Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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CF100 on June 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm

rasLXR, I completely agree with you as Empire 1 was one of the greatest cinemas ever built, but I also accept that Empire 1 was no longer viable and that the outcome could have been far worse.

Videos of the new auditorium (not mine!): Video 1 Video 2

rasLXR on June 1, 2014 at 4:07 pm

“The renderings bear the logo of UNICK Architects”

Takes someone with ball’s to gut the old Empire.

CF100 on May 31, 2014 at 7:28 am

Looking at the photos of the IMAX auditorium and comparing to Empire 1, it seems to me that the false walls/ceiling in the circle section were mostly not gutted out but retrofitted with acoustic material/black fabric covering. This wasn’t clear from the renderings Empire posted, in which they looked slightly different. The seating area there is slightly narrower, and an extra row has been added at the back.

The renderings bear the logo of UNICK Architects, who I assume were involved in this project.

Incidentally, according to my ticket, the Empire has regained a Screen 3—the IMAX screen.

rasLXR on May 30, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Bearing in mind i’m talking 1999 IMAX went much further than the THX installations you could only use Sonics sound systems for example and all materials were approve and the set up of the projection room including a positive air pressure inside the projection areas to stop dust coming in when doors were opened, possibly less important with digital projection than for film however with the size of the images involved it may still be a requirement just less surfaces for dust to get on.

CF100 on May 30, 2014 at 5:50 pm

rasLXR, many thanks for the replies! I assume that, for example, like THX certified screens, IMAX has standards for auditorium noise levels—I certainly couldn’t hear any HVAC noise or any sound leakage from the adjacent IMPACT auditorium (keeping in mind the screens are “back to back.”)

While the Leicester Square THX certified screens had excellent sound, I’ve been to some (e.g. the Hoyts Cinema at Bluewater, before it became a Showcase) that were unimpressive. No way of knowing if they were operating to spec on the day of visit though; I imagine that IMAX auditoria benefit immensely from the daily calibration/quality control of picture/sound. In the UK I’ve only visited the BFI IMAX and the PEPSI IMAX, and with all the “Lie-MAX” potshots out there, it would certainly be good to hear that the other new IMAX installations are of the same standard.

rasLXR on May 30, 2014 at 5:02 pm

“In my view, unlike the IMPACT auditorium, they really have got it right—accepting that it’s a automated digital cinema—this really is a flagship “West End” cinema with the attention to detail you’d expect!”

IMAX control and approve everything they provide all the specifications for an IMAX theatre and sign everything off approved before work starts. Was a bit of an effort to get them to sign off the large windows to the projection room at the BFI Imax, in fact the IMAX projector at BFI on installation projects through special glass which was not fireproof and had to have a fire shutter installed as in the old nitrate days.

rasLXR on May 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Because of dust once everything is in place and settled the screen arrives and is installed and sprayed in situ.

CF100 on May 30, 2014 at 10:58 am

Photos of the IMAX Auditorium:

Red Lighting

Green white? lighting; better capture of ceiling detail

Red lighting — opposite side wall

These were the best I could do with staff milling about. I also have photos showing green and blue lights, but of very poor quality.

CF100 on May 30, 2014 at 9:25 am

Having visited the IMAX auditorium today to see “Edge of Tomorrow,” I can say that the Empire Leicester Square is back as the premier cinema in the West End! It’s all there—the auditorium feels cavernous in height/width, colour-changing concealed lighting (which has now been added at the back of each row of seats), super air conditioning, and a sense of occasion and being transported out of the outside world.

I’ve not been to an IMAX digital screening previously, but the Empire’s installation seems to be top-notch. The DLP projection is very good for what it is; it is well aligned and there was no barrel or “smiley face” distortion which plagues some screens. 3D images are however too dark, and the pixels clearly visible, particularly on text. The picture does not quite fill the screen yet, which is presumably sized for the coming laser projection; although there is no moving screen masking there is relatively little light leakage (although within the projected area black levels were a bit on the high side) and with the image darkened by 3D glasses it is hardly missed. The main feature was “letterboxed” although some of the adverts were not. Presumably thanks to IMAX’s DMR process, the picture was exceptionally consistent from scene to scene in terms of colour, detail and a complete lack of grain/picture noise.

I can’t be sure, but the new concrete floor screed in front of the screen, which I saw during my brief visit a few weeks ago, didn’t yet seem to be covered.

The sound is also as you’d expect from the Empire, being very well tuned, excellent stereo imaging, effortlessly wide dynamic range and “tactile” sub-bass. I almost feel that ATMOS is unnecessary as IMAX’s two rear speakers do a very good job of front-back surround stereo imaging.(IMAX are working on a 9-channel system)

The interior fittings (quality wall coverings, seats, etc.) are mostly identical to the IMPACT auditorium, but the ceiling is also covered with what looks like fabric, presumably concealing acoustic treatment. The acoustics are very good, perhaps not quite dry but the terrible “slap echo” of Empire 1 has been tamed. Only subtle behind seating lighting in the apparently disused side seats (according to the booking page on Empire’s site) are on during the main feature. Unlike the IMPACT auditorium, my seat, although very comfortable, did not recline although I did not find this to be a problem in relation to viewing the screen. Obviously, there are no tabs/curtains.

In my view, unlike the IMPACT auditorium, they really have got it right—accepting that it’s a automated digital cinema—this really is a flagship “West End” cinema with the attention to detail you’d expect!

CF100 on May 25, 2014 at 4:24 pm

The premier screens at the VUE (or rather Warner) West End were multiplex cinema interiors of the time (e.g. “SoundFold” pleated wall coverings), yet were still well designed auditoriums with extra finishing touches (proscenium, attractive curtains, etc.), not to mention the excellent acoustics and air conditioning.

Unfortunately the Empire IMPACT auditorium feels like it’s been jammed into remaining space (front stalls/screen) of Screen 1 and the screen is effectively framed by the sidewalls which is distracting, albeit it still retains some sense of spaciousness due to the high ceiling.

Given the extensiveness of the rebuild, it’s perplexing that it should miss the mark for the sake of a few relatively minor details. It’s a still a good place to see a film but given the ticket prices one should expect no compromise. :–(

Still, I am looking forward to the opening of the IMAX auditorium in a few days.

davepring on May 23, 2014 at 4:07 am

Empire had promised to post photos of the conversion work on their website and facebook but to date have not.The lack of masking is now unfortunately the norm in most new builds and renovations.

CF100 on May 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm

That’s interesting. Do you know why the screen the last thing to be installed?

rasLXR on May 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm

The screen is the last thing installed in an Imax.

CF100 on May 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I also managed to sneak a peek into the IMAX auditorium from the main foyer, although did not enter this time. (Carpet was being installed—black with red speckles—so a door was left open for this.) It does not look like the screen as yet been installed.

The foyer doors to the screen now have what looks like “padded leather” attached to the front of them, to add a touch of luxury—but this means there is no window.

There are two large and very fancy looking (backlit?) IMAX signs placed in the foyer, one to the left hand side of the seating area.

CF100 on May 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I saw “Pompeii” at the IMPACT screen today. In case anyone is interested, here’s my notes:

-As expected, access to the IMPACT auditorium is gained by turning right at the top of the vestibule stairs and then left. This leads to a narrow corridor which goes diagonally across the “kink” in the wall and then straight on leading to a door on the left to the auditorium for the stadium seating. The balcony entrance is further up the corridor.

-The door opens into the front left of the cinema, and you can see the edge of the screen frame, which is not flush with the wall.

-The interior features are as follows:

 –Rectangular shaped auditorium with straight side walls. The side walls are mostly covered with stretched black fabric, black carpet towards the floor. The ceiling is a drop-in tile suspended type, flat in the rear of the auditorium, and rises diagonally up towards the top of the screen in the front.
                 -Black leather upholstered seats with generous padding. (Memory foam—seems to conform as it heats up?) They do recline back slightly and are quite comfortable, but in my view, aren’t as good as Empire 1’s American Seating Company red upholstered chairs.
                 -Red LED concealed lighting at the back of each row of seats, i.e. near the riser up to the next row. Unfortunately, these were left on for the entire duration of the main feature! (The ceiling lights were dimmed to completely off.)
                 -Aside from the aisles (red carpet), each the floor of each row has wooden stripped flooring, with the seat number marked on the floor in square cutouts. These appear to be stuck on; some were already starting to peel off!
                 -The balcony starts above the last three rows of the stadium seating.
                 -All of which are to say that the auditorium is effectively a black box and doesn’t look much different to the Basildon screen shown in Basildon screen (without the sidewall light fixtures.)

-The screen is large in relation to the auditorium size, and I would guess is about as wide as Empire 1’s screen. I think it has the “new” IMAX 1:9:1 ratio, and therefore “scope” films are “letterboxed.”

 -Not only does the screen lack curtains, but also lacks masking. It is only slightly curved and protrudes out from the front wall; on entering the auditorium, you can see the edge of the frame and the screen material wrapped over onto the back.
                 -The front set of ceiling downlights are too near the screen, causing problems during trailers/adverts before the main feature.
                 -The picture had very poor brightness consistency from the centre out to the edges, looked too much like video projection, and had some barrel distortion.

-The sound quality was good, but didn’t seem to be played at reference level, and the sub-bass wasn’t of the same standard as Empire 1. I could feel the floor and seat shake, so it’s possible the stadium seating steps/risers are not solid and as a whole it act as a “bass trap.”

 -The shallow depth of the auditorium compared to Empire 1 does affect the surround sound in the sense that it is more “small scale.” 
                 -On the main stadium seating level the rear speakers are JBL, as follows:
                      -10xJBL SCS series (not sure which model) – 8 mounted on the rear wall, 2 mounted at the very back of the the side walls. I assume these are used for ATMOS. 
                      -10xJBL 9320 on the rear wall. -Not sure if there are side wall speakers hidden behind the black fabric on the walls, but it would be puzzling if not as they are required for ATMOS.
                 -I counted 10 ceiling speakers; these are covered with black fabric "grilles", but unlike Empire 1, do not protrude from the ceiling. I assume these are also JBL SCS series, as they are square shaped.

-As d8rren found, it was difficult to take photos; ushers were standing by the entrance door at the front left of the auditorium, and there was a “suit” sitting at the back until the main feature. Or rather I should say flash photography was out of the question; I did take a few photos with my smartphone, and the results were dark and blurry.

-I overheard one of the staff members say “better put the music on” and dashed up to the booth to do so! It’s definitely early days.

-Before the main feature, a member of staff spoke using a microphone to welcome us to the new screen, and to say that we should give them feedback afterwards. Which I did, and I’m pleased to say that they made a note of my comments.

All in all not up to what I’d expect from a top West End cinema. It is very early days and no doubt audiovisual problems can be ironed out; the lack of masking is the most serious issue.

However, the lack of “framing” around the screen, I felt, destroyed the “window into another world” experience. I understand that a “real” IMAX screen is immersive because it fills up so much of the field of vision; but I do not think that this IMPACT screen does. In my opinion, such a “stripped down” auditorium design, which throws out all so many traditional elements of good theatre/cinema design, only serves to demonstrate those elements were the standard.

d8rren on May 18, 2014 at 1:22 am

No tabs on the screen just a wall to wall ceiling to floor screen wanted to take some photos just on a smart phone but the management all out watching everyone

The balcony was not open as it’s not finished yet

HowardBHaas on May 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

After you enter the Impact auditorium, and the IMAX auditorium, before the movie starts (so as to not violate copyrights) please take photos of the auditorium & post in the photo section! Are they using curtains (tabs) in those 2 new auditoriums?

d8rren on May 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

been to the new impact today which is a nice screen & the only touches from old screen 1 is in the carpet pattern.

sound is fantastic screen is massive can’t be far off a imax

downside the projection box at the back of the stadium seating under the balcony means if someone in the middle gets up during the movie the image is projected onto the screen

don’t think the impact screen should of been opened to the pubic yet as the paint & upholstery fumes made me light headed

CF100 on May 16, 2014 at 6:28 pm

The IMPACT screen opened yesterday (16th May) and is playing “Pompeii”.

The Auditorium Information page confirms Dolby Atmos as a feature, and also the following:

“398 Seats 277 Luxury Stadium Style Seats. 99 Luxury Balcony Seats (Over 18’s ONLY). 22 Bean Bags” (Ugh!—and since when did Bean Bags count as seats?!)

Looking at the seat booking page, the auditorium has equal numbers of seats on each row so presumably is rectangular in shape, and there are only 3 rows of “balcony” seats. (10 rows of “stadium” seats.) There appears to be a complete lack of centre aisles!

CF100 on May 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm

A new IMAX sign has been installed on the marquee, replacing the “CINEMA” sign. (Shows how strong the IMAX brand is!) There was an application for a high level sign but it has been rejected. I have uploaded photos.

I have also uploaded a photo which may show the back wall of the IMPACT auditorium and (on close inspection) possibly under a raked floor for (stadium) seating.

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos; they were taken with an old smartphone, and I don’t have Photoshop installed on this laptop!)

davepring on May 8, 2014 at 5:16 am

Good news at last!!! I knew this would be a quality rebuild and look forward to visiting the new Empire screens.Shame though that Empire have been less than forthcoming on progress or posting photos on their website.

CF100 on May 3, 2014 at 10:55 am

I have now (briefly) seen the new IMAX auditorium.

The fit out is at a very advanced stage with seating installed; the screen frame and the IMAX screen speakers are installed. The screen itself has not yet been installed and I could see some (new looking) concrete on the floor area in front of the screen/dividing wall, not yet carpeted.

The reason for the delay is to meet building regulations; steel plates had to be fitted to hold up the 9 ton weight.

The IMAX auditorium, though not as massive as the old Empire 1, still feels very spacious and luxurious. The screen itself will be vast. It is certainly an expensively and properly done project.

However, on balance, it feels like (and, of course, literally is) a new cinema fitted into the space which takes some cues from the George Coles design; it does feel like little is left of the old Empire 1. That said, the multi-coloured concealed lighting has been installed but wasn’t on, and maybe that will make the difference.

I did not see the IMPACT auditorium but it will definitely feature Dolby ATMOS. Apparently, it is ‘back to back’ with the IMAX auditorium, so the projection will be from the end where the old Empire 1 screen was.

The IMAX auditorium will open on the 30th May. Can’t wait!

davepring on March 12, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I hate those blue led frames . I guess they are low maintenance but have no place in the West End where very few cinemas still use tabs with the exception of The Prince Charles, Curzon Mayfair and Odeon Leicester Square.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 12, 2014 at 6:35 am

True. Whilst the Paramount & Plaza, as the twins were first called, understandably bore no architectural relationship with the former Plaza, they were reasonably spacious and comfortable – it was a bold subdivision which yielded two acceptable cinemas, to my mind. The Warner West End and Rendezvous always had a cold feel internally – more modern, yes, but a bare screen lit white in one and rattly steel shapes shuddering in front of the screen instead of curtains in the other? Warmth and atmosphere had been banished but, as the number of screens increased over the years at least curtains were re-introduced which was a step in the right direction. I fondly remember the unconverted Carlton Theatre which, under Fox, had a huge CinemaScope screen and the Gaumont, Haymarket which was quite splendid internally if a little narrow. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Rank (and others) just wanted to maintain their cinemas' appeal to youngsters who would be attracted by bright, modern interiors and not be as aware as we are now of the heritage cost involved. In the West End, the rush to subdivide and ruin fabulous cinemas is hard to justify in the broader view when they all share much the same handful of films; why not present each film in one or two big, impressive cinemas as used to be the case. With suburban and provincial halls the case for conversion is, of course, much stronger. What a great shame we couldn’t simply have looked after what we had and cherished the “dream palaces” in the way that most theatres are. Industry politics have a bearing of course. I’m hopeful the twinning of Empire One will result in two cinemas that will work better than either the Plaza or Warner twinnings of their day. The twinning of Odeon West End worked well at first but replacing their curtains and spotlights with blue LEDs framing the screens renders them lacklustre and suburban in feel.