Cineworld Cinema - Watford

Queens Road,
Watford, WD17 2UB

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Cineworld Cinemas UK (Official)

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Operated by: Cineworld

Functions: Movies (First Run)

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Cineworld Watford - IMAX Auditorium.

Located in Watford, Hertfordshire, northwest of Greater London, on the first floor of the new extension to the INTU Shopping Centre. The 9-screen Cineworld Cinema was opened on December 14, 2018. It has an IMAX 3D laser screen which has 475 seats.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

CF100 on December 17, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Plans for the cinema are available on Watford Borough Council’s site within planning applications for the Charter Place redevelopment/intu Watford extension scheme—the most relevant one is perhaps the 2016 variation application.

The relevant documents to the cinema include:

CF100 on December 17, 2018 at 5:01 pm

A few corrections to the Cinema Treasures description:

  • Watford is not strictly in Greater London (as in the “political” GLA area)—but Hertfordshire.

  • The cinema does not include a 4DX nor D-BOX-equipped auditorium.

  • Access to the cinema is from the first floor of the mall extension; however, the bulk of the scheme—i.e. main foyer and auditoria—is at “second floor” level.

CF100 on December 17, 2018 at 5:25 pm

As the first installation of IMAX’s scaled-down “commerical” single-projector IMAX with Laser system in the UK, and one for which its planning application suggested would include a screen of “giant” proportions, I had been eager to see what could be achieved today in a “multiplex,” and decided to visit this new-build cinema on opening day, attending the first public screening programmed just after 10am.

The movie I saw was “Aquaman,” the plot of which, for me, went in one ear and out the other; however, it deserves credit for the very ambitious scale, in terms of number of locations, CGI, etc., and a high proportion of the film was “full height” (i.e. 1.9:1)—plenty of excellent source material to show off the new projection system. It was all consistently graded and grain-free.

(Incidentally, 92 minutes of the “full height” scenes are, according to the “Technical Specifications” page on IMDb, 1.43:1 at IMAX 70mm and IMAX with Laser GT venues—which—once again!—means there are no suitable venues in the UK for a full height IMAX with Laser presentation. IMDb lists only digital filming was used—Arri Alexa cameras—and so it would seem that 1.43:1 is—unexpectedly?—not yet obsolete.)

The cinema is accessed from the first floor of the extension to intu Watford; briefly, the new mall, despite having a large main atrium with curved glazed roof, is actually not fully “enclosed;” there are gaps around the roof edges, and no entrance doors—thus, no HVAC system, and, suffering from something of a “wind tunnel,” perhaps even colder and less comfortable than the surrounding streets.

The cinema’s main entrance is at first floor level, with a narrow “shop front” only; getting to main foyer/cinema level (“second floor” per the plans) is via two escalators. (A lift has also been installed.)

(I may have missed an additional foyer area just past the entrance, at first floor level, as shown on the plans; or possibly, it is not yet open? In any case, a Starbucks is included within the cinema, and I certainly don’t recall seeing one.)

The main foyer area has a full height window overlooking the new mall atrium—which makes it feel spacious, but perhaps is sub-optimal as a transition into the darker “other world” of the auditoria.

It is decorated per Cineworld’s current house style, with blue LED strips attached to column edges (though extrusions and diffusers appear to have been used, individual LEDs could very clearly be seen, rather than a smooth “linear” source), and the usual attractive black sparkle tiles, with some red tiles.

A large LED module display is angled down over the concessions counter, and another smaller vertically-oriented LED module display is situated to the left of the entrance to the corridor leading to the auditoria.

Attention to detail was lacking in some aspects of the fit-out, in particular, the grey painted surfaces are less than smooth in places, the tiled floor was slightly undulating, and compared to the “bling” levels of some other recent Cineworld foyers, it seemed like costs had been cut in this area.

The main foyer is underneath the booth and stadia of the IMAX auditorium, with this being quite obvious to anyone observant enough, and all services are left exposed, albeit painted black.

Toilets off the main foyer were nothing special, albeit as with other new Cineworlds, they feature Mitsubishi’s “Jet Towel” dryers—Made in Japan!—which as I have noted on CT before, are in my view vastly preferable to the equivilant Dyson “Airblade” product, as my hands fit in them without it being very difficult to touch the dryer’s surfaces!

Auditoria 7-9 are accessed one level up from 1-6; the plans show a “bar” feature; I cannot confirm this as I did not visit that part of the cinema.

Owing to a signal failure, one of the trains I took to get to Watford had been delayed, and I arrived at the cinema just in time for the performance—only to be told by a member of staff that the electronic ticketing machines were not working. I thus had to queue up at the concessions counter, with several people ahead in the queue, which proceeded slowly as the new staff were still being trained.

On approaching “ticket tear,” I was informed that there were “teething problems” with the IMAX system and to wait in the foyer; that they were “on the phone” to IMAX. Patrons were simply left standing in the main foyer, with no seating available. It was later announced that several technicians were busy trying to get the system working.

Intermittent rumbling sounds could be heard in the main foyer, which, as mentioned, is under the stadia of the IMAX.

About 35 minutes after the scheduled programme time, it was announced that the auditorium was ready; on entering the auditorium, the main feature had already started. A couple of minutes later, the screening came to an abrupt halt with house lights raised and sidewall lights turned on, and the manager came in to tell patrons that “we are restarting the film… Canada had started the film without realising that there was a queue of people waiting…”—suggesting that the fault was rectified remotely by IMAX’s Network Operations Centre in Mississauga? I also can’t help but wonder if the daily auto-recalibration hadn’t been performed in time.

All adverts and trailers were skipped, and the presentation started with the IMAX “countdown” trailer, straight into the main feature.

Lest this come across as being critical of an extremely shambolic operation, two ticket vouchers (seemingly unrestricted as to Cineworld location or format) were handed to each patron in the IMAX auditorium, and the staff were very helpful and polite. As you’d expect from a newly opened cinema, it was also spotlessly clean throughout—but I should add that the main foyer floors were being mopped whilst I waited for the IMAX to be ready.

Onto the IMAX auditorium. A member of staff informed me that the screen is 22m (~72ft.) wide (incidentally, also, that all auditoria are equipped with laser light source projection—and it is not the first UK Cineworld location where this is the case.) The screen height as drawn on the relevant cross sectional plan (see above link) is ~11.6m, as expected for a 1.9:1 ratio screen of 22m width.

Based on the above, the screen is ~22mx11.6m (~72ft.x38ft.) The screen is not quite wall-to-wall.

The auditorium depth is approximately within the classic IMAX screen width to last row requirements of no more than 1x screen width, and, the 22m size firmly meets that aspect of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) requirements for “giant screens.”

The auditorium still smelt “new,” and the black leather Lino Sonego seating, with red headrests, was comfortable, and legroom was very good. The rectangular sidewall features, lit with red concealed lighting, are unimaginative, and the current quasi-random layout IMO displeasing, but at least restrained compared to the sidewalls being adorned with the Cineworld “star” logo.

HVAC appeared to be inaudible, and certainly was not heard during the feature; nor was any leakage audible from other auditoria. A consistent comfortable temperature was maintained throughout the performance.

Overall, it felt “premium” quality.

At each side of the vomitorium corridor, guideway strips were lit throughout the performance, presumably using fibre optic lighting; they were not visible from my seating position. The ceiling downlights were well dimmed although they could be slightly distracting; all light fades were smooth.

The projection system: As mentioned, this is the first installation of the new “scaled-down” commerical IMAX with Laser single projector system; this supports 1.9:1 only, c.f. the existing dual-projection “GT” system intended for the largest venues, as a possible replacement for the 15/70 projectors, which supports 1.43:1 also.

3D glasses were marked with “IMAX with Laser;” unlike those that I have used over at Leicester Square, there is no reference to Dolby patents being licensed. (The glasses are returned at the end of the performance, being that the lenses for “wavelength multiplexed” 3D systems, notching out the unwanted wavelengths for each eye, are more expensive than types for polarised systems, e.g. Real-D.)

Obviously, no moveable masking is installed; although the black levels were slightly higher than expected, it was not overly missed for letterboxed “scope” scenes, with the 3D glasses cutting light levels down. The black sidewalls were also effective, being all but invisible with 3D glasses on; I am not keen on “rectangular” auditoria with sidewalls at right angles to the screen, preferring splayed walls—with a “wall-to-wall” screen, one becomes overly aware of the sidewalls and it feels “heemed in”—but it was acceptable in this case. However, reflection levels off the ceiling tiles were higher than is desirable.

There also seemed to be some slight clipping of near-black level detail, and with the 3D glasses on, the picture did not seem to be quite as bright as might be expected. Additionally, there was some odd motion “judder,” suggesting the possible use of a frame interpolation system that was not working quite correctly, and on one scene with a waterfall in the distance, there appeared to be odd blocking artifacts—puzzling, since presumably IMAX’s IDF “superset” of DCP format uses the same motion-JPEG2000 compression, and at the bit-rates used, I would expect it to be more or less lossless. Perhaps these issues might be fixed in a firmware/software update?

Otherwise, the picture was excellent, with full on “neon” luminous colours. It was perhaps not as “smooth” as the dual-projection system—albeit the benefits in that respect ought to occur with 2D content, where IMAX’s dual-projection system, at 4K, projects—essentially—a lower resolution image with one projector, and a higher resolution image with the other, to produce an improved “seamless” image; this method attempts to fill in the gaps between each DLP mirror.

There may have been some slight barrel distortion to the bottom edge of the screen, although I can’t be sure; the centre-to-edge brightness uniformity was good, but not perfect.

The mid-auditorium seat that I chose was a bit lower than I had expected, in relation to the screen, but the distance seemed “just right.”

With nit-picking out of the way, otherwise, the picture was excellent, with luminous “neon” colours achieved, and appeared to be in the same ballpark as the GT IMAX with Laser system at Leicester Square. The screen size is, of course, not as “massive” in scale but nevertheless full height scenes with strong motion definitely felt like IMAX, and some may even consider it to be more comfortable.

There really isn’t anything more to say—unless I enumerate all the things that it did right.

IMAX’s 12 channel system is of course used, albeit it seems unlikely that this installation supports the “Voice of God” upper centre channel.

The system appeared to be playing at “reference” level, with peak low frequency effects being full-on visceral—literally “seat-shaking” and “chest-pounding”—good or bad, depending on one’s point of view! Unfortunately, the bass did have a “one note” quality, and didn’t seem to be as smooth as that achieved at the Cineworld (Empire) Leicester Square IMAX—it seems plausible that this was due to the near-square shape of the auditorium, albeit its >20m width and depth are greater than the wavelength of sound at 20Hz.

Excellent surround imaging was achieved, and the system seemed to have been very well calibrated and EQ’d; e.g. it was never too bright or too dull. However, it did sound somewhat strained at peak levels, with a loss of clarity.

Compared to Leicester Square, the Watford IMAX does have the benefit that reverberation time is very much better controlled; no discrete reflections—reverb, slap echos, etc.—could be heard.

As a total package, then, this cinema is not quite right—albeit I may have missed the first floor level foyer, and upper level bar. However, excepting that I arrived just after opening on the first day that this location was open to the public, customer service was very good, with enthusiastic staff, and a big thumbs up for the goodwill gesture of supplying two free ticket vouchers. The IMAX is, outside of the best “GT” venues, first rate.

A few photos to follow.

LARGE_screen_format on December 18, 2018 at 2:46 pm


Thank you very much for the detailed account of your IMAX with Laser experience at this new cinema.

Shame that I was unable to make it. Hope to visit soon though…

CF100 on December 18, 2018 at 3:10 pm

LARGE_screen_format: You’re welcome. :–)

A few links:

Cineworld Blog Post: “Cineworld Watford is now open!”

Watford Observer, 1st December 2018: “Inside Watford intu centre’s new Cineworld IMAX cinema.” A gallery of photos taken as the fit-out was nearing completion is included.

Farrat: Farrat Isolevel Tweet. This includes two photos, taken during an inspection, which show the steel frame for the IMAX auditorium’s stadia and the isolation pads used to decouple it from the concrete slab below.

Swindon Interiors — Cineworld Watford. Announcement of fit-out contract award (photo on page NOT of Cineworld Watford.)

Gala opening video. Dreadful!

SethLewis on December 19, 2018 at 12:57 am

I am not their target audience and certainly don’t object to multiplexes but miss the days of a clean sponsorship partnership free marquee telling me what’s playing. Movies for the sake of storytelling not technology

CF100 on December 20, 2018 at 6:30 pm


Movies for the sake of storytelling not technology

Absolutely—although storytelling is most effective if supported by the best use of “technology”—I trust that you wouldn’t want to watch your favourite films on your mobile phone!

PhilipWW on July 3, 2019 at 9:26 am

Bar the IMAX screen at 1.90, are all the other screens 2.39 Scope similar to the one in the photo ?

I ask because Cineworld has been prone to just install 1.85 screens in many of their new build cinemas necessitating Scope films be shown letterboxed as on TV.

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