VISITORS to a shopping centre can now make a day out of it as a nine-screen cinema has opened alongside six new restaurants.
The £18m project has taken three years to make a reality and the multiplex and six restaurants – Five Guys, Nando’s, Pizza Express, Coast to Coast, Dim T and Wildwood Kitchen – all opened their doors for the first time yesterday.
The cinema and dining complex has created 180 jobs and is part of Whiteley Shopping Centre, which reopened in May 2013 after an £84m rebuild.
Neil Carter, shopping centre manager, said: ‘When you are sitting in the cinema, or restaurant, you can easily forget how much time and effort goes into developing a place like this.
‘Cineworld, British Land and USS, our landlord, had the vision to invest in Whiteley and that’s no mean feat. We are talking a multimillion-pound investment into Whiteley and that deserves recognition.’
And the centre was packed with shoppers yesterday who, despite the rain, had come to try out the new restaurants.
Friends and work colleagues Robb Lewis, 27, and James Taylor, 31, had come from Portsmouth to try new burger joint Five Guys.
Robb, from North End, said: ‘We have been waiting for it to open for months.’
James, from Widley, said: ‘We have been talking about it for three months now. It’s a decent quality burger – it’s that simple.’
Trying out new restaurant Coast to Coast were husband and wife David and Morene Pinder.
Morene, from Whiteley, said: ‘They were friendly and it is a nice place.
‘We were wondering what would happen when this development first came up but there’s nothing to fear, it’s actually pretty good.’
Also checking out the new places to eat was Bob Duckmanton, from Warsash.
The 64-year-old said: ‘The restaurants are not badly priced and they fit in with the area. I’ve recently retired so I’ll probably be spending a bit more time here.
‘I went to see Spectre last week and had to go to Eastleigh so it’s nice to have a cinema locally.’
A special screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 was held at midnight to mark the opening of Cineworld, and manager Martin Floyd said: ‘We’ve all been really excited about the opening.
‘We have such an exciting line-up of films coming up, like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
‘It’s a nine-screen cinema, with over 1,300 seats, it’s a fantastic cinema – bright and shiny.’
The cinema was originally meant to open in the summer but faced three months of delays due to issues putting the cladding up.
Mr Floyd said that despite the setback, he was proud of the end result.
He said: ‘It’s been a long process but we are very happy with the finished product.’
One of the restaurants Nando’s has created 33 jobs with its new 134-seat restaurant.
Grant Reed, from the chicken restaurant chain, said: ‘We’re absolutely thrilled to bring Nando’s to Whiteley.’
A day of activities will be taking place tomorrow to celebrate the launch. There will be a variety of family-friendly activities, including street magicians, flame throwers and light jugglers, from 3pm.
There will also be a red carpet laid at the cinema, complete with paparazzi, and a chance to win free cinema tickets.