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Film: Run! Hide! Its the invasion of the multiplexes!


For some cinemagoers, there's little that's more off-putting than the modern multiplex cinema. With its bucket-sized drinks and 19 simultaneous showings of the new Twilight film, the multiplex is often less a place to consume art than 10 rooms of digital 3D vampires and a lobby.

It's for that reason that many cinemagoers choose to watch their films, whether box-office hits such as Skyfall or arty Romanian abortion dramas, in the UK's independent cinemas. Venues such as the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds and Manchester's Cornerhouse. Combining good film with – often – good beer, wine and food, non-multiplexes such as the Everyman Group's have thrived on being places you'd actually like to spend time in. Often for the same price as the Odeon.

Which is why the news that the 80-venue chain Cineworld is to buy the indie chain Picturehouse for £47m wasn't that much of a surprise. It gives it access to the disenfranchised film lovers keen to see upmarket releases.

Picturehouse's MD, Lyn Goleby, is keen to point out that this doesn't mean any Fellini revivals will be replaced by two-for-one deals on the next Fast and the Furious: "The programming policy will not change, the membership schemes will remain in place and the independent identity of the cinemas will be protected," she says. Indeed, part of the deal includes exploratory plans to open 10 more venues.

So can indie-cinema devotees still go to the likes of the Brixton Ritzy without holding a peg on their nose?

"I don't think indie cinemagoers should stop going just because they've been taken over," says David Sin, head of development at the Independent Cinema Office. "Their programming is quite mixed already."

Cineworld's move is to regain customers they lost a long time ago. "They've come to understand that there are substantial box-office revenues to be had from audiences that, a few years ago, they were neglecting," Sin explains. "[The big chains] have started paying much more attention to those audiences in recent years. As have the studios."

Which means, hopefully, that as long as people still want to watch good films in good cinemas, there shouldn't be much to fear.