Vue Eltham

174 Eltham High Street,
London, SE9 1BJ

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Vue Eltham - Largest auditorium prior to fit-out

Built with six screens with a total seat capacity of 857, the Vue Eltham began construction on January 30th 2018 and opened on 25th April 2019, as part of a new entertainment complex also including Nando’s and Pizza Express, opening with a 3pm 2D screening of “Avengers: Endgame” situated in its first screen. This marks the first cinema located in Eltham since the closure of the ABC Eltham on 29th April 1972.

Refreshments include two self-service Tango Ice Blast machines, two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, Lavazza coffee, Avalanche ice cream and a pick-and-mix. More refreshments will be available at the adjacent Sky Bar which opens by a separate operator in summer of 2019. Ticket prices range from £6.99.

Contributed by Max Chittock

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

CF100
CF100 on April 29, 2019 at 4:00 pm

The cost of this development (excluding fit-outs by operators) ended up being £20.8m—increasing from the original figure of £14m.

This seems to be an astonishing figure, and should this raise eyebrows over its perceived commerical viablity, it is notable that the developer is the local authority (Royal Borough of Greenwich)—their aim being to provide a catalyst for regeneration.


Built on a very tight site formerly occupied by what was for many years a Co-op department store (latterly a pound shop), according to a Greenwich Council committee report, high levels of ground water, shortage of building labour in London, and cinema operator requirements resulted in the revised project cost, c.f. the original £14m.

The report also states that the cinema is on a 25 year lease.


I visited the site just before handover for the fit-out—primary partition walls (auditoria, restaurants) were constructed but not those for toilets etc.; lifts were installed (albeit not yet commissioned), etc. The main contractor for this phase was Willmott Dixon.

Hence, mostly what could be seen was acres of “Soundbloc” plasterboard, except for underneath the stadia, which was fire rated plasterboard.


The cinema, save for the ground floor entrance/foyer, is on an upper level, on a concrete slab varying between 500mm and 1m (!) in depth, supported by a steel frame, as required for isolation (restaurant units below) plus carrying high loads.

The stadia are isolated on neoprene pads, with pads in the auditorium demising walls also. The stadia were complete with plywood steps/risers.

Incidentally, with the building in a “stripped” state, one can really see just how thick the walls are. (Presumably double walls with mineral wool in the voids.)


Soundproofing of some auditoria was due to be tested later on the day of the visit; and apparently, rain testing of the roof deck resulted in failure by 1 or 2dB!

The site manager said that they would rather have worked on the fit-out, as not only were they liasing with Greenwich Council and tenants, but the fit-out contractors (Swindon Interiors for the Vue)—apparently a nightmare in terms of such details as drain positioning!

Vue, apparently, are a demanding client, with very high standards; albeit the site manager did state that it was the first cinema that they had worked on.


Otherwise, there seems to be little reason to visit what is almost certainly a run-of-the-mill miniplex of modest sized auditoria. (“VIP” seating is included in the middle rows of the auditoria, but not recliners.)

I did, however, have a brief look last weekend (the cinema opening last Thursday) at the ground floor main foyer, which seemed to be chaotic; there did not seem to be any performance information whatsoever, with no self-service machines visible. One might expect customers to book online, but the long queues at the concessions counter suggested otherwise.

The foyer’s floor was strewn with popcorn, and, I don’t recall any background music playing (JBL speakers.)

Otherwise, it is a perfectly attractive foyer (although being used to, above all, West End venues, basic) and includes a small seating area with green velour upholstered chairs (alas, with a view out of the window of the distinctly unglamourous High Street!)


Demolition, sub-structure and basement works: Erith Contractors (Source: Above-linked Greenwich Council report.)

From Willmott Dixon’s project page:

Work: “Shell and core of new cinema and restaurants” Architect: Chapman Taylor Structural Engineer: AECOM


Photos of exterior under construction, interior prior to fit-out, and of foyer post-opening to follow.


Corrections to the description:

  • The foyer includes 2x self-service Coca-Cola Freestyle and 2x self-service Tango Ice Blast machines.

  • It is the first cinema in the town centre since the ABC closed in 1972; however, the Coronet (Odeon) Well Hall was only ~1km away, also only 500m from Eltham Station.

CF100
CF100 on April 30, 2019 at 5:51 am

Corrections:

  • Auditorium 1 is entered at ground level, extending down into basement level at the screen end.
  • Chapman Taylor was the architect for the shell only.
  • I should add that my comments on the “chaos” in the ground floor foyer relate to this occasion, a couple of days after opening, only; presumably, operations will be “tuned up” ASAP.

Addendum:

There is an earlier planning application from 2014, but this is at best of academic interest (!) only; the above-linked 2015 application is substantially different, including a change of architect.

CF100
CF100 on May 25, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Correction to the CT Overview: The “Sky Bar” is not yet open (licence application pending) and forms a separately demised premises to the cinema; its entrance is on the right side of the main frontage.

It has been let to a local operator (they also run a nearby Turkish restaurant, “Rixos.”)

CF100
CF100 on June 18, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Having previously stated “there seems to be little reason to visit what is almost certainly a run-of-the-mill multiplex,” I recently found myself being “dragged” to see “Rocketman,” a film which greatly exceeded my (low!) expectations!

Incidentally, aside from a few shots which were intentionally degraded, the film’s picture is “pixel perfect”—no grain, sharp, but also berefit of digital artifacts, and it has been very consistently colour graded.


The film was screened in Auditorium 1, one of the two larger auditoria, being slightly smaller than Auditorium 2.

Measuring off the plans as submitted for the previously-linked planning application (scale conveniently provided):

Auditorium depth/width (wall to wall): 21.6x13.2m (~71x43.5ft.) Auditorium floor area: 285sq.m. (~3050sq.ft.) Screen width: 12.3m (~40.5ft.)

Distance from screen to first row: 6.32m (~20.5ft.) Distance from screen to first VIP row: 12.9m (~42.5ft.) Distance from screen to last row: 20.1m (~66ft.)

Thus, the screen width to distance from screen ratio varies from ~0.5 to ~1.6, with the first VIP row just slightly >1. Thus, the first VIP row is just about within IMAX-style “immersive” criteria in terms of the distance from the screen—and the centre of that row is where I was seated.

Being also well positioned vertically in relation to the screen, it provided a very comfortable viewing experience.


The stadia is steeply raked and the auditorium feels suprisingly spacious, with a high ceiling of suspended rectangular black tiles. The black stretched fabric wall covering is slightly “textured,” only visible on close inspection; it might be imagined that this is intended to break up reflections from the sidewalls to enhance contrast further (albeit rather futile given the projection and floating screen, as will be covered later in this post.)

The VIP seats are upholstered in black leather (or possibly very good immitation leather?)—they look identical to the “standard” seats at the Vue West End, but with red upholstered headrests—extremely well-padded and comfortable, with “rocker” action. Leg room was good though not super-generous.

Standard seating is upholstered in velour, thus having an acoustic benefit over hard surfaced seats; however, whilst I did not try this seating, it looks “economy class,” out of an earlier generation multiplex, and I am surprised to find them fitted in a new cinema. However, given a relatively empty auditorium (i.e. without the acoustically positive effect of seated patrons*) sitting in the VIP seats in a relatively empty auditorium means that one gets comfortable seating with non-porous upholstry AND the acoustic benefits of “porous” uholstry.

(*That is, until they ruin the background level with popcorn munching and other distractions!)


The auditorium’s temperature was perfectly maintained throughout, and never stuffy with off-scents (in one particular instance, ahem, presumably generated by the person seated in the row behind) rapidly removed suggesting a good air change rate; however, in quiet scenes, there was an annoying slightly hollow sound from the rear of the auditorium, which I thought may have been turbulence at a duct bend.

On having a brief look around the auditorium before leaving, I suspect this was actually emanating from the ceiling “projection box” (boothless!) and the HVAC system itself was quiet. Either way, there was definitely an irritating sound from the projection box, and I can’t imagine this being acceptable to anyone sitting nearby—and the last row is the only option for “accessible” spaces, with the centre positions directly underneath the “projection box.”


As mentioned in a previous post, the complex was built with very thick concrete floors, and certainly no sounds could be heard from “adjacent” auditoria (4-6 being positioned above.)


Unfortunately, whilst the two doors from the lobby to the auditorium are tightly fitted, the closing mechanisms do not appear to be effective. Whilst in the case of Auditorium 1 this is somewhat nit-picking, being on its own level, walking along the corridor/lobby at the next level past Auditoria 2/3, sound could clearly be heard in the corridor, the doors again presumably not automatically closing tight, with the possibility of leakage or inadequate isolation between auditoria.


The screen, alas, is a floating-type of “flat” ratio, and flat rather than curved.

Picture quality was good, well-aligned, with decent centre-to-edge brightness and colour, albeit with what appeared to be some clipping and a definite black crush removing low-level detail.

As usual for the Sony S-XRD projectors, but perhaps more than I have noticed elsewhere, the black level was very poor and this was particularly problematic watching a scope release on an unmasked flat ratio screen.


The rear array speakers (7.1 audio) are by JBL; a shame that Atmos was omitted, as the auditorium certainly has proportionate height and space to allow for it.

The sound quality was very good, with what seemed to be reference level playback (LOUD!), albeit the feature presumably did not call for the highest levels. Calibration appeared to be excellent, with clear and uncoloured sound (my own preference would be a tad brighter), and excellent timbre-matching from front to rear, well demonstrated in Vue’s own trailer. (The rear array tended to provide ambience/reverb in the film itself.)

Subbass was extended and could certainly shake the stadia/seating.

The auditorium’s reverbation time was excellent, and there did not appear to be any problem with lateral reflections from the near wall-to-wall screen and straight side walls.

Far better than expected—and good to see Vue specifying JBL—not the cheapest option!


On entering the auditorium—with the programme already started—the house lights were still fully raised. At the start of the main feature, they turned off… sort of! In fact they turned off, then briefly turned back on, and off again. They then simply came back on during the end credits. Sigh…


Overall, then, given VIP seating, in so many respects this is almost a first class medium-sized auditorium, which could be a fine choice for small-to-medium scale movies. Certainly the considerable effort of cramming a “concrete tank” of a building carefully designed to make the most of a difficult and tight site has paid off.

It really is a shame that, above all given the lavish amount of money spent on enabling works and the building’s shell, that the end result is marred by Vue’s standard Sony S-XRD/Xenon projection—mostly very good but just can’t cut it for black levels—and the absence of masking on a flat screen; not to mention the dire programming of the house lights, and the uncontained sound of the projection box. Reasons enough for me not to return by choice, although I wouldn’t be unhappy accompanying others there.


To follow (potentially): Photos and overview of the other public access areas of the cinema.

CF100
CF100 on July 18, 2019 at 1:39 pm

I have been “dragged” along to this cinema again, this time Auditorium 6.

Observations as before, except:

  • The picture from an excessive amount of centre-to-edge brightness dropoff, and the picture didn’t seem quite sufficiently bright.
  • Non-sync music played before/after performance.
  • Lighting the same, i.e. far too bright during ads/trailers, but at least smooth fades.
  • Sound quality OK. In terms of spectral balance, it sounded very good. However, it was obvious that dialogue levels were nowhere near reference level, and the LFE seemed to be lacking also. On the other hand, the surround level was, relatively, far too high. Very strange; I can only imagine that somehow complaints about excessive volume levels have lead to the fronts/LFE being reduced in level? I have not experienced this at any other cinema.
  • Once again, I choose to book a “VIP” seat, which, as previously mentioned, was very comfortable. However, I did briefly try out a “regular” seat, and it was shockingly uncomfortable.
  • Rear array comprised the same JBL rear array as Auditorium 1; however, due to “boxing out,” the rightmost rear array speaker on the back wall is further forward than the others. However, I did not notice any issue from my seating position; just too much diffuse activity from the rear array.
  • No “turbulant” sounds from ducting was heard, and the HVAC system was quiet (and maintained a consistent comfortably cool temperature and unstuffy environment throughout)—however, the (boothless) projector was slightly audible, and there also appeared to be a faint high pitched sound, possibly intermittent.
  • Not mentioned in the previous comment was the overly bright (with the house lights off) red and green lights on the sidewalls, which are also installed in Auditorium 1. These certainly did leak slightly onto the screen also.
  • Measured on the planning documents, the screen is ~33ft. wide. It is, of course, a “flat” ratio screen.
  • The single row of VIP seats is about 1.2x screen width away from the screen, and the picture seemed inadequately sized. Of course, the perception of screen size is subjective; e.g. if the sound system is capable of more impact and spatial delineation, then this can produce a cinematic “larger than life” sense even with an “undersized” screen.
  • All areas of the cinema visited were clean.

Overall, then, a run-of-the-mill medicore multiplex experience on this occasion, particularly marred by the sound level and front to rear balance. A shame as I had expected better given the previous better-than-expected experience in Auditorium 1.


Errata: “Revised drawings” (the main one being “1000-1005”) should have been referenced in the previous link to the planning application, albeit the original set of submitted drawings (“documents ‘Drawing – 1000 rev 02’ onwards”) include a scale.


Other updates—within the same development, “Pizza Express” is now open, whilst externally there is no sign of an impending opening of the “Sky Bar.”

PhilipWW
PhilipWW on July 20, 2019 at 10:00 am

Sad to read that at least 2 of the auditoria just have ‘flat’ screens. Are there no Scope screens there at all ?

A few years back Vue built some excellent cinemas, I name the Vue at Eastleigh as one. All screens were wall-to-wall Scope and the walls and finishings were black matte making the auditoria very dark during the film.

I am sorry to read that these standards seem to have slipped with some newer builds. With the majority of films now in Scope, it seems rather baffling that they don’t want to have Scope screens to maximise the ‘cinema’ experience. I too have no wish to go and visit what is, in essence, just a rather large TV set.

CF100
CF100 on July 23, 2019 at 6:38 am

Sound Associates' news page includes a brief item on their installation at Vue Eltham. To quote:

“Sound Associates are proud to have designed and installed a state of the art QSC Q-Sys DSP system providing the functionality of an audio processor for all screens. We used three DSP cores positioned in one central location for the six screens, this flexible system gives each screen both an independent user and engineer interface page, plus there is a monitoring control page that can be accessed centrally.”

Dolby Fidelio, for hearing impaired, was installed also.

Included is a photo showing part of the rack, which shows:

2xQSC Q-SYS DCIO-H (Digital Cinema Input/Output interface.) 1xQSC Q-SYS Cinema Core 110C (QSC’s web page describes it as a “multipurpose software based digital audio signal processor.”) 1xQSC DPA 4.2 4-channel amplifier for cinema

The DPA 4.2 includes on-board signal processing, including crossover, parametric EQ and time-alignment capabilities.

CF100
CF100 on July 23, 2019 at 6:44 am

PhilipWW: Estimating from the previously-linked plans: (Imperial conversions rounded to nearest ft.)

Aud 1 – ~12.3x6.7m / 40x22ft.
Aud 2 – ~14.1x7.7m / 46x25ft.
Aud 3 – ~11.4x6.3m / 37x21ft
Aud 4 – Identical to Aud 5*
Aud 5 – ~7.3x3.9m / 24x13ft.
Aud 6 – ~10.3x5.6m / 34x18ft

(*Not shown in cross-section but assume from plans identical to Aud 5. (Only different drawn is “mirror imaged” seating layout with aisle position at opposite side.))

All screens, therefore, are flat.

Are the screens at Vue Eastleigh all “floating” with no masking?

I’m not familar with any Vue “new builds” from the past few** years; are there any where they are installing “scope” screens?

(**Where “few” means “few;” not including Westfield Stratford City, for instance.)

PhilipWW
PhilipWW on July 23, 2019 at 7:04 am

CF100, Yes all 9 screens at Vue Eastleigh are floating, all wall-to-wall and Scope.

In the early days of the mutiplexes, the standard Warner/Vue design was to install Scope screens in the larger auditoria and flat screens in the smaller ones. Typical examples were Gunwharf Quays at Portsmouth, Longwell Green in Bristol and Finchley Road in London.

Then in the late 00s, there seems to have been a change of heart with Scope screens being installed in all auditoria with Eastleigh (opening in 2009) being a prime example. When three extra screens were added to Gunwharf Portsmouth about the same time there were all Scope too bringing the balance there to 7 Scope and 7 Flat. I can but presume that this change of heart was due to the realisation that most films were now filmed in Scope.

It is sad to read that this policy now seems to have been abandoned and flat screens are becoming the norm again even in the larger auditoria.

I have not been to either of the Westfield Vues, in Shepherds Bush or Stratford. I would be interested in knowing, I just hope they are all Scope.

CF100
CF100 on July 24, 2019 at 3:25 pm

PhilipWW: The three examples of multiplexes that you cite are almost certainly (or in the case of Finchley Road (O2 Centre) definitely) Warner Bros. International Theatres “house style” designs. As mentioned previously elsewhere on CT, the same design—beginning in the latter half of the 1990s—was used on an international basis, including “Warner Mycal” multiplexes in Japan!

These could be considered to be a “second generation” multiplex design, with steep stepped “stadium-style” seating, flat stretched fabric wall coverings (instead of the “Soundfold” pleated type), and, perhaps, an “evolution” (?) towards today’s “box” design with more modestly splayed walls to the front of the auditorium; whilst retaining a masked screen with a proscenium of sorts, tabs were dispensed with.

As you say, the larger auditoria in these cinemas were indeed fitted with “scope” screens.


Talking of the development of Warners' 1990s design, Chapman Taylor’s website includes a profile/interview with David Wallace, former Senior Vice-President of Architecture/Construction at Warner Bros., now a Director at Chapman Taylor.


I’m not sure how Warner designs changed beyond this point; UCI, for example, introduced “the filmworks” brand with the now de rigueur “black box” auditoria. Post-buyout and rebrand to “Vue,” clear examples of “Vue-specific” designs are the two Westfield mall venues in London; but I’m not sure if they had developed much before that, at least in terms of form and not the finishes.

I’m not overly familar with the Westfield venues, but the Xtreme auditoria (certainly at Westfield London, Shepherds Bush) certainly are, I’m afraid, fitted with “flat” screens.

It is, perhaps, instructive to consider that the Westfield cinemas opened as digital-only sites…


Vue’s current new build rate appears to be very slow, with only one new site opening per year, according to this list on the CTA’s website.

Looking at photos of Vue Bromley, it has exactly the same style as Vue Eltham (albeit it has the benefit—or disadvantage, depending on your opinion!—of all-recliner seating.)

However, it is not a “boothless” cinema, as Vue Eltham is.

(N.B. I have located the main planning application for Vue Bromley; links and some key points extracted from them to follow on the respective CT page…)

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