x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Changes are afoot at Grand Cinemas across the UAE

We talk to the chief executive of Grand Cinemas about revamping the brand.

The Grand Cinema in Abu Dhabi Mall is undergoing major refurbishment. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National
The Grand Cinema in Abu Dhabi Mall is undergoing major refurbishment. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National

In case you haven't already noticed, new things are afoot at Grand Cinemas. Alex Ritman queues up for a soft drink and popcorn to find out what's happening at the Emirates chain

So, what exactly is going on?

Well, Grand Cinemas, which has 13 sites across the UAE and has been around for as long as most local film buffs can remember, is going through a big rebranding exercise.

Gone is the bold gold capitalised lettering, in is a cooler, fresher look - a big G followed by "grand cinemas" in lower case. But it's not simply about a change in font, as the chief executive officer Jean Ramia explains.

"We thought that part of the new innovation of rebranding and the new look of Grand Cinemas, it's not just the look and feel, it's the experience by itself, it's the attitude of the staff, it's the surprising experience we'll be giving customers."

'Surprising experience'? You mean pins on seats?

No. According to Ramia, there will be activities taking place onsite, plus prizes and giveaways. There will also be new uniforms, new food counters, interactive kiosks where people can watch trailers and give feedback on films, and stalls selling merchandise related to movies. "Some of our key sites are being fully renovated."

Will I still have to spend ages queueing up for my popcorn/hotdog/nachos/all of the above?

Hopefully not, with an innovative new idea seeing the food stall to the left side of the ticket counter so you just move from one to the other. This has already been introduced at Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai.

Dubai, Dubai, Dubai. When will they open more cinemas in Abu Dhabi?

Very soon, as it turns out. A new flagship site is due in the new Central Market complex in the heart of Abu Dhabi (December), a 15-screen multiplex is coming to Yas Mall (end of 2013) and there will be another opening in the forthcoming Deerfields Town Square mall in Al Bahia district (January 2013). The Abu Dhabi Mall cinema is also getting a full renovation.

Is this all to make up for the recent price hikes?

Oh come on. "We didn't increase the price by one dirham in 12 years, whereas the cost of everything else, such as water or electricity, increased," explains Ramia, who adds that as digital films have been introduced, they've had to invest in new projectors, at a cost of around US$70,000 (Dh257,124) each. "So if you have 108 screens, that's $7 million."

OK, OK. So what else is going on as part of the renovations apart from snazzier lobbies?

In the actual screens, seats are being renovated (3,000 have already been done at the giant Cineplex near Garhoud Bridge in Dubai), which will mean more leg space. "All the renovations are expected to be done by the end of Ramadan," says Ramia.

Finally, will there be any new innovations to shut the kids up who insist on talking throughout?

Alas no, but help is at hand. "If you ask the ushers, they will come and talk to the customers, irrespective of their nationalities." Rather you than me.