Showcase Cinema de Lux Bluewater
Water Circus, Bluewater,
3 people favorited this theater
Showcase Cinemas UK (Official)
Operated by: Showcase Cinemas
Previously operated by: Hoyts Cinemas
Firms: JPRA Architects
Functions: Movies (First Run)
Previous Names: Hoyts Cinemas, Showcase Cinemas
Located in the huge Bluewater Shopping Centre, located between Dartford and Gravesend. This opened as a 12-screen multiplex by Hoyts Cinemas on 16th March 1999. The seating capacities in the twelve screens totaled 2,793, and ranged from 464, down to 80. In recent years an 86-seat Studio screen has been added, bringing the total seating capacity up to 2,879. In 2014 it was re-named Showcase Cinemas de Lux. In December 2017 four more screens were added.
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Recent comments (view all 17 comments)
Added this to my list of cinemas to visit. I seem to recall watching one movie at this cinema in one of the small auditoria in the mid to late 90’s. Was shopping in Bluewater, hadn’t planned on watching a movie and had already seen the major new releases elsewhere. IIRC the seats seemed comfy (blue velour?) but that’s about all that I came away thinking at the time.
Does anyone know the size of the IMAX screen (screen 4)? Seems an unsual decision to have both an IMAX screen and a XPlus screen (Showcase’s own proprietary large format) in the same cinema as they are two competing large screen formats.
Presumably, the new screens are auditoria 13 to 17 and use Barco laser projection (which is used at Showcase Cinema de Luxe, Southampton)? Their website just lists Sony 4K projection.
Spent some time clicking through almost all of the current movies being shown to get an idea of the auditoria sizes and most seem pretty decent, certainly for a 17-screen multiplex. Screen 4 (IMAX) seems the largest with of 15 rows x 31 seats. Screen 3 has 16 rows x 28 seats. Screen 15 (XPlus) has 11 rows x 29 seats. The smallest screen seems to be screen 7 which is 10 rows x 11 seats followed by screens 13 & 14 which are Event screens I believe where they show opera performances etc.
Signed up to Showcase Insider which is free and entitles you to discounted tickets on Sunday after 7pm and all day Monday and Tuesday. Also, you earn 10% back in rewards on ticket and food/drink purchases. They also accept Meerkat Movies 2-4-1 on Tuesdays/Wednesdays. Regular ticket prices seem reasonable (cheap compared to the West End, London!).
Don’t often head out towards Dartford but this cinema seems like it warrants a special trip!
I’ve been to this cinema (and therefore Bluewater) many times, but not for many years now and not since any of the later additions/alterations.
Of course, from the point of view of someone such as myself, the mall was full of useless overpriced womens' clothing retailers and bizzare soap shops from which overpowering scents seemed to curiously waft out. ;–)
It was originally masterplanned by Eric Kuhne & Associates and the main mall areas are very comfortable—albeit with very “pastiche” styling.
One of the seemingly pointlessly “vernacular” nods turns out to be functional—the “oast house”-styled shafts on the curved glazed roofs are actually used to provide ventilation.
Otherwise, it was largely a “retail palace” full of fakery—and it’s therefore perhaps ironic that the original cinema, separately designed, was a stripped down affair, the original cinema block exteriors being covered with grey cladding—-no fake columns or roofs hiding services!
I should add that Bluewater’s setting is unique—entered by descending down into another world, a glitzy gulch that was once a chalk pit.
Onto the cinema. I actually can’t remember anything much about it other than the spacious but bland foyer!
I vaguely recollect that the seats were indeed quite comfortable by the standards of the day, and maybe they were indeed upholstered in blue.
I don’t recall any major presentation gaffs (such as failing to switch to the anamorphic lens), I think all the auditoria I visited had moveable masking, but not sure if tabs were installed.
As I said above, though, even the THX certified auditoria were more or less run of the mill, e.g. in terms of sound quality.
Doing a quick search on the relevant local authority site, I can’t find any plans among various planning applications, and the licensing database doesn’t include them.
Looking at aerial images taken before the recent extension was built, I’d guess the IMAX screen is no more than 60ft. wide.
The proliferation of formats each with their own pros and cons is frustrating but it’s not unique in featuring both an “own brand” PLF screen as well as an IMAX—and Bluewater has a very high footfall of relatively affluent visitors presumably providing a steady supply of patrons willing to pay for premium tickets!
60 feet (18.29m) wide, if indeed that is the size of the IMAX screen at Showcase Cinema de Luxe, Bluewater, is the same width as Cineworld, Hemel Hempstead. It seats 281 versus ~450 so I expected a larger screen. Will certainly watch a movie there and possibly also one in XPlus although I may save doing the latter in Showcase Cinema de Luxe, Southampton instead.
Thanks again for sharing some interesting info, I must say I do very much enjoy reading your posts. ;o)
LARGE_screen_format: (Responding first to the additional material in your revised post.)
See website banner for Laser Projection at Showcase Cinema de Lux Bluewater. :–)
On the bookings page those advertised with recliner seating are 14, 16, and 17, so with XPlus being Screen 15, I assume 14-17 are the new auditoria.
As for whether they’re using Barco laser projectors:
National Amusements to install Barco laser projectors in all Showcase XPlus houses.
Screen 14 is programmed with “I Feel Pretty” at 4:30pm on Monday 25th June (I just selected a random date/time when poking about.) I can’t see any “events” programmed? AFAIK it features all reclining seats, so the seat count may belie the auditorium’s size.
And… no 3D “upcharge” for the XPlus. :–)
Dartford Schmartford, it’s in Greenhithe—the only thing worth visiting in Dartford is the River Crossing! ;–)
It’s easy for me to get to, so I’ll definitely check out the XPlus this summer.
The two largest “blocks” in a 2017 aerial image (which shows no differences to a 1999 aerial image of that part of Bluewater other than a large block to the East, that apparently houses an indoor trampoline (!) park; not sure what else is in there) that could house a single auditorium measure slightly larger than 60ft. by between ~85-95ft. externally.
With 15 rows at, say, 4ft. spacing, 60ft. depth would be required for the seating area alone!
Looking at the fire exits using Google Streetview, the ~60ft. x ~85ft. block seems to be the more plausible location to house the IMAX. These “back of an envelope” estimates then add up pretty well, allowing for the distance of the last row to the screen to be beyond, but not disasterously so, the “maximum” 1x screen width—by how much would depend on whether the front row distance to the screen is closer than the “minimum” 0.35x screen width, as well as, obviously, the actual row spacing.
Thank you again, I’m glad you like them. :–) I enjoy making contributions here, even if I suspect that I’m talking to myself most of the time. ;–)
Visited the Showcase Cinema de Lux Bluewater last Sunday as LARGE_screen_format informed me that the MCU movies were being shown in the IMAX auditorium at £2.50 per screening for “INSIDER” members (sign-up to which is free), plus booking fee, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit this cinema, having not been here since the early 2000s.
With the relatively recent addition of four new auditoria, housed in a new block just to the left of the existing cinema, and linked to via a bridge at the end of the existing foyer, this is virtually “two cinemas in one.”
Therefore, I shall divide my comments into several posts, first covering the IMAX auditorium.
IIRC, this multiplex opened with two THX-certified auditoria, in which I attended several screenings. These were fitted with KCS rear array speakers, and at that time I did not consider the presentation to be of an exceptional standard.
Looking at satellite aerial photos, the IMAX auditorium (Screen 4) is one of the two largest (identical?) in the original multiplex, being situated in the South West corner. Thus, it is presumably a conversion of one of the two originally THX-certified auditoria.
The sidewall rear array speakers are retained, and the stretched fabric covering on these walls may well be original—or certainly pre-dates the IMAX conversion? It is not black, but more of a “muted” colour that appears dark grey during the feature; the stretched fabric wall areas are “staggered” in sections, forming “coves,” which are lit with downfiring spotlights, two per cove for the first 3 coves from the front, and one for the rear cove. Below these stretched fabric sections, the sidewalls are flat and covered with wall carpet.
House lights are at the edges of the ceiling only, dimmed for the feature, and only after the end credits were finished were they fully raised, with “cove” spotlights also raised.
The aisle steps are fitted with LED nosing profiles, and illuminated throughout the feature, which may well be distracting for those seated near an aisle. Otherwise, the auditorium was very dark indeed during the main feature.
As far as I could tell, most or all of the ceiling appeared to be smooth, and so I assume that ceiling tiles have not been used, rather stretched fabric, the colour of which also appeared to be dark grey during the feature. Possibly, the ceiling was fabricated in the way that theatre_of_varieties described for the LSQ IMAX—namely, to keep HF reflections from the ceiling at bay, insulation slabs are fitted, and the stretched fabric simply covers over them, rather than having a plasterboard layer behind the insulation also. The ceiling slopes up towards the screen, presumably an alteration made in the IMAX conversion.
The right sidewall features a backlit blue IMAX logo with a horizontal line above.
As the area surrounding the screen is dark black, the perception is created that the ceiling is sloped up to a level that’s higher than the screen—which doesn’t appear to be quite wall-to-wall and, overall, forming a proscenium “frame” around the screen. Combined with the “staggered” sidewall features, this—perhaps unintentionally!—creates a more “designed” feel than the typical black-box rectangular auditorium.
It is not difficult to see how more creative use of lighting and some additional features could turn this into a very attractive auditorium.
Presentation otherwise was fine, excepting the lack of moveable masking, with non-sync music played. However, the feature ended with a green “flash” on the screen.
The vomitory into the auditorium emerges behind the 5th row, with, IIRC, the front few rows on a slightly less steep rake than the rear seats.
I booked a seat in the centre of row “G” on the basis that this would be a satisfactory distance away from the screen; however, it turns out that the first row is in fact “D”—presumably the first few rows were eliminated in the IMAX conversion, with no changes to row lettering Nonetheless, it turned out to be about the right distance from the screen, albeit too low.
The screen was certainly on the small side for an IMAX, although from my seating position I considered it to be adequately sized. Certainly, being familiar with the near-90ft. wide screens at the BFI and LSQ IMAXs, I would have been unhappy had I paid full price for the tickets, which are currently £16.60 for the IMAX auditorium.
The IMAX projection system achieved very good results, with perfect geometry and alignment as expected, and a super-smooth yet detailed image. Centre-to-edge brightness consistency was good, slightly noticeable brightness fall off perhaps on the end credits. However, the black level was higher than I’d have expected, with clipping of low-level detail, and with the 3D glasses on, the brightness level seemed insufficient.
As the screen was presumably 1.9:1 ratio; these scope movies were presented in “letterboxed” form; with 3D glasses on, the black screen areas above and below the picture, though higher in level than would be preferred, were not overly problematic. However, as with my experience of “Avengers: Infinity War” at the LSQ 4DX, the picture width varied slightly from shot to shot, which I found distracting.
Possibly partially due to its lineage as a purpose-built THX-certified auditorium, the acoustics were outstanding. The HVAC system was inaudible, with excellent isolation. Only a distant rumble could very occasionally be distantly heard from an adjacent auditorium during the quiet moments.
In my view, it actually demonstrated that the rationale behind this, to ensure audibility of low level sounds in quiet scenes, is all very well at the mixing stage, but does not work in a theatrical environment open to the public with 10s or 100s of seats, simply because what one hears in quiet scenes is not low level audio detail so much as every last sound made by other patrons—even if they are not being noisy munching away at popcorn, the slightest rustle becomes distracting. I would actually prefer a slightly audible background hiss/rumble from the HVAC system—which certainly was the case in the corridor leading to the auditorium.
To meet THX specifications, the auditorium must have had a well controlled reverberation time, and combined with what I imagine to be the stretched fabric ceiling added in the IMAX conversion, an exceptionally low reverberation time is achieved, with excellent stereo imaging, including for sounds panned to the rears.
The sound quality was otherwise very good, with clean mids/high frequencies, and very good bass extension. Dialogue levels seemed about right; however, the system never seemed to reach the highest sound pressure levels that would be expected, and it felt like there was peak limiting—although the system never sounded strained.
Rear speakers were the same as those used in typical multiplex IMAX screens.
The HVAC system functioned well, although there was some temperature cycling in the evening performance from hot to cold, but at no time was the auditorium stuffy, overly hot, or cold.
Seating is upholstered in very high quality red fabric, with what felt like memory foam padding, and legroom was very generous. I am not sure if these are the original seats; if they are, their condition suggests that they have been reupholstered at some point.
However, the seats were on the narrow side, and I didn’t find them as comfortable as I’d have expected. The stadia for these front rows felt solid, and on using (after the feature had finished!) my phone’s “torch” facility to check if I’d dropped something behind the seat, I noticed that a concrete floor surface could be seen in a small area under the seat.
All in all, actually a pretty good auditorium to see a film—if you can swallow the price for an “IMAX Lite”-sized screen!
[TEXT ADDED TO OVERCOME “YOUR COMMENT APPEARS TO BE SPAM!” ERROR MESSAGE.]
Having covered the IMAX auditorium, I shall now proceed with the additional 4 auditoria.
To the left (or more accurately, East—but as experienced when entering the cinema via the main foyer from the mall) of the existing cinema, an “exhibition” space, “Glow,” had been built. This was, reportedly, not a success, and a planning application is available for its redevelopment, the summary description of which is:
“Change of use from an Events and Exhibition Venue (Use Class D1) to a cinema and other family orientated leisure uses (Use Class D2), restaurant facilities (Use Class A3) together with internal and external reconfiguration and associated works incorporating demolition of some existing floor space end construction of new floor space.”
Essentially, there is now a block adjacent to the existing cinema, which includes restaurants, a “Gravity” Trampoline Park, and the four new auditoria. The plans for these can be seen in the document titled “PROPOSED FIRST FLOOR LEVEL”*; they are connected from the far end of the main foyer of the existing cinema via a link bridge—not that the non-curious patron would realise that they were walking over to another building!
(*Plans for the existing cinema can also be seen here, albeit only partial as cropped.)
A fairly generously sized foyer/lobby area is included for these four auditoria, including seating areas, at the other end of which is a corridor leading to the four new auditoria entrances.
The foyer/lobby area does not include a suspended ceiling, and so services above are visible; they are generally black in colour, but a mess of suspension wires and threaded rods can be seen. There are several trays containing very large bundles of cables.
“Honeycomb” features are also suspended down to ceiling height, and oddly domestic-looking wall curtains (?!) and stand-alone lamps are featured, the latter being incongruently connected to white coloured wall sockets.
Several impressive “XPlus Laser” wall signs are featured, faced with (presumably CNC-cut) metal, surrounded by concealed blue LED lighting.
One of these is positioned adjacent to the “link bridge” entrance, along with a wall continuing the “honeycomb” motif, with the hexagons painted in various shades of e.g. blue and yellow. Combined with the rectangular section of white faceted squares behind the XPlus Laser sign, it all looks somewhat 1960s-inspired—in a positive way!
All four new auditoria feature laser projection, Dolby Atmos sound, and reclining seating.
I briefly had a look into the XPlus Laser auditorium (Screen 15), and the scope screen appeared to be very large indeed, with clearly excellent colour rendering, and the sidewall speakers were JBLs.
XPlus Laser screen size: 64ft. x 27ft. (Source.)
A unfortunate qubble: These new lobby areas appeared to be unstaffed on this occasion, and popcorn had been strewn on the carpet outside the XPlus Laser entrance.
The 4 new auditoria and associated lobby areas appear to be a fantastic addition, and I will be returning to the XPlus Laser auditorium at the earliest opportunity.
Dimensions as drawn on planning application:
-Main foyer: ~43m long by ~13m wide (entrance)/~29.5 wide (“ticket tear” end) (~140ft.x42ft./97ft.)
-Extension main foyer area – ~18x10m (~60x33ft.)
-XPlus Laser auditorium – ~24m long by ~20.5m wide (~80x67ft.)
Addendum: The “new” block is the “Glow” exhibition centre repurposed, with alterations shown in the above-linked plans.
To be clear, the old KCS sidewall speakers have not been removed, but are disused, with two IMAX rear speakers, standard for multiplex-type IMAX installations, replacing them; IMAX do not use rear arrays but “discrete” rears only.
Contract GF Holding has a case study on the cinema’s refurbishment and expansion.
Photos are included, oddly, one being of the IMAX auditorium (not related to those works?) yet none of the new auditoria, including the XPlus Laser.
The 11-week turnaround seems quite good when you considering the site of the expansion including four new auditoria plus restrooms etc.
The 11 weeks figure cited is presumably for fit-out only; it seems like a pretty straightforward job, with ample internal space, excellent access, and away from neighbouring properties.
As a comparison, Empire Walthamstow also took 3 months to fit-out.
(By “straightforward,” of course, I mean relatively speaking! As I mentioned on its CT page, according to an article in Cinema Technology Magazine, as many 80 workers were on site in a single day for the Vue West End refurbishment.)