Ahead of the grand reveal of the new VIP and 4DX offerings at Cineworld O2 Greenwich, AV Magazine visited what will become London’s biggest cinema for a guided tour and to hear the story behind its development.
Next month, Cineworld will unveil two new cinematic experiences – VIP and 4DX – at its O2 Greenwich site, creating London’s largest cinema with more than 4,500 seats. The two movie screening offerings, which both feature Dolby sound and Barco laser projection technology, add to the cinema’s already impressive innovation-packed line-up which includes the wall-to-wall, ceiling high Superscreen and the 270° viewing experience, ScreenX.
The 1,400-seat extension – which will be completed on 12 April and is the size of some of Cineworld’s new build cinemas – brings the total size of the Greenwich entertainment destination to 134,000 square feet and the number of screens from 11 to 19. An additional 50 staff have been recruited to operate the new section of the cinema which will run as a separate entity to the existing screens.
Having already designed multiple other Cineworld cinemas, architect Chris Penfold and his team were responsible for creating the look of the new extension. The labour-intensive construction and installation process began in December last year and saw principal contractor Ereconomic tasked with project managing and completing the fit-out, working alongside an internal construction team.
“This normally takes 26 weeks but we sped it up a little so it would be open in time for Avengers: Endgame,” says Kelly Drew, operations director (South), Cineworld. “If this extension was being added to a standalone cinema in a retail park it would have been an easier process but there were a few more obstacles when working within a venue like The O2. For example, a hole had to be made in the tent structure to load everything in through.”
The latest 4DX auditorium marks the cinema chain’s 22nd screen 4DX screen in UK and Ireland. Developed in South Korea by CJ 4DX, a key player in the Asian entertainment industry, 4DX stimulates all five senses with the help of 20 multi-sensory effects. The cinema chain was first to introduce 4DX back in 2015 and has developed the screening experience ever since.
In addition to rain, smell, movement and wind effects, viewers can now experience snow and bubble effects from the ceiling and front of the auditorium in the new 156-seat screen at The O2, along with redesigned seating.
“4DX has taken off across the country, especially for family or action films,” says Drew. “It offers another entertainment choice for cinema-goers and people are excited when they walk into a 4DX screen because they see the plates you put your feet on, the effects bars, a different style of seat and the button to control the water effects. It’s more of an experience.
“All the mainstream films are available in 4DX but one of our other offerings, ScreenX, is a little different because it requires a specific technique to film the wing footage for the side screens so only certain titles are released in this format.”
With Cineworld VIP, visitors at the O2 cinema will enjoy three new 60-seat auditoriums. All auditoriums feature lazy boy-style, leather electronic reclining seats, all you can eat buffet and unlimited soft drinks and snacks.
“This will be our third VIP screen, adding to those in Sheffield and Glasgow. It’s unique, nobody else is offering this kind of exclusive experience in London,” says Drew. “The VIP experience tends to take place in smaller auditoriums so it is more personal but we could look at developing screens with more seats in future.”
Like the 4DX screens, the new VIP screens feature Barco P2K-23BLP laser projectors, offering 2K resolution, high contrast and 24,500 lumens brightness. This is part of a group deal which took place last year and saw Barco laser projectors rolled out in 600 Cineworld movie screens worldwide.
“The extension is fully laser-based which is important because XENON bulbs are expensive and the quality doesn’t last as long,” says Drew. “With laser you have a really crisp, clear picture for longer and it’s more cost effective and energy efficient.”
Elsewhere in the Cineworld Greenwich complex, the existing SuperScreen, ScreenX and 3D screening auditoriums feature Christie digital projectors.
“The SuperScreen in Greenwich is the largest screen in the UK – not counting the BFI IMAX,” says David Spence, Cineworld O2 Greenwich general manager. “Viewers have the option of sitting on the balcony level too which offers a completely different viewing experience. It features 95 Dolby Atmos speakers for a powerful and immersive sound experience.”
“While Dolby Atmos is amazing, you don’t need to put it in every screen because the improvements in the standard Dolby offering are so advanced you still enjoy crystal clear sound,” highlights Drew. “Three weeks before opening new screens our technical team visits to ensure all speakers are correctly positioned to guarantee movie-goers are completely immersed in the film.”
Attending events such as CineEurope in Barcelona and CinemaCon in New York helps Cineworld’s technical team keep abreast of the latest developments in the industry and assists them when selecting technologies such as Dolby Atmos, Barco’s laser innovations and soundproofing products to avoid noise bleed.
“To keep cinema fresh and evolving you have to try out new technologies and at these shows the team can see all the latest innovations, from screens and immersive speaker solutions through to seats and popcorn machines,” says Drew. “Now we have cinemas in Europe and America some of our technology purchases are made as part of a wider group deal.”
Adding to the experience
Drew believes it is important to offer cinema-goers a choice when watching a film: “The O2 is already an amazing venue for people that live in London and we wanted to offer our full range of propositions to the community. Some people will just want to view it in 2D whereas others see a trip to the cinema to see a blockbuster such as Avengers: Endgame movie as a real treat and want to see it in 4DX or have a more luxurious experience in a VIP screen.
“We consider ourselves a pioneer in technology. Working with CJ4PLEX to develop our 4DX offering then opened up the opportunity to introduce ScreenX and we will look at any other exciting technological developments that enhance the experience.”
For more technical details on Cineworld’s 4DX and ScreenX offerings read the case study from the October/November issue of AV Magazine here and our news story about the unveiling of ScreenX.