Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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CF100 on May 12, 2014 at 4:28 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 7:16 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 12:55 pm

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 6:55 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 8:35 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.

davepring on March 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm

The Empire dating from 1962 until its subdivision lasted in its original form longer than the majority of West End Cinemas.The Plaza was twinned in the late 60s and The Warner in the early 70s.I think Ranks zing treatment was unnecessary but at least recent renovations improved the look of the Odeon.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 11, 2014 at 7:21 am

That’s cheering to hear and, yes, the computer images of the conceptual twins do appear to show coves with concealed lighting similar to those in Coles' “original” ‘60s auditorium which produced such memorable spectacles for so many of us. Maybe all isn’t lost – fingers crossed!

davepring on March 11, 2014 at 6:59 am

Some of the viewing rooms at the Empire are not that bad…I was in screen six recently..only 26 seats but a large digital screen much bigger than those at Odeon Studios Leicester Square.Empire One has now been closed for seven months so I hope the work is sympathetic to George Coles design and having seen the computer renderings this seems to be the case.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I was a Rank Theatres Ltd. manager in 1967 and was able to witness the changes as they took place at Leicester Square prior to the “unveiling” of the new look at the premiere of “Smashing Time”. I think most of us would concur that many cinemas lost a great deal in the then fashionable “zing” treatment where much of buildings' character was sacrificed for plain surfaces and blandness. With Leicester Square, the etched glass front doors, foyer and circle lounge wall panelling and recessed ceilings were, to my mind, very sad losses, nevertheless, it remained, and remains for me, a handsome and striking cinema worthy of listing. Does anyone know where the kitchens were situated for the restaurant? Empire One, as we latterly knew it, having been lost, what remains of George Coles' fabulous swan song in the tawdry hotch-potch of largely unsuitable viewing rooms in the pretend multiplex that the Empire has become?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

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

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

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 11:08 am

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 10:25 am

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 10:07 am

Perhaps the Odeon, Leicester Square?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

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 4:39 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 11:52 am

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

CF100 on February 4, 2014 at 10:41 pm

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 3:01 pm

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

CF100 on January 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

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

d8rren on January 4, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Imax screen opens 7/2/14 with RoboCop reboot

CF100 on November 7, 2013 at 12:15 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 8:51 am

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 6:39 am

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 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

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.