The thing with open-air cinemas is they always feel a little temporary. The whir of the generator, the beep-beep of traffic and the apparent obliviousness of fellow patrons swanning in, out, around – and as loudly – as they please. Okay, that last part happens at every cinema in Dubai.
Well, we’re thankful to report that on our recent visit to the new Vox Outdoor on the roof of Galleria Mall on Al Wasl Road, no such problems were encountered. Sure, there were the usual late arrivals – “Dubai time” – but all other issues were wonderfully absent.
Much as Gerard Butler might like to think that this was because London Has Fallen had captivated the audience, we put it down to the cinema set-up is (sorry, Gerard, maybe if it was 300).
Make no mistake, this is a slick operation, as professional as the signature screens at Mall of the Emirates, Mirdif and more. Proper ticket machines have been set up downstairs alongside a Häagen-Dazs pop-up, while the lift and rooftop lobby have been carpeted and customised in the traditional Vox style.
The “cinema” itself is bigger than you might expect, with a top capacity of 111. On our visit, it is probably holding around half that, and all the better for it. The seating is spread across just two tiers, but is spacious enough that it feels as though each of the four clearly defined rows is on a platform of its own. The actual seats are either sofas or long-based single swivel chairs. And both have something to put your feet up on to maximise comfort.
Truth be told, it doesn’t feel too unlike slouching back in front of the TV at home. In a good way.
What you won’t have at home, though, is the high-resolution digital projection systems, Dolby 7.1 multidimensional sound and other latest technologies. Actually, this is Dubai, maybe you do?
Included in the Dhs150 price is a blanket and pillow, as well as a small snack and drink selection – we’re given a 500ml bottle of water and Pepsi, plus grab bag-sized M&Ms and popcorn. Well, they have to justify the almost triple-the-price-of-a-normal-ticket rate.
Alternatively, Vox has teamed up with Heinz Beck and his Taste of Italy outlet in the belly of the Mall, offering a range of tasty finger food for a not unreasonable price, considering the Michelin-starred pedigree associated with the Italian. For example, at just Dhs70, an amply sized mozzarella and sun-dried tomato pizza trumps the usual fried hot foods at the movies. The gelato, too – three scoops for Dhs35 – is terrific, and can be ordered at any point during the film. To snack, Home Bakery (also operating downstairs) offers churros, small doughnuts and cookies for Dhs20 or less.
The other thing about outdoor screenings is that it’s rare to watch the latest releases, the events instead being more of a nostalgic viewing experience. Vox is bucking the trend. While we watched London Has Fallen on opening weekend, Deadpool, Triple 9 and Hail, Caesar! have also screened and the plan is to continue with all major releases on rotation until the end of the season.
And if London Has Fallen can keep the audience in check, we’re confident whatever else Vox plans to release will do, too.
Three more outdoor cinemas
Perhaps one of the most iconic spots to kick back on a beanbag and devour some sweet treats in front of a big screen. Screenings in the rooftop garden vary from contemporary to old favourites.
Free. Sun 8.30pm. www.wafi.com.
Reform Social & Grill
The lakeside gastropub has converted part of its garden into a cute little film corner, screening a range of classics in a similar theme. In April, it’s comedy. Burgers, wings, popcorns, crêpes and ice-cream make up most of the menu.
Free. Tue 8pm. www.reformsocialgrill.ae.
La Playa Lounge
A whopping great big screen tacked onto the back of Reel Cinemas at The Beach. Mixing it up between movies and live sport, film-goers get headsets to tune into the audio while they recline with shisha on the white sofas.
Dhs50. Daily, times vary. The Beach, JBR. www.laplayalounge.com.