Movie-going has always been a favourite pastime for the masses. Cinema attendances have risen with demand and now there are more ways than ever to enjoy seeing a film on the big screen. Well now the Odeon cinema chain has stepped in to offer punters a lavish new theatre experience with the debut of their brand new Odeon Luxe & Dine site in Islington.
London is not short of great cinemas across the board so it takes something a bit special to really make a mark in this field. Islington Square is a brand new development that has risen from the debris of the old Royal Mail sorting office just off Upper Street and Almeida Street. The area has always been a great location for going out but now this new complex has arrived and with it, a desire to offer something a little more discerning to the everyday movie-goer.
Odeon cinemas have converted a lot of their sites into Luxe cinemas recently (the historic Holloway Road Odeon site is currently under an extensive renovation down the road). Their flagship Leicester Square site has proved to be a gorgeous beacon for all that is right within the glamorous world of the movies. Hosting world premieres, film festivals and gala events regularly, the aesthetic for that cinema has now been brought out to the regional sites, offering a stylish and comfortable alternative to the multiplex experience that has, truth be told, stagnated in recent years.
Odeon Luxe & Dine has arrived in a brand new lush area of Islington that is overlooked by a new-build of luxury flats and penthouses with obscene price-tags to match. The area is still awaiting a few new shops, restaurants and businesses to be placed into its concessions, but for now the Odeon Luxe & Dine is the first major interest point to be experienced by the public.
As mentioned before, the cinema has decided to bring the glamour of a West End gala event to its other sights and that’s where the Islington Luxe & Dine really shines. It’s a gorgeous site that’s a floor down from street-level. Once down the steps (or lift), you’re greeted with an impressive bar area with a retro art-deco feel, complete with a massive Odeon clock face on the wall. There is plenty of space to sit down and grab a drink before your film with numerous comfortable seating options spread across the floor.
It becomes apparent that this isn’t your usual cinema experience when it comes to the concept. As the name suggests, this is a Luxe & Dine and that is handled in an innovative way. A dedicated Odeon App has been created that’s different to the standard Odeon booking App that’s been around for awhile. Once downloaded (for free), you can order a massive selection of food, drinks and snacks directly to your cinema seat, or if you’d prefer old school, you can get a member of staff to take your order at your table in the main foyer after perusing their menus.
I’ve never been a guy that has liked the food aspect of a standard cinema night out. I have no desire to consume noisy crisps, molten liquid cheese smothered on nachos, a comically-sized hotdog or a giant multi-coloured slushy when I want to see a film. Many do. But the food options at the Odeon Luxe & Dine Islington really impressed me by offering something different (that even convinced a sceptic like me).
Their menu is extensive and actually tastes great. You have a wide array of customisable options open to you from wagyu beef burgers, chicken burgers and strips, vegan burgers, pizzas, salads, hotdogs and an array of side dishes like feta-stuffed peppers, hummus & flatbread, chips, halloumi fries and onion rings.
If you have a sweet tooth then their desserts menu is solid, with Italian gelato, ice cream sundaes, sorbets, shakes and chocolate cake on offer. If a more savoury after-dinner option is your thing then a full cheese board with crackers and relish is available. The pre-requisite popcorn, sweets and chocolate are also available for standard cinema concession prices too.
One of the most striking features of the Luxe & Dine is its numerous wine racks. They are spread out around the cinema, the lounge and behind the well-stocked bar and offer some real choices when it comes to alcohol. Wine and champagne bottles are all available to purchase as are bottled beers, ciders, sprits, signature cocktails and mocktails all at standard London prices. Soft drinks and hot drinks are also on offer. If you are looking for a few drinks on your night out then the selection (and quality) is really impressive here.
The cinema has 6 boutique screens, with Screen 1 being its largest. All are accessible screens with wheelchair access and plenty of space. In fact, the screen sizes at the Odeon Luxe & Dine in Islington are really nice, and are perfectly sized for the capacity of their respective auditoriums. It’s not IMAX but it’s not meant to be either, so I doubt you lose anything from seeing a film in this way, especially something like a drama or a comedy that doesn’t rely on a giant screen. The seats are the leather electric recliners which have been adopted in many Odeon Cinemas already, and come in banks of two with plenty of space around you. Each chair has a swivel table attached for your food and drink purchases.
There are, of course, negative aspects to this kind of concept too. Cinema purists will certainly (and rightly) not welcome the use of any mobile phones in screens. I was very weary of this going in and whilst you do notice when certain seats within your eyeshot have their phone screens lit up, it’s not the same distraction as in a normal cinema. That’s largely down to the spacing of the recliner seats, the gradient of each level and the fact that there is a vastly reduced capacity in each auditorium.
Ideally, you’d get your food ordered at your table before heading into your given screen but if not, you have the entire menu at your disposal right from your recliner seat in the auditorium. The food and drink arrives with attentive staff in a quiet manner that doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the film (again, this can partly be attributed to the wide aisles and the structure of the auditorium that has been specifically designed to cater for food and drink service). For all of this to work in a cinema screen I was expecting some level of distracting lighting to be used but to be honest, their lighting systems didn’t distract me at all. It’s all subtlety done with lights on the steps and above the aisles but dim enough to not cause any light pollution on the screens.
Now any cinema is only as good as its patrons, and if you are unlucky enough to have a few idiots in your screen this could get very distracting, but the same can be said of any screen in any cinema. The fact that you have plates and cutlery in the mix could be more distracting if you have people who clearly don’t care how much noise they make, but hopefully if you’ve made the choice to experience this cinema style, you can be respectful to the other people in the auditorium with you. I’d take the odd glass clattering over some of the obnoxious talking/sounds found in your standard cinema experience every day of the week.
The movie-going experience has evolved, especially in recent years, and to stay relevant and to keep patrons interested these ideas like Luxe & Dine provide some nice alternatives for film aficionados. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and intend to go again. All of the staff were really friendly and helpful, and delivered 5 star service. Whilst a giant IMAX screen will always hold my heart, I do like what Odeon have done with their new Islington site. It has managed to find a gap in the market that the old multiplex system just couldn’t cater for, and it’s also not that expensive, with prices varying depending on the time of the day you visit, but certainly in-line with other London cinemas. Odeon Luxe & Dine Islington is a wonderful venue to watch a film in, and hopefully will attract a big crowd who are looking for a little refinery with their films.
Visit Odeon Luxe & Dine Islington at 13 Esther Anne Place, London, N1 1TU