Of Ceilings and Cinema: A True Story of Design Innovation

September 2007 - If you fancy an impromptu night out at the cinema you have to take a gamble that there will be seats left. But what do you do when all the tickets for the show you wanted to see have sold out? How about a good game of ten pin bowling?

Uttoxeter Cine Bowl is the first leisure complex of its kind to combine bowling and cinema under one roof. The building’s owner, Malcolm Barrett of MJ Barretts

(Developments) Ltd, was inspired to create something special in the town where he was born. As the Cine Bowl is a dual-purpose leisure facility it offers flexibility for its visitors – the film fans of Uttoxeter can change their plans without leaving the building or wasting a good night out.

Glyn Mellor at Northern Building Design Associates said “The aspirations of Cine Bowl were to create a high-tech atmosphere whilst retaining a human scale and offering an interactive invitation to a broad spectrum of customers.  The intention was to exceed expectations and make Cine Bowl achieve that which might be expected of a venue of a much larger scale.  Creative design and ease of use would be paramount in achieving these goals.  From initial discussions it was evident that the cinema and bowling must be a seamless partner, whilst being a destination for either activity in its own right. To retain customer loyalty it was essential that the venue met requirements for League Bowling Standards as well as delivering a ‘west-end’ cinema experience. This was delivered through performance and standard of equipment.”

The building is a truly innovative design. It combines a three-screen multiplex with more than 500 seats and eight lanes of ten pin bowling – with the cinema situated directly above the bowling alley. Managing the acoustics of a cinema is a complicated business in the most straightforward of circumstances. But the set up at the Cine Bowl added a whole new layer of complexity. So it was vital that the materials used would help to control the sound, preventing any noise travelling from the cinemas to the bowling alleys – and vice versa. 

The contractor appointed to make MJ Barretts’ visions for the Cine Bowl a reality was Austin Cladding & Ceilings Ltd, who found the problems arising in controlling the acoustics of the development were solved by a coincidental conference. Representatives of the company had been looking for a solution to the particular acoustic challenge presented by the Cine Bowl when an Armstrong Drywall Grid System demonstration day at CPD Distribution in Manchester presented them with the ideal solution.  

Mark Robinson, Austin Cladding’s contract manager for the project, says: “Malcolm Barrett gave us a very specific brief. For the project to work successfully it was important that we created an acoustic mass barrier so that sound wouldn’t travel between the cinemas and bowling alleys. We had to make it so neither experience was interrupted by the other. We chose the Armstrong Drywall Grid System because it enabled us to use three layers of plasterboard, which makes it a lot harder for sound to pass through.  It was clearly the perfect solution for the Cine Bowl – there was nothing better we could use.”

The Armstrong Drywall Grid System is a suspension system for plasterboard ceilings; it is designed to offer the acoustic benefits of gypsum plasterboard ceilings, without the installation problems that are traditionally associated with alternative metal furring systems. Compared to traditional suspension grids for gypsum board ceilings, the Armstrong Drywall Grid System can reduce the time spent on fixing the ceiling by up to 40 percent. As Mark Robinson points out, “It is much quicker to install than a regular ceiling system, and it reduced the length of the planned programme time by three weeks.”

The Armstrong Drywall Grid System has an unusually high load capacity compared to other ceiling systems, which means that less steel is required to support it. This not only has a long-term impact on the environment but offers a significant reduction in construction cost and effort. It also helps businesses that use it address a very modern problem: that of heat insulation and energy use. Just as it prevents noise from penetrating, it also prevents heat from escaping – significantly reducing energy bills.

The Armstrong Drywall Grid System also allows architects to give full reign to their creativity. The system that Austin Cladding chose could be used to create both flat ceilings and curved features such as barrel vaults, arches and domes and staircases.

David Howard, who is the financial director of MJ Barretts, says: “We are delighted with the way the ceiling has turned out, both in terms of the way it looks and its functionality. There is no sound interference at all between the different areas which is obviously key on a project such as this. The fact that the job was finished three weeks ahead of schedule was also a great bonus.”

Melvin Austin, managing director of Austin Cladding was personally involved with the project. He says: “The Uttoxeter Cine Bowl project was made much easier by using the Armstrong Drywall Grid System. The installation process was so simple, without any need to compromise on the end result. The fitting of this type of ceiling has not only been made easier but more economical too. I have used the system on a number of installations since, and plan to continue to do so wherever possible.”