Bumper year for Norwich cinemas

Peter WalshCinemas in Norwich are celebrating a bumper year, with people flocking to see films because the recession has forced them to seek cheaper nights out.Peter Walsh

Cinemas in Norwich are celebrating a bumper year, with people flocking to see films because the recession has forced them to seek cheaper nights out.

Hit movies like the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, which was directed by Danny Boyle, helped attract people to the cinema in their droves in 2009.

According to the UK Film Council, 2009 was a record-breaking year for the British box office, with cinema admissions at the highest level since 2002 and takings at the UK and Irish box offices exceeding �1bn for the first time.

Jack Thompson, general manager of Cinema City in Norwich, said last year was its best year yet since the new-look venue re-opened in October 2007.

He said: 'We had a number of successes at the start of the year - Slumdog Millionaire being a phenomenal success which really set us up well for the rest of the year. We did very, very well.'

Mr Thompson said he felt the recession had certainly helped boost audience figures and give people a chance to return to the cinema.

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He said: 'Going to the cinema is a far more cost effective night out than going to the pub or restaurant, where you can end up spending �30 or �40.

'If you go to the cinema you're paying �7 to �8 for a night out - it's really cost-effective and a lot of people are rediscovering the cinema because of the recession.'

Mr Thompson said the emergence of 3D technology had also made a big difference to cinema attendances, with James Cameron's Avatar proving a hit with audiences last year.

He said that although Cinema City did not yet have the capability to show films in 3D, it was something that he would be interested in pursuing if the market continued to grow.

Trevor Wicks, owner of Hollywood Cinema, which has screens in Norwich, Lowestoft, Fakenham, Great Yarmouth, and Dereham, said the recession had helped boost audiences, particularly in terms of families where Ice Age 3 and Up were notable successes.

He said: 'Our audience has gone up because we're better value than the bigger venues. Last year there was a huge increase in families as it's only �3.99 for them each. It's been a big, big bonus for us. As families haven't got much money, they're looking for a better deal so we're quite pleased with that.'

Mr Wicks said last year had been a 'decent year' but said it could have been even better but for the dry summer and a dreadful winter, which made it difficult for people to get out of their homes.

He added: 'Unfortunately we were hit by two acts of God - the driest summer for 20 years in August and September, which had an impact on leisure activities outside, and the worst winter for 30 years.'

Has business been booming for you despite the recession? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

See the Evening News Going Out supplement every Friday for the latest cinema news.