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The Cineworld Unlimited Card

December 7, 2009

As Mel Gibson once put it…

Before

After

FREEEEEEEEEEE-DUM!

For years, I have been a subscriber to Cineworld’s subscription service unlimited.  In fact, I joined up when it was still UGC.  The idea, for the uninitiated, is that you pay a standing fee of a little less than two visits to the cinema at peak rates.  So if you go to the cinema more than twice a month, you are saving money.  This works nicely for Cineworld too as the card also tends to lock you in to their cinemas, meaning that while they might well lose money on your cinema tickets, they more  than make up for it up by your increased visits to the concession stand for grotesquely overpriced popcorn and watery soft drinks.

However, my relationship with my Cineworld card has not always been a smooth one.  Initially, I used to go to the cinema quite a lot more and was reticent to travel across London when there were two perfectly decent Cineworld cinemas on my door-step.  However, in recent years, my local Cineworlds have been going down hill fast.  It is actually quite rare that they show anything I genuinely want to see anymore.  When I do use a Cineworld cinema, it tends to be the Haymarket or the Shaftesbury Avenue branches because they, unlike my locals, do occasionally move away from the formula of blockbusters, romantic comedies and kids’ films.

So why get rid of the card now?

It was largely a practical decision.  My local Cineworlds never stray from a menu of blockbusters, romantic comedies and kids films.  This means that when I do go to the cinema (which is quite often), I wind up going to the BFI, The Prince Charles, the Odeon Panton Street, the Renoir, the Chelsea and occasionally one of the outlying Vue cinemas.  So, in essence, I am paying Cineworld a subscription fee but then paying full price whenever I do actually visit the cinema.  Obviously, this is insane and can no longer continue.

I’ve also come to realise that central London’s Cineworlds are comparatively grotty when compared to Vue or Odeon.  Quite often their seats are uncomfortable, their screens are too close to the rows of seating (though not as close as at the Apollo cinema where the front row is about 6 feet from the first row of seating) and they still don’t allow you to pre-book a seat if you hold an Unlimited card.  In principle, these are not deal breakers and matter less to me than matters of timing and film selection but having recently visited the Shepherd’s Bush Vue I realised how cramped, poorly laid out and uncomfortable my local Cineworlds are.  So even if I do decide to go and see Transformers 3, it will not be at one of my local Cineworld cinemas.

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