Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 10, 2014 at 5:36 pm

That “Tea Room” was a full service restaurant and serious and damaging alterations were made in 1967.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

And by the way… Where was the Odeon’s restaurant? Afternoon teas were served for many years in the circle lounge (as far as I’m aware, stalls patrons could also ascend to enjoy the same refreshment just as nowadays stalls guests may go up to enjoy a drink in the first floor bar) but “full service restaurant”? All patrons have always been admitted through the same set of entrance doors irrespective of the tickets they were buying; the only separation of entering patrons was a physical necessity for stalls patrons to continue forward on the same level and circle patrons to mount the staircase to attain first floor level.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Compared to sub-division, the alterations made to the Odeon, Leicester Square over the years, whilst many, have been relatively superficial. There has been much said, since 1968, about how all the ceiling/wall coves were destroyed and the “golden ladies” on the splay walls were buried under plaster in that year’s modernisation. Neither is true. Only the coves between the circle and the proscenium arch were removed and the “ladies” were actually removed to create a plainer, more modern interior. Personally, I liked the plainer appearance and, having the “ladies” recreated in 1998 gives me the best of both worlds. The remaining coves regained a degree of concealed lighting from 1987, one pink lamp produced a warm glow at the base of each cove and, since 1998, optic-fibres have produced a more fully reinstated concealed lighting scheme – albeit not as effectively as the designers conceived and most striking when viewed from the very front stalls or the stage! Externally, the 1998 re-branding/reconstruction resulted in the most drastic changes of all when a double height foyer area was created with much additional glazing. To put everything in perspective, the Odeon retains one huge screen with stalls and circle intact and as built, a working stage with safety curtain and dressing rooms, as built and the original orchestra pit with working Compton organ on its rising/lowering lift, as built. Externally, the tower and overall façade and entrance remain albeit with newer signage as befits the flagship. of a thriving, state-of-the-art circuit. I think therefore that the Odeon justifies listing as, structurally, and beyond the cosmetic, there is much of the 1937 super cinema still to cherish. My only quibbles about the landmark Odeon are that the separate 3D screen which is lowered from the fly tower as the conventional screen and frame are moved to the back of the stage, precludes the use of tabs when in use for 3D and when out of use still prevents the house tabs being operated. Much of the lighting incorporated into the reconfigured foyer, glass staircase and circle lounge is no longer working and this leaves unattractive, dark areas and unlit glazed friezes unexplained. These are somewhat esoteric regrets on my part but I bet I’m not the only one to wish the flagship could glitter and sparkle again as it did in 1998. The restored neon outlining (albeit it “fanatical” blue instead of Oscar’s red) and brilliant new, remote-controlled and dazzling film announcement panels do make the theatre stand out after dark as it was meant to do.

By contrast, the Empire has looked like a scrap heap of styles externally for many years – even copying the Odeon’s glass balcony now but on an entirely unsuitable façade. As for the interior, shoe-horning extra screens into former stockrooms and lavatories and now sub-dividing the once glorious and spacious screen one, well it’s now an even messier mess than ever!

List the Odeon! Mourn the Empire!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm

The Odeon Leicester Square interior and exterior have been altered several times and used to include a full service restaurant for pre-theatre meals and snob appeal separate seating and entrances.

ReviewofCinemas on March 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Perhaps the Odeon, Leicester Square?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Since the original design of all the Leicester Square cinemas had been altered several times over the years, what would you list? Behind the facade of the VUE West End is an all new building and the Empire was already a messy three-plex by 1985.

ReviewofCinemas on March 2, 2014 at 10:39 am

I was astounded to discover this week that NONE of the cinemas in Leicester Square have listed status. This accounts for the ease with which Empire were able to do away with the legendary screen 1.

Whilst Leicester Square is a preservation area, that doesn’t protect the interiors of any of the cinemas and – as we have seen with the Odeon West End – does very little to protect the exteriors as well.

So I fear there is very little protecting the Odeon Leicester Square in the future from some horrible IMAX-related rate. I ranted about the Empire at length here:

davepring on February 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

The Empire Imax screen is now scheduled to open late March/early April and the Impact screen in May.

CF100 on February 5, 2014 at 4:41 am

Robocop isn’t shown as bookable on the Empire Cinema website, either… IMAX had a picture of the projector packed up for shipping a month ago on their Facebook page, so the redevelopment must be at an advanced stage. I can only imagine Empire Cinemas are “embargo’d” from releasing information until the formal press release; the lack of engagement, in view of the interest shown by the many admirers of the cinema on their Facebook page, is perplexing. Surely, there’s some “insider” information or photos posted by someone?

d8rren on February 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm

looks like the Robocop opening not gonna make it with the premier in the bfi imax

CF100 on January 7, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Still scant information and no updates on the ‘IMPACT’ screen though…!

d8rren on January 5, 2014 at 12:55 am

Imax screen opens 7/2/14 with RoboCop reboot

CF100 on November 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Empire Cinemas haven’t released any information on the ‘IMPACT’ screen, other than its seat count and confirming that Dolby Atmos will be installed. This is a pretty good indication of a high-end installation, as Dolby Atmos uptake has been very limited in the UK, with only a few screens equipped. Also, all of the other screens in the Empire have, IIRC, JBL screen speaker systems; however, without THX certification, the baffle wall will be no more.

As for masking, Empire 1 had a 60ft. screen and had the ‘IMPACT’ brand back existed at that time (2006 upgrade,) they may as well have branded Empire 1 an ‘IMPACT’ screen.

Considering that Empire 1 was host to many premieres, and the development of Leicester Square as an attractive location with the right infrastructure for them, presumably the IMAX auditorium now will be used to host most UK IMAX premieres.

The question is whether the ‘IMPACT’ screen will be used for non-IMAX or smaller premieres, or if these will go to the Odeon LS or (for the time being) the Odeon West End? In any case it seems set to be a venue for major events including the ‘FrightFest’ festival and therefore ought to be run as a premiere screen capable of handling all aspect ratios in the proper manor.

I’d hope that there’s more chance of full masking and tabs in the ‘IMPACT’ screen at the Empire LS than the average local cinema!

thebrat on November 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I’m starting to hate IMAX right now. I’ve always wanted to see a film in Empire 1 for its Dolby Atmos THX 56kw sound system, during a trip to the UK, and now I’ll never get the chance to do so. The IMPACT screen should resemble no more than an ETX or RPX screen here in the US, big screen without masking. :(

FanaticalAboutOdeon on September 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

The 70mm. film presentations I have seen at both the Empire and Odeon cinemas in Leicester Square during the last half-century have always been superb. The finest 70mm. experience I have ever enjoyed was “Ryan’s Daughter” during its premiere run at the Empire in 1971. Of course, David Lean’s craft, cinematographer and top-notch crew were no less responsible than the Empire’s vast screen, great sound kit and gently reclining armchairs but the glittering sweep of those amazing seascapes, the stunning capture of some of Ireland’s best scenery and what must be the ultimate filming of a severe storm which threatened to become part of some cast and crew members' epitaphs, all created something in a cinema which I don’t expect to ever see bettered or even equalled. It was a technical combination which went beyond dimensions; we felt the ocean breeze on our faces and were we not splashed during the storm? “Virtual” just wouldn’t have done the sensations justice; it was literally stunning, so much was presented to eye and ear that one’s brain had little to do to complete the experience of being there and we were transported. If ever cinema was immersive, it was then!

The twinning of Empire One’s auditorium now renders the Odeon even more special although, as CF100 rightly says, technical upgrades in multiplex screens and distribution patterns/early transfer to DVD and Blu-ray have long-since put an end to exclusive West End runs that were also technically superior to most subsequent general release locations. The Odeon’s owners continue to invest in what they rightly call Europe’s Premiere Cinema and I hope the theatre’s own celebrity and popularity with studios and distributors will ensure this showcase, with its original, undivided stalls/circle layout, huge rectangular proscenium, stage house, dressing rooms, orchestra pit and Compton organ, will survive and prosper.

Does anyone else think it strange that the Royal Film Performance now takes place in a concert hall, the BAFTA awards in an opera house and, come to that, the Royal Variety Performance having forsaken the world’s most famous variety theatre for a concert hall? No doubt number of seats and potential revenue for the respective charities is behind what can only be bad news for the very venues which were designed to present these media at their best.

CF100 on September 15, 2013 at 12:58 am

The ‘IMAX’ auditorium’s screen size appears to be roughly within the original IMAX guidelines for minimum/maximum screen width viewing angle for the rear/front rows.

Unfortunately, the large Leicester Square cinemas are now in competition with many ‘upsized’ multiplex screens, including so-called ‘Lie'MAX screens, and the BFI IMAX itself. I hope the Odeon Leicester Square will survive.

CF100 on September 15, 2013 at 12:09 am

The interior fittings (acoustic wall coverings, seats, etc.) of the ‘IMAX’ auditorium shown in the computer rendered images look to me to be the same as those in the ‘IMPACT’ auditorium at Empire Cinemas Basildon. (Of course, the overall design follows that part of the former ‘Screen 1,’ particularly the walls/ceilings with concealed coloured lighting.)

Empire Cinemas Basildon ‘IMPACT’ Auditorium Photo

If this is correct then presumably the ‘IMPACT’ auditorium will also use the same fittings. If the ‘IMAX’ auditorium will be the flagship then perhaps the ‘IMPACT’ auditorium will have a more standard design and I can see the ceiling being lowered (it would be very high for a 400 seat auditorium?)

FanaticalAboutOdeon on September 13, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hope the Impact auditorium, in the front section of Empire One’s stadium layout, will not feel too shallow for the large screen. Odeon Marble Arch may have retained its own giant screen but, with just the front section of the former stalls seating available, it doesn’t have its former “feel”. Putting the largest screen possible into any auditorium isn’t always the wisest course – screen, auditorium size and shape and characteristics should all inter-relate for the best experience. Haymarket’s Carlton, Shaftesbury Avenue’s Columbia and Marble Arch’s Odeon are certainly not the cinemas they were, sub-division has made them run-of-the-mill complexes with no longer anything to make them stand out. Tampering with well-designed cinemas seldom improves the audiences' experience despite appearing to make economic sense. The theory of a wider choice of films does not hold good in central London where there were sufficient cinemas of all sizes offering different films to begin with. Those that survive are mostly carved up and sharing the same selection of films – selected release and art house product excepted. My prediction is that the Empire will end up with one very good Imax auditorium and one that not everyone will take to. Tabs will probably be confined to history to squeeze in as big an image as possible and the Empire “experience” will be diluted. In terms of size, facilities, technology and atmosphere, this twinning will leave the Odeon Leicester Square as London’s only remaining super cinema – long may it thrive!

CF100 on September 7, 2013 at 3:06 am

Looking at the renderings, I think the IMAX auditorium will occupy the current “circle” up to a few rows into the rear “stalls” (e.g. notice the existing two entrances from the foyer and the same row layout…)

Other known details:

  • The IMAX “laser” projector will be installed in 2014, whereupon the screen will be enlarged to 26mx15m. (The same width as the BFI London IMAX.)

  • Dolby Atmos will be installed in the IMPACT auditorium.

The loss of “Screen 1” is unfortunate but I think that all the signs are that the new auditoriums will be of a high standard. The IMAX auditorium renderings show the new walls/ceilings will be “staggered” with concealed lighting, and I hope they will be colour sequenced.

HowardBHaas on September 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Paul, my impression from the renderings is the Imax to be in the front, and IMPACT to be current rear section.

Paul Stephenson
Paul Stephenson on September 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm

The Empire Cinema’s official press release is at
with a more informative description at

Basically, screen 1 will be carved up with a new 750 seat IMAX screen appearing to use the rear “stadium” seats of Screen 1 with a screen size of 24.5m by 13m, and a 400 seat “Impact” screen in the front section. They hope to open this by the end of 2013.

michaelbrent on September 5, 2013 at 12:19 am

Empire reveal’s its new IMAX screen

CF100 on August 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Does that mean an 80ft.+ screen is coming with seating primarily in the “circle”? (Hmm… possible limitation may be the “kink” in the right wall where the narrower “extended” part of 1928 site begins from the original 1882 site… and access to any new screen(s) built in the “stalls”?)

d8rren on August 29, 2013 at 2:11 am

its gonna be a 800 seat imax apparently empire cinemas will release a press statement on Screen 1 sometime next week..

CF100 on August 28, 2013 at 2:46 am

This is absolutely terrible news. As the laser show used to say… “The Most Spectacular Cinema in the World.” :–(

Fortunately managed to catch “Life of Pi” (stunning!) and “Star Trek into Darkness” (less so) in Dolby Atmos in Screen 1 this year… The days of continuous first run Universal/Paramount product are long gone though…

Is it just possible that there will be a sympathetic “drop wall” conversion and some of the Screen 1 interior will remain? “Rip out” makes it sound otherwise…