AN extra-large screen cinema will be among the highlights of a £5.5m expansion of The Gate's Empire Cinema over the next few months.
Empire Cinemas has taken on space next to its home in The Gate complex in Newcastle city centre, and will use it to help boost its number of screens from 12 to 20. It will also re-model its foyer and add a luxury bar.
A key feature of the two-phase project will be the conversion of one of the existing screens into an “Impact” screen, a large screen which can be viewed from stadium seating with extra leg room.
The cinema has attracted more than eight million customers since opening in 2002. Margaret Turnbull, general manager of the cinema, said: “I’m very excited to be general manager of a cinema with this sort of investment going into it.
“We’re looking to have four of the new screens and the luxury bar open before Christmas. The Impact screen is going to be a spectacular size. The cinema will have a brand new design for the foyer so it will feel great as soon as you walk in, and all of the new studio screens will have premium seating which we won’t be charging extra to use.
“Next to the entrance of the cinema is a vacant area called the Sky Bar which had never been opened before. We’ve acquired that and we’re using it for the luxury bar and four screens.
“The other four will be fitted around the existing space. It’s amazing how much space goes to waste in a cinema.” The programme of works is expected to be completed next summer, but in the meantime the cinema is looking forward to a programme of films including The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.
The cinema will be showing a Twi-athlon on Thursday, which will be a chance to see all the Twilight films in succession, culminating in a showing of the new film just after midnight.
Turnbull believes the cinema caters for a large range of customers, and cites The Kings Speech as one of its more popular films this year.
She said: “All cinema-goers want different things. We try to be as inclusive as possible. We try to offer a range of prices, including the Saverday Tuesday. The Kings Speech was a prime example, in that a huge number of people came to the cinema, some who had not been to the cinema for a while.”
On the upcoming releases front, she picks out the next instalments of Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks as ones that should be big draws, as well as Mission Impossible 4 on December 16.
She also mentioned the adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and is due in the UK in January.
She said: “There are some really good quality films coming out and they’re not just aimed at children, but at all the family.”