Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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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.

davepring on March 11, 2014 at 3:26 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 5:21 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 4:59 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 11:04 am

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 10:36 am

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

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 9:16 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 9:08 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 8:25 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 8:07 am

Perhaps the Odeon, Leicester Square?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 2, 2014 at 6:58 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 2:39 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: