Return of the Super Cinema
Barry Doyle compares today's multiplex cinemas with the picture palaces of pre-war Britain.
The revival of the cinema-going habit in Britain continues to gather momentum. Despite a minor blip in 1995, audience figures have been on a steady upward curve since their 1984 record low of 54 million and all indicators suggest 1997 could register the highest number of admissions since the early 1970s. Though this recovery is the result of a number of inter-related factors - pricing, product, the impact of video - most commentators are agreed that much of the credit must go to the importation of American multiplex cinemas, purpose built cinemas with five or more screens, the first of which - the ten-screen Point in Milton Keynes - opened its doors in 1985.
Britain now has around a hundred multiplexes - usually situated in out-of-town sites, surrounded by shops and other leisure facilities - commanding over half of all admissions. The overall improvement in the cinema infrastructure which has accompanied their appearance bears fruitful comparison with the 1930s, a similar era in cinema building and expanding attendance.