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Ipswich Empire Cinema’s opening could spark a battle for the region’s film fans

PUBLISHED: 16:35 26 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:48 26 January 2017

Cineworld Ipswich 
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Cineworld Ipswich Web

The opening of the new Empire Cinema in Ipswich seems set to spark a battle for the area’s film fans as the number of screens in the town nearly doubles.

Will it really put pressure on Cineworld in Cardinal Park?

Within seven years of Cineworld (or Virgin as it was originally called) the town’s Odeon closed although the building was only 14 years old. Will history repeat itself?

Cineworld does have a strong hand, the Unlimited Card. It’s a season ticket that allows holders to go as often as they like to most films there for a flat monthly fee.

The £17 monthly fee gets them into any normal screening free and gives me a big discount when they want to see a film in Imax or 4DX.

It’s popular. Unofficial estimates suggest that up to 40% of Cineworld’s customers nationally may have their Unlimited cards. They are not likely to switch. At present Empire does not offer a similar deal.

But it looks as if Empire will be competing hard on the price of individual film tickets.

And the new cinema will increase the market – pushing up the number of screens in the town from 13 to 25 (11 at Cineworld and two at the Ipswich Film Theatre) and should offer more choice.

The Oscar-nominated film Jackie opened last weekend. But it finished its run at Cineworld on Thursday.

If there are more screens in the town for the big blockbusters, it may well be that those “smaller” films that are not exactly arthouse could get a longer run.

Film-going across the country has been relatively stable since the turn of the century – the number of admissions fell from 1.6bn a year in 1946 to 54m in 1984. Since then numbers have increased to about 170m every year since 2001.

But still many people rarely, if ever, go to the cinema. In Ipswich both Empire and Cineworld will be trying to attract them – on price, comfort, and choice.

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