Friday, 15 November 2019

Everyman Cinema Horsham

I really enjoy going to the cinema but it is something I find incredibly difficult since becoming ill so my visits are few and far between. However, after a restful couple of weeks, I fancied trying out the new Everyman Cinema in Horsham. I had been to one a few years ago and was desperate to go to one closer to home! Luckily for me, there was something on at the cinema I wanted to see which coincided with being well enough so Mum and I booked tickets the day before and headed off to see the new Downton Abbey film.

Accessibility

The cinema is located in a pedestrianised Square and accessed through large glass doors. These are not overly disabled friendly as they are very heavy and require someone to help you open the doors if you’re in a wheelchair or not very strong. There does not appear to be an electronic mechanism for the door or a way to notify staff you are there if you are alone and cannot open the doors yourself. Once inside you enter into a small smart vestibule with a staircase and a lift that takes you up to the main floor of the cinema.

You pick up your tickets and order your refreshments from the bar. The whole set up of the place is designed to be more like a restaurant/bar than a cinema foyer, which gives it an exclusive, fun atmosphere. However, there is no wheelchair-accessible counter so you have to strain your neck to talk to the staff if you are in a wheelchair.

The disabled loo is large, clean and smart. It is located to the right of the bar which is the opposite side of the building to the cinema screens. It is important to note that these are the only lavatories, so it is advisable to use them before going up in the second lift and going to your screen.

You access the cinema screens in a second smaller disabled lift, which fits a large wheelchair and another person. There are three screens and all are accessible and have wheelchair specific seating. The seating along the top row, as you enter the screen, has step-free access and is located at the top of the cinema steps so your disabled seating always gets fantastic views, whether you stay in your wheelchair or transfer out of it onto the sofas.  If you are able to do a few steps, and want to access other seats in the cinema, the steps are wide and shallow. The staff are very helpful and guide you to your seat. They will safely stowaway your wheelchair if you transfer out of it. It is also brilliant that the staff will bring any food and drink you order when picking up your tickets to your seat during the film adverts, meaning you do not have to balance anything on your lap while in your wheelchair.

Score: 7/10 - pretty good but have not thought out disability needs fully
Why: The main doors into the cinema were not very accessible, there was no wheelchair-friendly ticket desk and the disabled loos were not close to the cinema screens at all. There is detailed access information online. There are, however, lots of staff to help you if you need it once in the building.

Booking Tickets


While you can book non-transferable wheelchair tickets online you cannot take advantage of your carer getting in for free if you have a CEA card online. Everyman, unlike other big cinema chains, do not have a mechanism to put in your CEA number to buy your disabled tickets online. This is incredibly frustrating when you know it can be done on other websites. They direct you to call a customer service line 01233 504815 if you want disabled tickets (unlike their normal booking line they do not charge you extortionate rates to call up to buy disabled tickets). The operators are very friendly and helpful.  They will help you choose appropriate seats and take down your name, email address and CEA card number. You cannot pay over the phone but they will block the tickets off for you. When you get to the cinema itself, when picking up your tickets, make sure you say that you have a CEA card and show it to them or they will try and charge you full price for both tickets. They may have to ask a manager to come over and help them. The only advantage of this way is that you do not have to pay the booking fee which you would usually have to do if you book online or call up to buy tickets without a CEA card.

Score: 4/10 - I expect better
Why: When there are the cinemas that can provide an online booking service for disabled patrons, it is incredibly annoying and time-consuming not being able to go online and just book the tickets yourself, especially if you have to wait for somebody to help you make the phone call. All the points I allocated them really come for the fact that they are helpful on the phone and that you do not have to pay to use a premium telephone line or pay a ticket booking fee.

Food

The menu is small but features cinema favourites such as popcorn but also cooked meals, which can be served to your seat during the pre-film adverts. We both went for the burgers and they were easily accommodating to both of our allergies. My mum was able to swap out the chips for sweet potato and I was served a bunless patty with chips, a salad and guacamole. My burger and chips were coeliac safe and although all dairy-free, the chips had a risk of cross-contamination with dairy (that's a new one on me). Thankfully I can cope with possible traces of milk but something to watch out for if your dairy allergy is as bad as my gluten allergy! Mum was also able to indulge in a glass of wince and I was able to have a fresh mint tea served to my seat. The hot drink came with a mini Green & Blacks chocolate bar which I had to give over to my mum, but it was a nice touch rather than having to buy great big bags of normal cinema confectionary to satisfy the sweet tooth. 

Mint tea & chocolate bar on my side table

I had emailed the cinema previously to find out about their allergy policies and they kindly emailed me back with all the gluten-free options which I have included below, but please check when you are ordering to prevent the risk of cross-contamination etc. I wasn't sure how I would enjoy having a full meal in the cinema but it worked really well. I also thought the value for money was quite good and a burger and chips were about the same price as a lot of burger restaurants.

Score: 9/10 - Pretty darn good
Why: It would be very easy for the cinema to stock gluten-free burger buns and no restaurant has ever told me I cannot have the chips because they made have a risk of dairy traces, but I am very pleased they were suitable for coeliacs. Also, as I had highlighted I was dairy-free, a dairy-free Green & Blacks mini bar would have been thoughtful and not that hard to make available.


Email response to Gluten-Free Options

My Actual Experience

Everyman is always going to be my first choice for a cinema experience. The sofas and armchairs are supremely comfortable. The cinemas are intimate and have the feel of a private luxury club. The tickets were a similar price as what you pay for the Odeon in Guildford, so value for money is great. The in-cinema food really enhanced my trip out as a chronically ill patron as it meant I could enjoy a meal out and a film. I loved the intimate feel of the cinema. The staff had great customer service skills. I also enjoyed the buzz of the cinema when leaving in the evening. The bar area and outside terrace was full of people enjoying cocktails and food either before or after a film and even people just enjoying the place without seeing a film at all. The cinema was clean, comfortable and a much lovelier experience than I've had before at regular cinema chains in the UK.

Score: 8/10 - Great
Why: It will be my first choice of cinema due to all of the positives. If they could improve the booking experience for disabled patrons and tweak the allergen options that would make the experience fantastic. The position of the lavatories is not ideal but I'm not sure the layout could really be changed to accommodate a second disabled loo. They should have consulted disabled patrons before designing the cinema, but it is very rare that any commercial ventures actually consult a disabled person. They desperately need to improve the access to the building to make the entrance doors disabled accessible, because if you cannot get in then the rest of the access inside is a bit redundant.

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