Love 'em or loathe 'em, there is no doubting the impact that the arrival of the multiplexes has had on the UK's movie going scene. Since the first opened in Milton Keynes in November 1985, almost 400 have opened their doors. And the public have responded: annual attendances had dropped from a high of 1,635m, in 1946, to a nadir of 54m in 1984, but the multiplexes have played their part in luring patrons back and
annual attendances (pre-pandemic) were back up to the 170m mark.
The development of the multiplexes (which I, and the industry, define as purpose-built cinemas with five or more screens) has, I would suggest, been more interesting than might at first be thought. While too many, from the outside, remain architecturally uninspiring, inside there has been a quiet revolution going on. It's fascinating to see how interior design has moved on, from the first generation - state of the art at the time - to today’s ever more luxurious auditoriums, with their stepped stadium seating, wider seats, greater leg room and ever larger screens.
Multiplexes are also making their way into our cultural consciousness. When the makers of Popcorn (2006), a romantic comedy about a boy who takes a job at a cinema to woo an usherette, wanted a suitable location they turned to one with which their target audience was most likely to be familiar - and filmed in the iconic thefilmworks (now Odeon) multiplex at Greenwich in East London. Who knows, perhaps in 20 years’ time cinema enthusiasts will be viewing Popcorn in the hushed, reverent tones reserved today for the likes of Cinema Paradiso and The Smallest Show on Earth!
An interesting development from 2014 has seen art-house circuits Curzon, Everyman and Picturehouse opening cinemas with five or more screens. While not ‘multiplexes’ in the traditional sense of the word, they obviously meet the criteria of being purpose-built, with five or more screens, and so they are included here.
This project arose out of a desire to make some sense out of the multiplex buying and selling and consequential re-branding that has taken place since 1985. Initially drawn up for my own enjoyment, the listing received favourable comments and I thought a wider audience might appreciate it. I am therefore pleased to present it here. I should add a word of caution, however. The information has been compiled from many sources, but its complete accuracy cannot, of course, be guaranteed. Where sources differ, I have made a judgement one way or the other, or simply show alternatives.
Especially because of this, I welcome comments, criticisms and, especially, corrections. I can be contacted at email@example.com.
The UK's multiplexes (which include, for completeness, the Cineworld in the Channel Islands) are listed under their current operator.
A narrative showing the background to each current circuit/operator is followed by the cinemas themselves. Individual cinema entries show: location/number of screens/opening date and, where appropriate, closing date or other change. Where cinemas have transferred between operators that are still in the multiplex business, they appear in the lists for both, with the acquisition date (not the original opening date) shown, in square brackets, in the current operator's list. However, where cinemas have transferred from an operator that is no longer in existence the narrative about that operator is contained (in italics) within the narrative about the current owner.
There are 400 multiplexes on the list. The 43 that have closed leave 357 still operating.
The list is current up to 7 November 2023.