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Alternative cinema experiences in the UAE

From licensed theatres to 270-degree screens and the most VIP service you can get, going to the movies is no longer the experience as we know it

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Tabloid

Gone are the days when a trip to the cinema in the UAE would mean a simple nigth out at a single-screen, some pop corn and fizzy drinks.

Now, we’re talking menus by Michelin-star chefs, 270-degree screens and VIP experiences like nowhere else in the world. Movie-going is no longer the experience as we know it.

With the recent opening of ScreenX and Vox Cinemas’ licensed Aloft outdoor experience, Gulf News tabloid! here are all the different ways you can now catch a film in the Emirates.

270-degree viewing

Staring at a flat canvas is so last season especially when the new ScreenX offers a 270-degree panoramic film viewing experience.

Located at Reel Cinemas, The Dubai Mall, the 170-seat theatre expands the film canvas across three panels, wrapping the moving images around the walls on either side of the seats, giving moviegoers an immersive experience.

This multi-projection system was first created in 2012 by South Korea’s CJ 4DPlex, marked as one of the ‘next cinema formats’ along with 4DX, the multi-sensory cinema technology with motion and environmental effects that has also made its way down to the UAE.

Fair warning though, not all of the film is shown in a panoramic setting. When Gulf News tabloid! went down to view The Meg, approximately 15 minutes of the film spooled across all three canvases. As for the immersive experience, you ask? It almost feels like you are starring in your own film.

Definitely not for the romcoms, but a large scale action film really does come alive.

Cost: Starts at Dh68

Movies under the stars

We’ve all loved the Vox Outdoor experience at The Galleria Mall, but Dubai’s scorching climes leave no room for negotiation to hunker outside in the summer heat — even if its Michael B Jordan’s chiselled countenance staring back on the big screen.

This is perhaps why many have cheered the new kid on the block at Aloft City Centre Deira, an indoor cinematic setting with a retractable roof that lets in the breeze when the Mercury dips to a happier place. The cherry on top, of course, is the gourmet dining experience and the fact that this 60-seater cinema is licensed.

If you want to impress a special someone, the Vox Aloft definitely fits the bill. The acoustics may not give you the Dolby surround sound effect that Vox Cinemas offers, so if it’s the latest Marvel film you want to see, head over to the Virgin Max next doors. Otherwise, this is the perfect date night venue.

Cost: Dh75 for single and Dh150 for a double seat with blankets available free of charge.

Fine-dining feast

Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar Dine-in.

The dinner and a movie motto takes on a whole new meaning when Dubai gets in on the scene. With this city already home to an ever-expanding list of fine-dining restaurants, it was only natural the celebrity chef experience would make its way to the theatres as well.

Three years ago, Vox served up a treat when it partnered with British Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes to offer a five-star dining experience. The service, which is now offered at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, along with Yas Mall and Nation Towers in Abu Dhabi, lays out a lush experience with a specially curated feast, reclining seats, blankets, pillows and a butler service at the push of the button.

As for the food, you ask? Think peppered beef fillet sticks and foie gras. It doesn’t get fancier.

Meanwhile, relatively new on the scene in comparison, American celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar Dine-in by Reel Cinemas at the Jebel Ali Recreation Club holds its own in this competitive market. This licensed theatre is pretty reasonably priced with a ticket, a starter and a main course costing Dh160 per person. The all-American meal includes treats such as lobster rolls and a bacon mac ’n’ cheese burger.

While we’re a fan of the pre-screening lounge and its funky vibe, the armless seats that keep sliding every time you so much as cross a leg gets annoying fast. Plus, the dining lights that stay on through the film are quite distracting, as is the service that runs non-stop.

If you want to dazzle with a five-star experience, the Vox Theatre by Rhodes is a no-brainer. Meanwhile, the licensed Reel Cinemas Guy Fieri experience is a reasonably priced inclusion on the scene.

Cost: Vox Theatre by Rhodes costs Dh160 for the ticket. Dh295, inclusive of a three-course meal and drinks. A la carte also available. The Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar Dine-in by Reel Cinemas costs Dh160 for a ticket, a starter and a main. Drinks and dessert are priced separately.

The hotel experience

A Rove Downtown cinema with just 49 seats.

The Reel Cinemas, Rove Downtown is another licensed offering with a stylish single-screen interior that makes for an intimate setting with family or friends with just 49 seats. On the menu, expect an array of light bites, including sliders, nachos, popcorn and potato skins.

Bottomline: Perfect setting for a party, a corporate gathering or even a wedding proposal.

Cost: Dh70, inclusive of a beverage and popcorn.

Go VIP

Inside Reel Cinemas’ Platinum Suites.

Why travel economy when you can shoot straight for first class? If the above-mentioned experiences aren’t posh enough, try the various VIP offerings across cinemas in the UAE. Novo Cinemas offers its 7-star experience, with a Dh150 ticket that includes valet parking, gourmet delights, plush leather recliners, a butler service and more.

The service is available at Ibn Battuta Mall and Dubai Festival City, along with the World Trade Centre Mall, Abu Dhabi.

Reel Cinemas also throws its hat into the ring with the Platinum Suites offering much of the same experience as Novo, while Roxy Cinema’s Platinum Plus is as fancy as it gets.

Other cinemas that offer the first class experience include Vox Cinemas Gold, along with Cine Royal’s Royal Movie Suites at the Deerfields Mall.

Cost: Varies across screens and cinemas.

Go big or go home

If you want the big-screen cinematic powerhouse then nothing compares to the largest screen in the UAE, tucked away at Cinemacity in Sharjah’s Zero6 mall. This IMAX theatre offers three different classes of seating: Deluxe, Club Class seats with semi reclining chairs as well as extra legroom, and the luxurious full reclining VIP Star Class seats that come with in-theatre service.

Cost: Tickets start from Dh50.

Other experience to try out:

Vox kids theatre where lights don’t dim all the way, and there’s an adjoining party room.

The Kids Cinema with Vox, which provides a colourful and safe environment for kids to let loose. The lights don’t dim all the way and there are adjoining party rooms to make a play date out of it.

Tried and tested — Aloft City Centre Deira

A new indoor/outdoor cinema by Vox at Aloft City Centre Deira.

Fancy a dip in an infinity pool, followed by a film screening under the stars? The new Aloft Vox City Centre Deira offers such decadence with its new outdoor cinema.

Gulf News tabloid! went down for a peek at the fancy new digs, and we didn’t walk away disappointed. The intimate surroundings and the plush loungers — complete with a fluffy blanket and a throw pillow — almost make you feel like you’re curled up at home in front of a giant projector screen.

The butler service adds the posh to the nosh, with a relatively reasonable-priced menu offering treats ranging from sliders, to felafel pockets and pizzas. If that feels too fancy, then gourmet popcorn and nachos also feature on the menu. It is advisable though to breeze through the extensive food and beverage menu before the movie starts to avoid minimum disturbance during the screening. However, a discreet button on the table does leave room for service during those mid-film cravings.

While booking, you can choose between a two-seater lounger that’s ideal for couples or a single settee, if you need the space.

Naturally, with the Mercury hovering around the high 40s this month, the retractable roof is firmly closed to make way for air-conditioned comfort. But it will be interesting to experience its al fresco evenings once weather permits.

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