“ Unit 2 The Great Northern, 253 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4EN, 08 707 555657 „
Do you like the smell of sweat? If so, the foyer of this cinema is an explosion up your nose. Past that and things get better. Ignore the goths contaminating the arcade area then sweep as quickly as possible up the elevator and breathe again. From here on in everything is the way a cinema should be. Overexpensive snacks, plenty of screens and disdainful staff. Despite the size of this cinema, you may have trouble finding it for the first time, as the advertising is for it's entrance is almost non-existent. A couple of times i have been in the area and there have been people walking up and down, directly in front of the main building, with puzzled looks on their faces. When they asked, "Do you know where the cinema is?" and i responded with the flick of my head, they looked even more bemused. But then again they may have just been a bit dim.
Since January we've been to a Manchester cinema up to 6 times each week to take advantage of various free tickets or other offers, or just because there are some films we just *have* to see. Since Manchester city centre has only 3 decent cinemas (the UCI, the Odeon and this place) we end up here quite a bit. The AMC is the newest addition for cinema goers in Manchester and we go there, oh, at least once a week because of the freebies (see later). It's a strange place because it's very open plan - the box office is in the middle of the concourse on the 1st floor (from where you can also access the Virgin Fitness centre and, in the future, several restaurants and shops). After getting your tickets, you take the escalator to the floor above, where they are checked, and you are allowed through to the food stands and loos and screens. So from the outset, no, it's not like your usual cinema where you go through the doors and have everything right in front of you, but it's not different in a bad way. Just in a, um, different way. Why we like it: - With a SnapFax (the magnetic student discount card free to students) you get a free large (and I mean huge!) popcorn and equally gigantic drink on your first visit. These come with free refills up until 10pm as all large sizes here do - if you actually manage to consume them all (we often decant into bottles or bags for later...or tip the slushy bit away after the film, and then go back for fresh stuff for the walk home). After that, your 1st visit, you get free upgrades each time you go, taking you from medium to large for no extra cost. However, we have several dozen snapfaxes each so every time we go, we use a new one and get the initial freebies. Excellent. - With a MovieWatcher card (again, free) you get points every time you see a show (2 per ticket). After every 5 shows (or every 5 tickets if you visit in groups) you get a bonus freebie - free drink, free popcorn or free " ;night at the movies", complete with both of these and a free cinema ticket. These are not transferable - you have to use the voucher then and there that night, and you can't swap popcorn vouchers for drinks or vice versa (a shame since I don't like the popped stuff), but they're still pretty nice free bonuses, and something other local cinemas don't offer. - The screens are huge, the seats are huge and the level of cleanliness is great - each cinema has an electronic sign outside indicating what is going on in there at the moment -seating for a film, the showing of an already started one, and so on. And, whenever it switches to cleaning and the teams go in, they stay in there for a while, blitzing the place. - They show all the new releases, plus some older ones, several times a day every day. Usually each new release is on every 2 hours or so, and different films are staggered so whenever you arrive you never have to wait long for something to start. And of course you can be entertained by those fabulous Orange "Don't let a phone spoil your movie" adverts which we like immensely. - The loos are gigantic, and the ladies are much more numerous than the mens, meaning you never have to queue as you sometimes do at the local Odeon or UCI Filmworks. There are a ton of benches in the areas between screens, meaning if you're early (or catching a couple of films) you have an alternative to the floor for somewhere to sit, which again the Odeon doesn't offer. - It has a great central location, minutes from Deansgate, St Peter's Square, Oxford Road and the town centre shops. Public transport links are good - the metrolink has a stop for the adjoining GMEX conference centre, the busiest bus route in Europe is moments away and 4 main line railway stations are within walking distance. - The prices are good - £3 for students, OAPs and kids at all times. Adult prices vary depending on the t ime of day, but never go above £5. For a city centre cinema, that's really not bad. - The website (www.amctheatres.com/theatres/international/uk/) is always up to date, listing opening hours, film showing times and pricing information, and as with many cinemas, they offer a free email service where the up coming week's times plop into your inbox every Wednesday. What could be better: - the snack selection is limited - only really popcorn, hot dogs and pick and mix. When we choose not to go here, it's usually so we can go to the Filmworks and get Ben and Jerry's sundaes, or to the Odeon and pop into McDonalds for McFlurries first. There's no decent ice cream for sale in the cinema or outside in the local vicinity, which is annoying. To us, it's as essential to the enjoyment of a movie as any other usual film snack. - Sometimes advertised films don't run - we assume because not enough tickets have been sold. This happens more often than you might think, and is annoying if you've gone specially. The Odeon, on the other hand, show films for minute numbers of people, and at times we've had the screens to ourselves there. - The staff are sometimes hard to find - there are always people at the box office and on the concession stands, but the Guest Services desk on the first floor looks unmanned most of the time. Getting there: The cinema is in the Great Northern complex, right next to the GMEX. From where I live there are various odd ways of getting there. You can walk along Whitworth Street as it turns into Whitworth Street West, round onto Deansgate Locks, through the car park and into the complex. Or you can walk along Oxford Rd as it turns into Oxford Street, then Peter Street and in through the main entrance. The cinema has its box office on the 1st floor and screens and candy on the floor above. Overall the AMC seems to be trying hard to make it here. There are only 2 branches in the UK so far (the other is in Birmingham) though they seem big in the US from what I've seen. They frequently have special offers on, especially for students (at the start of term we were given tickets to see the Italian Job for free, and vouchers for a free drink and snack for the showing), and the development of their MovieWatcher programme adds a certain something lacking with other chains. The Odeon here sucks, but this place definitely ties with the UCI at the moment, and if they would do something about their ice cream supplies, this could soon change.
I recently wrote a review of the main cinemas in Manchester, the Filmworks, and promised that I would write an opinion on this cinema, much better in my opinion, as soon as dooyoo added it. Well, here it is. For those who don't know where it is, it's at the corner of Peter Street and Deansgate, in the Great Northern Warehouse. That's the big warehouse behing Bar 38 and the amphitheatre. It's supposed to be a huge shopping development, although there are no shops there yet, except the restaurant Persia. Perhaps this is why these cinemas are not promoting themselves, but I only discovered it becasue I pass by every day. They don't seem to advertise anywhere and only publish their showing times on their hard to find website. Not even on yell.co.uk, where most cinemas are listed. Anyway, to get in, there is a tiny yellow billboard pointing to the entrance outside - you enter into a beautiful mall, with blue cardboard walls where the shops will be. Up an escalator, along another sparkling, ultra-modern shopless corridor to the ticket booth. There's two members of staff there, despite the fact that I have been twice and there has'nt ever been more than two other people in the queue. It's a fiver to get in and they have been running an offer all month where you buy a ticket and they give you a free ticket to use anytime until the end of the month (which I went back to use today). There's another escalator to go up after that, leading from a shining marble lobby filled with the latest film cardboard cutout promotions to cinema legends painted on the walls. At the top, you enter another circular area that I can desribe simply as classy. It's all carpeted in oranges, reds and beiges, there are thick wooden doors leading into each of the 16 screens, with shining chrome handles that all make it seem as if you're the first people to ever visit there. Of course, what is a cinema visit without a trip t o the... toilet. Yes, even the toilets are great. Sparkling, clean and the whole place feels incredibly safe. Other necessary things to do include refreshments. There's as wide a range as anywhere else and when we went into watch our film they informed us that we could get popcorn or drinks refilled anytime throughout the film. The screens themselves are brilliant - huge screens and most importantly, stadium seating. Brilliant padding chairs and a lot of leg room. First film I went to see, Shallow Hal, there was nobody else in the cinema except my three friends. Today, there were no more than ten others, and that's on half term. It's almost like a secret place that nobody knows about and it's great that way - who knows how long it will be till it's spoiled like the Filmworks? Perhaps it's not advertising becasue there's no shops there and it's waiting. But right now, it's brilliant and I can't recommend it enough.