having staff serve popcorn (especially as popcorn was served behind the counter anyway). While the pick & mix selection was always pretty good, the change to Empire stock has seen some of the retail products change from those you might expect in an Odeon cinema. The range of crisps and bagged sweets has increased since May (a good thing), but the nachos have become appallingly bad judging by the amounts left in screens for staff to clear up. However, if you dont feel like paying such high prices for your movie snacks, one of the benefits of the location of The Gate is that it is right next to a large Co-Op, which has long opening hours. Buy your drinks and food there instead!
Once you are admitted through to the screens area, directions to the 12 screens are pleasingly clear, although again the lack of seating and waiting areas is again very poor, and the toilets could be better signposted. Should you go at a peak time (weekends or when there is a major release just out), expect the whole of the screens area to be messy. The reason for this is largely to do with the short turn around between the films, again; this means screen cannot be properly tidied between performances, and queues form in the corridors (where people eat and spill things). The self-service popcorn stands also lead to people cramming as much popcorn as possible into their cardboard buckets, which inevitably leads to spillage all the way between retail and their seats, including in the toilets. On such occasions, staff are so busy trying to make screens reasonably presentable between performances, that they have little time to sort out anywhere else. There is a sit-on buggy designed for vacuuming the corridors, but with large queues of people in the corridors, this cannot be used .
The 12 screens vary in size, from huge (seating 300+ people) to small (around 50 seats). Seats are not allocated; you chose where to sit based on a first come, first served principle. The seats are pretty comfortable as cinemas go (certainly I have experienced worse), with the screens being modern and providing good visual and sound quality. However, you would expect this, given the newness of the cinema, and this is one aspect of the experience as a customer that I have never had cause to fault. The selection of films is another matter, though. With there being so many seats and screens, the possibility for this cinema to branch out from showing mainstream Hollywood movies is huge, but is one that unfortunately never seems to be capitalised on. The Tyneside Cinema (situated opposite the old Odeon) shows repeatedly that there are audiences for and money to be made from non-blockbuster films, but has a very small capacity to show them. I always felt the Odeon was missing out on something by failing to even consider this a potential market for customers.
The new Odeon multiplex could have been a wonderful asset for Newcastle in so many ways, but has been a consummate failure in my eyes. While it may get a lot of customers through the door, this is more to do with the fact that it is the only cinema showing mainstream films that is easily accessible by public transport in the city; you really need a car to get to any other. It is a soulless experience seeing a film there. You are made to wait through up to 25 minutes of adverts to get to your film, and then rushed out at the end so the screen can be made ready for the next intake; it is like customers are being processed through their visit rather than being given a pleasant and relaxing film-going experience. I didnt like it as a customer and I hated it as a member of staff I wouldnt recommend either.
Odeon Newcastle (now Empire Newcastle)
Newcastle upon Tyne
Open: 10.30am to 10pm daily
Tickets: £6.40 (adult), £5.30 (student), £4.70 (senior), £4.00 (under 15)
Nearest Metro Station: St James or Monument