Cineworld Empire Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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CF100
CF100 on June 12, 2015 at 10:04 am

Speaking of George Coles, does anyone know who was actually responsible for the design of Empire 1? AFAIK it bears no resemblance to any other cinema designed by Coles' practice, and I can’t help but wonder if they were the UK architect for what was in fact an American design, or if MGM had instructed them to do something “inspired” by the Radio City Music Hall.

I can’t find the references right now, but my previous archive searches brought up articles which stated that, in 1961, MGM sold the Empire to Mecca, and their intention was to replace it with a new building incorporating offices, cinema, dance hall, etc. By 1962 this scheme had been shelved for the conversion of the existing building to what came to be known as Empire 1, and of course the dance hall below.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 11, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Couldn’t agree more. George Coles' wonderful swansong destroyed and such a high quality cinema experience lost forever to provide two unsatisfactory rooms in which to be dazzled. Such screens belong in theme parks, not Leicester Square. The IMAX brand is now being diluted by being applied to so many cinemas (including suburban locations) – it is no longer all that special except perhaps at the National Media Museum and Odeon BFI IMAX where the sheer scale is spectacular and where, unlike Empire’s single IMAX room, the seating configurations are much more conducive to viewing IMAX processed films. How silly to replace the word CINEMA on the Empire canopy with IMAX when only one room in the complex has the system. The cobbled together multiplex will not be seeing the colour of my money again!

Empire_fan
Empire_fan on June 11, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Its sad :( sad that the grandest Empire 1, is no longer and become part of the “litemax liemax” branding. All that nice detail of architectural delight of coloured neon lighting and the fantastic THX sound system all gone for a less than great cinema experience.

CF100
CF100 on June 3, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Terry—My apologies if I misinterpreted what you had said regarding technology/presentation. Looks like we’re on the same page there!

terry
terry on June 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Hi Mike.

You have presented your credentials very assertively: good for you!

It is amazing how our words can be distorted, for example it was put to me that I was under the misapprehension that multiplexes had led to a change in fire and safety regulations. The regulations were not changed (at least back then); they were simply flouted with impunity. It was also said that I blamed the said multiplexes for bad audience behaviour when I actually said that the less than minimal staffing levels therein happen to facilitate the kind of misconduct referred to.

I also gave the impression that I blame modern technology for the lack of presenation standards when in fact I expressed my dismay that today’s state of the art technology does not go hand in hand with the presentation that you and I knew and expected.

I am also sure that your cinemas would have been well maintained as indeed were the ones in Newcastle where I spent a number of happy years as Manager & Licensee.

When I moved house nearly four years ago I gave many items, including photos of cinemas I managed, to an old Independent Circuit CEO friend of mine who went on to own and operate two of his own before retiring; what you have said about film renters he would back up. He did refuse to play films at times and he was threatened on more than one occasion with being deprived of further product but he stood his ground and won. Once multiplexes sprung up in the vicinity he no longer had this leeway and the renters conveniently forgot that he had provided them with outlets to their product in many North Eastern locations from where the circuits had retreated.

Re the photos, I shall ask him to scan some of the ones of ABC Westgate Road Newcastle (listed on here as Cannon) which we ran in conjunction with the Art Deco Haymarket Theatre and I shall upload them to the page devoted to it.

Best regards

Terry

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on June 1, 2015 at 5:49 pm

My Last Theatre incidentally is still running Having had a complete refurbishment including a new roof floors seating stage rig tabs.. black box. sound complete and redecoration before I retired .. I changed it back to my families original starting point. a live theatre that also shows films before handing on to a trust…

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on June 1, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Al Alvarez. A small point. The First six months of the Showcase being opened. Like for like a matched in business. But in real terms they where doing very poor for a multiplex. The Film companies assured us of our prints, when the planning application was being made.. Showcase had to give massive giveaways. still no good. So suddenly there where no prints available. except if it was a stinker.. They where supplied prints which where never used.. There was a documentary screened at the Prince Charles recently and Cannes that rattled the film companies.. I am told they are still using the same excuse of prints shortage with todays digital age.

I did 39 years in my own right in Theatres and Cinemas booking for 28 sites.. member of the Cinematograph Exhibiters Association. dealing with the Monopolies and mergers etc etc. and knew many of the principles involved at the time. In the Chains and renters..

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 1, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Mike, I worked for an independent British cinema chain for twelve years. We were never denied a print at our full price cinemas. The distributor cannot deny you product if you can gross as much as your competitor. They cannot dictate your boxoffice price but they can use the intake results. Your cinema must have failed the test.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on June 1, 2015 at 11:07 am

Hmm. It seems. Al Alvarez.. at the end of the day. You know nothing… about British cinemas. and the practice of the renters. The Independent never could beat the system.. You are right about audiences walking away. If they had to wait six weeks. When we closed in 1996 We where current with the trends of the time.. we had the same equipment as the Multiplex that caused the problem. and it maintained by Sound associates..

You really need to study the History of the relationship of British Cinemas and the Renters.. Makes the Mafia seem like a Vicarage tea party,

CF100
CF100 on June 1, 2015 at 5:20 am

Up to date with trends… including modern B-chain sound equipment… or were still using Altec VOTT?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 1, 2015 at 3:27 am

“Our Birmingham Theatre was kept up to date with the trends..” Did you keep up to date with the boxoffice? If you did, and were still denied day-and-date prints you could still sue them today. But I know you couldn’t because the audience just walked away to them.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on June 1, 2015 at 3:11 am

Al Alvarez.. legality and what actually happened are two different things… Our Birmingham Theatre was kept up to date with the trends… along with the rest of our circuit.. Over the years we had proper Cinemascope 4 track mag 70mm … Dolby including Spectrum. on the promise of the 2nd print use. This never materialised. The cinema that caused us our problems in our area of Birmingham has since closed.. We Ran Theatres and Cinemas from 1890 to 2006. 3 sites are still in operation run by tenants ..

CF100
CF100 on June 1, 2015 at 1:15 am

Terry—A lot of “ifs” there! When the multiplexes arrived, the greater choice and pristine interiors were a revelation.

Now I’m not saying I liked them—outside of venues such as the Warner West End, the ambience was often poor and the presentation could be sloppy (e.g. failure to do the anamorphic lens change!) I also remember being shocked to see slide projection with adverts for local businesses in a Cineworld… hardly the way to set the mood…

Regarding IMAX/laser projection—I fully anticipate it to provide superior picture quality.

It is not the “fault” of the technology but the operator if there is a failure to achieve a good standard of presentation in all respects. The Empire’s IMAX auditorium may lack tabs, but the colour-changing concealed lighting, suitable “non-sync” music, etc., and of course the very attractive foyer, remain.

As for the Chinese, it’s a world-famous landmark theatre in a “megacity” which also happens to be the movie capital of the West. They were fortunate enough that the building/site constraints did not stop them from digging a large hole in the ground. The Empire LS was more constrained, but in upgrading to meet today’s expectations, was fortunate enough to have a steeply racked circle which works well for IMAX, and that modern acoustic absorption could be applied to the walls/ceilings without annihilating the interior look and feel.

In most cases, it’s surely easier and presumably cheaper to sell out to a developer looking to build flats or similar and do a new-build on another site…

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 31, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Mike, denying you a print day and date would have been illegal unless you were running a discount house and your grosses were much lower than at the multiplex. Multiplexes hardly caused fire safety changes and unruly audiences. They just happen. Warner Bros. and Cineworld also opened in many towns where the local cinema had been shut for years and many others where the local flea pit had not been invested in and was therefore falling apart. I love the old cinemas but they were not keeping up with the audience demands most of the time.

terry
terry on May 31, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Hi Mike – as you say sometimes there was no choice for the public and I remember Warner Bros ‘concern’ about having nowhere to exhibit their product as I was Manager at Newcastle ABC when they decided to come along. It had a capacity of 973 within 2 auditoria of 600 and 373 seats; the building had once seated 2200. It had 70mm and 6 track mag in both auditoria, ‘Sensurround’, Dolby Stereo and a Licensed Bar whilst the 25 feet deep stage was retained in the larger stalls auditorium for Personal Appearances at Regional Premieres etc. A more comfortable theatre I have never experienced either as a paying customer or as an employee in the Industry.

We were just recovering (Cannon having acquired us did not help) from AMC’s onslaught on Tyneside when WB decided to land in the city which also had a huge Odeon with auditoria ranging from 1228 seats down to 150. There was also the Art House, The Tyneside with a large auditorium of 390 seats and a ‘mini’ of 120 seats within adjacent property. There were still one or 2 decent sized and well run suburban independents. So Newcastle really was in need of outlets for WB to screen its product, wasn’t it?

It is also strange that over the years we had to really ‘watch our backs’ regarding manning levels in case of a visit by the Fire Dept and yet when these multiplexes appeared they seemed to be able to disregard every Home Office Regulation and Local Authority Licensing Stipulation relating to staff – as they do to this very day.

The few people I know who still visit a cinema occasionally – invariably a multiplex because there is nothing else – tell me that they cannot hear the film because of rowdy behaviour in the auditorium and that, upon trying to alert staff re the matter, there are simply none to find. Consequently, it is a very long time before they decide to pay another visit – and then only to find that the same circumstances prevail. As an illustration, people having loud and protracted conversations on mobile phones with their friends in another part of the auditorium seems to be one of the most popular activities.

Re WB in Newcastle ; this closed in 2004 having been bought by the University Of Northumbria as a site for a new campus. My Brother In Law is a Programme leader/Senior Lecturer there and he said to me at the time -albeit with a sardonic tone in his voice – that I would be delighted to learn that 90 percent of the building materials of the Warner had been recycled in the construction of the new University and I replied, using the same amount of irony, that I was most elated to learn this!

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on May 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Hmm I was a Birmingham independent That had a 3 screen Cinema… The Multiplex took my first run prints… Delaying me showing them for 6 weeks. The British Audience had no choice if they wanted to see it quickly..

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 31, 2015 at 7:51 pm

Warner Bros. started building multiplexes as outlets for their product since they lacked the screens in many smaller markets and many towns had no cinemas left at all. The market evolved as it had to or it would have died altogether as it had in eastern Europe due to neglect by the major chains.

terry
terry on May 31, 2015 at 6:45 pm

I know some retired independent cinema operators who did precisely that and managed to get away with it as, having the only venue in a particular locality, the big boys, UIP, Col-War etc had no option but to play their product there. As you say, once the multiplexes came along that was no longer an option as people defected to them anyway regardless of whether they were an improvement on existing theatres; they often were but in many instances were certainly not.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 31, 2015 at 6:15 pm

And that would have been the last of their films you ever played. Without product variety no cinema could survive. Anyway, British audiences chose multiplexes over older cinemas, not Americans.

terry
terry on May 31, 2015 at 6:10 pm

No – but I would have told UIP what to do with it…..

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 31, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Do you really think that under those circumstances you could have filled the house and covered the overhead when HOWARD THE DUCK was the only film playing?

terry
terry on May 31, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Yes, it was ironic that I made my comment on this particular page, Loew’s being the Parent Company of MGM and responsible for the magnificent reconstruction of the Empire as ‘The Showplace of the Nation’ – oops…….

Whilst American Production Companies had a presence in the West End as well as Paramount’s foray into certain provincial cities which was very short lived, it could hardly compare with the 1980’s ‘invasion’…

Had UK cinemas NOT been badly subdivided but instead been re seated to the standards of current alternative cinemas (Odyssey St Albans etc), IE one third of original capacity (entailing complete restepping of circles) with all the luxury elements now expected whilst, of course, incorporating all the latest technical innovations, the cinema going experience would be much more enjoyable than the current one.

Cinemas used to be in vibrant town and city centres, had imposing entrances, lush foyers, marvellous decor and brilliant standards of presentation (including the use of house and screen curtains) which all added to the cinema ‘experience’ and anticipation…….

This has all largely gone and when I hear about laser projection and IMAX screens etc etc I wonder what is so great about it all as, at the end of the day, there is no magic to celebrate – it is all purely functional and rather flat.

By this, I certainly do not wish to imply that we should not have all the latest technical advancements merely that it would be nice if they were available alongside the ‘old fashioned trimmings’ and ambience I refer to. Perhaps, for once, a leaf should be taken from the book of the USA and that current day operators take a look at Grauman’s Chinese and what has been successfully achieved there.

I can hear people saying “Move with the times!” but this is my opinion, nevertheless………. .

CF100
CF100 on May 30, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Rather odd to see comments regarding the 1980s American ‘invasion’ on the page of a cinema originally built for Loews/MGM…!

Suffice to say that by the time of the ‘first wave’ of new-build multiplexes in the UK, the average local cinema, at least in my experience, had been badly subdivided and in some cases offered an utterly miserable standard of presentation and comfort.

However, the current situation is very different; the leading operators are Cineworld, Odeon/UCI and VUE, and the first generation multiplexes, if not refitted and/or reconfigured, are obsolete in design. Indeed, ‘The Point’ in Milton Keynes, ostensibly the first ‘true’ multiplex in the UK, is approved for demolition, having been sidelined after the construction of a nearby Cineworld, and finally closed following the recent opening of a replacement Odeon (with IMAX screen.)

CF100
CF100 on May 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Here’s an article on the laser projectors/12 channel audio system. Not yet known which film will be first to feature?

http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/133875-imax-laser-projectors-and-12-channel-surround-sound-to-arrive-in-uk-by-summer

Looks like Terminator Genisys will be playing also…

davepring
davepring on May 25, 2015 at 5:13 pm

The cinema is finally getting decent product with Jurassic World playing both in IMAX 3D and IMPACT screens next month