Last night, the Two Crabs and a group of friends took a field trip to Belsize Park, a lovely tree-lined neighborhood in North London. Our destination: the new Everyman Belsize Park cinema to see Sean Penn in the Oscar-nominated Harvey Milk biopic, "Milk." When we got off the Tube, we immediately hit the local newsagent to stock up on treats: popcorn, M&Ms, water, soda, fruit, granola bars, etc and shoved them into every pocker of our coats! Then we walked into Everyman and were pleasantly surprised.
Everyman Belsize Park is the epitome of a great movie theatre. For starters, it doesn't look at all like a movie theatre. The outside and lobby looks like a posh modern nightclub with minimalist furniture and decor. There is a FULL BAR in the lobby with beer, wine, spirits, mixed drinks and snacks. But you won't find any popcorn, nachos, Milk Duds or hot dogs here; the food is all healthy and/or organic including bowles of olives, pretzels, cakes, candies and other goodies.There are several little tables for sitting and chatting.
Inside, the theater is small and intimate, maybe 150 seats. The theatre looks more like an airplane than a cinema and divided into two classes: Standard and Premium. The standard seats (£12) are mostly two-person leather couches perfect for getting close to your sweetie. The seats recline and have hidden tray tables in the plush roomy armrests. For an extra £4 quid, you can splurge for the premium seats that looks like first class seats on an airplane: huge bucket leather seats with footrests and tables. Before the show starts, wait staff come to your seat and take your order. Yes, you can drink and eat while watching the movie! The bathroom entrance is located inside the cinema so you don't have to go far. It's not stadium seating, but it does slope up so even shorties like us had no problem seeing the screen. The screen is also far enough from the seats that you could even sit in the first row and not have to strain your neck up. The screen itself is rather small by modern standards, but suits its purpose.
Another major plus: NO COMMERCIALS! Nowadays in both the US and UK, movies are preceeded by about 20 minutes of commercials and trailers. At Everyman, the curtains opened to reveal a short film about the local neighborhood, featuring fun interviews with Belize Park merchants, a hairdresser, pub landlord and other locals discussing their favorite films of all time. There was ONE trailer (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) before the feature film presentation.
Perhaps the best feature is that all seats are reserved! If you buy your tickets online as we did, you are taken to a diagram of the cinema where you pick your favorite seat, just like picking an airline seat. And there are no tickets or printouts. The "e-ticket" is sent as a text message to your mobile phone that you simply show to the usher!
Tickets to Everyman are £12 ($16.25 USD at current exchange rate), that's about £2.50 more than our local Vue multiplex cinema but I would gladly pay a little extra to see a show at Everyman, especially for the privelege of enjoying a beer while watching a flick!
As for Milk: It was everything the critics have said. 4 out of 4 stars. When the lights came on, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Defintely worthy of Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars.