Each week we ask a reader to tell us about where they go to watch films. Today, a charming independent cinema in Hardy country
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Easily locatable on Trinity Street in the centre of town, just off the high street, the Plaza is close to many local shops and cafés. The cinema is also on the main bus route, with ample parking nearby.
The iconic Art Deco cinema has just celebrated its 80th birthday, having opened with a screening of King Kong in 1933. The building has gone through many modifications (and changed ownership several times), expanding from a single screen to a current total of four. The original auditorium originally included stalls and a balcony, and what is now Screen 2 was once a café. The main screen is the largest in Dorset, and its bold geometric décor complements the building’s architecture. The two new screens downstairs are more modern in design, and are adjacent to the cosy foyer and box office. It should also be noted that the auditoriums all offer extensive legroom, particularly welcome for those lengthier pictures.
The Plaza remains popular with cinemagoers both young and old, attracting many people from nearby villages and townships. With such long ties to the historic market town, the independent cinema continues to receive tremendous local support, and even hosted the premiere of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 2005. Customers are drawn back to the cinema on account of the affordable prices and its friendly, accommodating staff.
The Plaza offers a range of mainstream films in both 2D and 3D, typically shown at the time of wide release. The cinema has recently expanded its scope to include live HD showings of concerts, opera, ballet and plays from the National Theatre. They have baby-friendly screenings, special charity shows, and screen several films a year for the Dorchester Film Society which exhibits an array of contemporary world cinema.
The ticket prices at the Plaza are unrivalled at just £2.50 for midweek showings and £3.50 at weekends. There is not even a premium for 3D films for those partial to the stereoscopic experience, making it unbeatable value for money. The prices for live shows vary, and they offer a wide range of affordable accoutrements. You can even purchase local Purbeck ice cream or an alcoholic beverage (including mulled wine over the Christmas period) before the performance.
Commendably fighting off competition from the local Odeon (which opened in 2012 at the town’s Brewery Square development), the Plaza has added two new screens and now boasts digital projection, 3D and live satellite capability. The cinema is part of the Picturedrome Electric Theatre Company, a small, independent chain consisting of four theatres, and offers a cinematic experience both unique and traditional. As of May 2013 the Plaza has ranked as the number one attraction in Dorset, and it only takes one visit to this charming cinema to see why.