ISB student Elise Jiang is a die-hard movie fan and a veteran of over 60 cinema experiences in the capital. Over the next 3 weeks Elise will take us on a tour of Beijing’s best movie theaters. Stay tuned Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4pm for her comprehensive cinema reviews.
UME Cineplex (Haidian Location)
One of the few cinemas in town that goes out of its way to cater to English speakers and the second home of movie-themed item collectors
Telephone: 8211 5566, 8211 2851
Bus: Lines 79, 302, 323, 323, 361, 367, 422, 425, 601, 617, 658, 660, 695, 731, 967, 8, 101, 201
Taxis: There are taxis passing by the cinema, however it can be difficult to find an available one.
Subway: Line 4, Ren Min Da Xue (People’s University) station 人民大学站
Ease of finding the cinema: Easily spotted from roadside with large billboard signs and posters outside.
Staff: Cannot communicate easily in English
Box office: Movie titles in Chinese & English
Website: Chinese and English
Oscars go to …
Extra bonus: UME’s box office display board features English movie titles.
Availability of English. UME is one of the few theatres that has put in careful consideration for English customers—both their website and movie display board at the box office incorporates English for the practicality of those that can’t read Chinese. The movie display board is particularly well-designed with titles in both English and Chinese. However, the staff on my visit had difficulty communicating in English.
Movie themed figures & posters collection. Movie fans who are into movie-themed collectables are in for a treat at UME. They not only have an impressive range of movie-related action figures & toys, they also have a roomful of valuable posters, stamps, and get this—framed 3D posters. In fact, even their drinking cups and popcorn boxes are movie themed.
Overall Atmosphere. The overall atmosphere of UME cinema can definitely be praised. Bright blue and red-lighted signs create the perfect movie watching mood; the otherwise dim lights further contribute to this atmosphere. While waiting for your movie to start, take a look at the celebrities’ handprints & signatures that dot the lobby and see how many stars you can identity just by looking at their scrawled handwriting and palm lines. For bookworms, there is also a small “book bar” on the 3rd floor where you can busy yourself with a good novel or magazine and take a break in the fluffy red and black swivel chairs, turning and turning until you become dizzy. The screens in some of the screening rooms are huge and the seats are comfortable. Furthermore, nearby there’s plenty of well-known restaurants nearby: Pizza Hut (which is actually creatively located so diners can see the inside of the cinema from its dining room), Haagen Dazs, Subway, Diary Queen and KFC are all on site.
Golden Raspberries to…
High prices. UME’s prime location near lots of branded stores and restaurants means higher prices at the box office. Here, event student discounted tickets are around RMB 40 to 60 (as opposed to RMB 30 to 40 that you’ll find elsewhere), and food and drinks are typically priced RMB 3 to 6 higher than in other theatres.
Wet counters and empty soap containers await you in the substandard bathrooms
Washroom problems. The floors are dirty and the sink counter is also forever wet. Moreover, there never seems to be any liquid soap in the dispensers. In addition, the entrances can be confusing as the ladies’ and gents’ rooms share a common entrance, resulting in the occasional misdirected female washroom visitor hurrying out of the men’s room with hands covering her eyes.
Commercials. As you sit in your seat pondering when exactly the movie you paid RMB 50 to see will start, you’ll be bombarded by a string of loud commercials on screen. Being subjected to 5 to 8 minutes of Hertz, KFC and automobile commercials just as you are settling in for the cinema experience tends to dampen the mood.
The screening room experience
UME is impressive in its size. The entire cinema is around 4000 sqm, with 5 screening rooms, 1200 seats in total, and also has a rarely-seen screen size of 430m2 for its biggest screening room. This spectacular size certainly delivers one of Beijing’s grandest movie experiences.
Popcorn: not bad if you like it sweet
The toffee popcorn, fluffy and glazed with caramel, is rich in its usual sweet taste and popped just the right way—no unpopped kernels or burnt pieces. However, the dark caramel popcorn can be a tad bit too sweet but balances out with the ones not as sugar-coated. The downside is that there is only one flavor of popcorn which does not stay warm long enough and is relatively more expensive compared to that of other cinemas.