Here’s a list of all of Birmingham’s cinema screens (as of December 2012, January 2013 March 2015). Update Jan 2013: The Showcase Cinema in Erdington shut in January 2013.
Update March 2015: The Giant Screen has closed and a branch of Everyman Cinema has opened (3 screens, in Mailbox, city centre). That now means Birmingham has 80 screens and 17253 seats. That’s roughly one cinema seat for every 59 people.
Here’s why this list exists: I love watching films on BIG screens. Whenever I go to a multiplex I hate finding out that the film I’m watching is actually in its smallest screen. I kind of feel cheated. So I wanted a single place where I could find out the size of a screen. Obviously size does not necessarily equal a quality cinema going experience but for me it’s 90% of it. Also, the number of seats in the auditorium doesn’t mean that the screen size is the biggest (not now that Cineworld’s LieMAX and Odeon’s ISense screens fill the whole of the back wall of their screens). Including screen size in auditorium information would be useful but most cinemas omit it.
Just before Christmas the Harte family took their first ever trip to New York. Here’s a post on what we managed to squeeze in. Bear in mind we went as a family on a reasonable budget so you won’t find tales of cool bars or expensive restaurants here. We had fun though.
We flew with Aer Lingus from Birmingham to JFK via Dublin rather than go direct from a UK airport to JFK or choose the Birmingham to Newark route. We got the price down to circa £470 each (other options all seemed to be £600 min) – best I could for the dates involved (18 – 23 December). A bag went astray on the way back but was back with us within a couple of days.
We stayed on the 16th floor, room-only, at the Affinia Manhattan, corner of 8th Avenue and 31st Street, next to Penn station. It was handy for Times Square, the Empire State Building and close to the top end of the Highline. We had a studio suite, compact but big enough for two double beds and a small kitchen. It was a nice hotel, quiet, friendly staff. Pricey at circa £200 a night but worth it we felt.
What we did (paid for stuff): Empire State Building (Adults $25, Kids $19) – We went to the 86th floor of the Empire State. You can pay more and carry on to the 102nd but it was high enough for us. Great views and no queuing at 10am.
MoMA ($25, Kids free) – Our kids will only stomach one major 2+ hours museum vist per holiday. We made a good choice in the Museum of Modern Art given UK primary school educators seem very keen on 20th Century Art so my 10 year-old daughter was already familiar with some works. Three cinema-related things impressed me. Firstly, the MoMA cinema had a Pasolini season on. Imagine living in a city that would show Pasolini on a big screen and have people show up for it. Awesome. Secondly, there was a Quay Brothers exhibition. I love those crazy Quays. Thirdly, there was a screening of Christian Marclay’s The Clock on a large screen in a room with sofas. Myself and the boy (aged 6) parked ourselves at the front for 10 minutes or so. We were both hooked as the film (24 hours of film excerpts of people looking at their watches and suchlike) is put together as if it is itself a richly plotted movie. Also, when familiar moments appear on screen, in this case an excerpt from When Harry Met Sally, the crowd laugh and applaud. I would love this to come to Birmingham. I would happily watch the whole darn thing in one sitting.
Theatre – we saw Spiderman – Turn off the Dark. Camp and knowing in places, I enjoyed this, as did the kids. I suspect had we been kid-free we might have tried for tickets to Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross (though it has had poor reviews).
What we did (free stuff): Staten Island Ferry – the best free boat ride ever. Views of Manhattan, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty.
Brooklyn Bridge – We caught the metro to Brooklyn, walked back through Brooklyn Heights and then back over the Bridge into the Financial District.
Ground Zero – you need a visitor’s pass which you have to get in advance. We didn’t realise this, however, we lucked out and picked one up at the entrance. The sites of the two towers are now black, marble fountains surrounded by newly planted oak trees. It’s impressively done.
Central Park – we walked the bottom half of it. Past the ice-rink and up to Belvedere Castle. All lovely. Lovelier in autumn or summer I guess.
Shopping – well it’s free if you don’t buy anything. Certainly Tiffany’s is worth a look (nice building, high ceilings).
Times Square – madly busy, too busy really though enjoyably glitzy.
We had a nice ‘so-big-we-took-some-home’ meal in a place called Carmine’s on the Upper West Side and a lovely breakfast in Andrew’s Coffee Shop on 7th Avenue near to our hotel. As I say, we didn’t go big on eating out. However, we did enjoy the abundance of Delis in New York. The one closest to our Hotel served everything from Pizza to Sushi. In the UK a ‘Deli’ is an excuse to sell fancy cheese and meats at high prices. In New York it was simply a place where you could get any kind of food, at reasonable prices, at any time of day or night.
We mostly walked or caught the Metro ($2.25 per trip to go anywhere. if your child can squeeze under the barriers they go free). The cab to and from the airport (fixed fare of $52 + $6 tolls) was fast and scary with much beeping of horn.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip. I think next time would see more exploring of the other Boroughs but for a starter, we did okay I think.
There’s some interesting new data about the ‘digital divide’ in the guise of the ‘Living Costs and Food Survey 2011’ which is published by the Office for National Statistics as ‘Family Spending‘, published annually.
So here’s their headline statement regarding family spending on Internet access:
“Differences by income were also evident for internet access, with 41 per cent of households in the lowest income group having access to the internet at home, compared with 99 per cent of the highest income households.”
It’s quite startling put like that. I’m happy to take that at face value given that the survey is fairly robust (based on 5,531 households). When I tweeted that data a local BBC journalist tweeted back:
@daveharte Which interesting. Councils I’ve talked to say they focus on apps increasingly because poorer people have smartphones but no pc
Wow – so councils build apps because they think it’s a better way to access poor people? My immediate reaction was to consider this nonsense but maybe there’s something in it? So let’s dig a bit deeper at the reasons why poor people don’t spend their money on ‘Internet access’.
Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2012 tells us something about this. They actually have a whole chapter called ‘Smartphones are an important means of accessing the internet‘ which tells us in 2012 42% of people surveyed agreed that ‘my phone is more important to me for accessing the internet than any other device’.
Dig deeper into the same report, a chapter on ‘Telecoms and Networks‘ and we find this headline: ‘Lower-income groups more likely to subscribe to mobile broadband only’. That must be what those councils that David Gregory, above, refers to when they give him their excuses for wasting spending money on apps.
But let’s go beyond that statement and look for more stats that might enhance our understanding of why the poorer you are the less likely you are to have broadband into the home. One reason might be that if you are in the lowest socio-economic group (a ‘DE’) then 25% of you live in household that don’t have a fixed telephone line (usually the main way broadband comes into the home).
Ofcom explain this by saying:
“This is possibly a result of lower-income households not wanting to commit to lengthy minimum-term fixed-line contracts, having trouble passing the credit checks that some providers require, or seeking to control their telephony spend by using prepay mobiles as an alternative to fixed telephony.”
So the poorer you are then you the more likely you are to stick to mobile. However, and here’s the rub, that doesn’t mean you use mobile broadband more than well off people. You use it less. 50% of the highest economic group (‘AB’) use their mobile to access the internet, 27% of DEs.
All of this is quite hard to unravel but perhaps the key figure, simple to understand, is: 43% of of those in DE homes said that they did not have a broadband connection of any kind compared to the UK average of 24%.
It remains that the poorer you are the less likely you are to use the internet. The ONS provide further evidence. Their quarterly internet access data reports show that the less you earn the less likely you have ever used the internet (93% <£200/week compared to 99.6% >£700/week).
As an aside, it also shows that if you live in Walsall/Wolverhampton then 28.1% of you have never accessed the internet. Ever. The highest figure in the UK. Scary.
So there’s some data for you. The digital divide seems, in the main, to be a reflection of the economic divide. Improving access may be key (libraries? ‘surgeries‘?) but surely there are underlying issues of equality that need addressing.