Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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Lionel
Lionel on August 24, 2017 at 12:32 am

I’ve just uploaded to Flicker the pictures of the Empire I took in the early nineties (exterior, foyer, auditorium and projection booth). Check the albums here : https://www.flickr.com/photos/153302575@N06/albums

They are not of good quality but for your convenience, they are downloadable, and copyrighted by me because done in the context of a professional work. So please use them only in private, do not modify or redistribute them. I already had to ask a lawyer once to tour all the sites/forums where they had been redistributed by the same person.

CF100
CF100 on August 23, 2017 at 3:58 pm

I have uploaded a few photos of the foyer taken today.

In particular, this one shows the dire state of the ceiling, with the further stains, and peeling/missing covering, possibly revealing the original 1962 finish (paint?):

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/912/photos/216889

Whilst that photo has not been post-processed in Photoshop, the others have; as I note in the description of that photo, the ceiling really does look that faded and stained. My other photos are, to a lesser or greater extent, not honest about the ceiling’s condition.

I expected leaving the Empire today to be a sad experience, but the foyer is in such messy, tatty and rapidly deteriorating state, not just the ceiling but also the disjointed collection of permanent and temporary fixtures and changes made over the years, that the shock of it being replaced has worn off. It is very jarring walking from the crumbling foyer into the still-new looking IMAX auditorium.

It needs redoing, so fingers crossed for a replacement that exceeds expectations!

CF100
CF100 on August 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm

I visited the “Cineworld Cinema – at the Empire Theatre” today to see “Dunkirk” in the IMAX auditorium.

I had a conversation with a member of staff who has worked there from UCI, through Empire Cinemas, and now Cineworld operation. They informed me that:

-The 4DX conversion is progressing. Strip-out of Screen 2 has already been completed. They are not sure, but they think that the 4DX conversion will result in the loss of one or more rows of seats to fit in the equipment; it will have fewer seats.

-They confirmed that the foyer “domes” will be lost, and said that whilst they understood the foyer has been around for a long time, it is dated and looking “patchy.” They expressed a positive view on the proposed design and were pleased about the forthcoming refurbishment.

-Asked if changes would be made to other areas, i.e. the rest of the auditoria and in particular the seating, they said that this would not be happening yet as the priority is the 4DX conversion and the foyer refurbishment.

-In response to my concerns over the prospect of it becoming “'a Cineworld multiplex…' it is, after all, the Empire Leicester Square,” they said that “that is the one thing [Cineworld] most definitely do NOT want… they want to keep it… glitzy.”

The IMAX auditorium is looking well cared for, excellent air conditioning, projection was perfect and the sound very good—visceral subbass at times. I have thought that the sound system doesn’t quite have the headroom to cope with the large auditorium and that was evident today; e.g. it sounded like the low frequency content was pushing the drivers to maximum excursion at times.

The IMAX trailer is a variant of this one, but altered to demonstrate the overhead/side speakers with a 3D visualisation of speakers placed around an auditorium, when the voiceover says “and immersive sound, that will surround you from here… here… and here.”

As for “Dunkirk,” it seemed to me to skip over Acts 1 and 2 and launched straight into Act 3 resulting an incomprehensible mess. Lovely photography and, as mentioned, impressive sound.

The 1.4:1 IMAX segments did not seem to quite reach the top of the screen but I assume were <1.9:1 as the screen is 1.7:1 and the laser projectors are capable of 1.4:1.

The odd scratch mark and other tale-tell signs could be seen uncorrected, so I assume Nolan didn’t allow IMAX to put the material through a heavy-handed DMR process. I shall leave an analogue vs. digital discussion at that, but it should be obvious which side of the fence I firmly sit on!

Report on foyer condition and photos to follow.

P.S. Large Diet Coke was £3.99. :–(

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 22, 2017 at 8:07 am

Ah I stand corrected! But yes your description of the access to screen 6 is correct and involves making a bit of a sharp turn, as well as confidence that you really are taking a door from the foyer to a screen and won’t suddenly find yourself standing in a yellow puddle in the street.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 21, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Nope. You will still need some vomit smell repellent. It is Leicester Square after all.

CF100
CF100 on August 21, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Nice!

That’s actually the front left fire exit from the IMAX auditorium—which incidentally is in the same location as the wall between the IMAX and the IMPACT/Superscreen auditoria.

BTW, if you go to the “old” Street View images (by clicking on the clock icon in the top left hand corner) and change the date to May 2014, you can see it’s been left open as the IMAX was being finished.

The exit you’re looking for is this: http://goo.gl/mYBPSD

Having a quick look at the licensing application plans, it seems access to Screen 6 involves going down the stairs of one fire exit, and, when near the external doors, going through another door to the second fire exit, and then up the stairs to the auditorium! Ridiculous…

I’d guess, then, that the lack of replacement finishes and the use of non-permanent signage, i.e. bits of paper (!), one way or the other has something to do with building regulations or (avoiding) building control approval, albeit there are plenty of Class 0 fire retardant materials to choose from…

Perhaps Cineworld can smarten it up with intumescent flame retardant paint and a few bottles of smell “munching” enzymes!

Al Alvarez: Does that work?!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 21, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Diluted day-old Coca-Cola. The cologne of theatre managers.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 21, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Here is the exterior of the fire exit that leads out from the stairs to screen 6: https://goo.gl/maps/9vkhJdKJtRA2 – note the lovely streaks of liquid running down the pavement (I think you can guess what it is)!

Whereas the stairs to 7-9 have plush wall coverings and quite theatrical lighting, the stairs to screen 6 are lit by standard fluorescent dome lights on the walls with some of the directional signage provided by bits of A4 paper (seriously).

CF100
CF100 on August 21, 2017 at 1:51 pm

I haven’t been to Screen 2 since the mid-90s—and that was only because, until I bought the ticket, I’d not realised the film I wanted to see had moved over from Screen 1! An awful auditorium.

It is curious that, if the floor can be lowered, that it hasn’t been done to date? It will be interesting to see just how much they are able to lower it by.

I, too, think that the stairs up to screens 7/8/9 are nicely decorated. I have not been to screen 6 and I’m surprised that the staircase is as you describe? I suspect the “urine” whiff actually emanates from the toilets!

It’s understandable that Cineworld want to rebrand and to my mind the stair/lobby areas for public auditorium access from the main foyer are a blank slate for them. I do not believe that because something was there first it automatically acquires some sort of mystical primacy, but I think it’s worth noting that the “domes” in the 1962 foyer seem to me to be a nod to the original 1927 interior.

I am concerned that without due care they will end up with the Empire looking like a run-of-the-mill multiplex with no attention paid to its “DNA.” They are, after all, going to be removing marble from the right vestibule wall… replacement finishes had better be up to standard!

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 21, 2017 at 10:14 am

Interesting! So the stadium conversion by Empire that resulted in the back rows being uncomfortably close to the ceiling will all be undone after a mere five years or so.

I actually quite like the decor on the stairs to screen 2 and the upper screens, which feels quite classy and is still in good condition (apart from the staircase to screen 6 with grubby wallpaper, cheap lighting and a delightful whiff of urine from the fire exit doors!).

CF100
CF100 on August 20, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Building Control entry (dated as received on 17th August 2017) for the Foyer and 4DX works is up on Westminster Council’s website.

To quote:

“Refurbishment of the public areas of the lobbies and cinema #2 located in the basement of Cineworld at Leicester Sq (previously Empire) for the conversion into a 4DX cinema.

“The refurbishment of the lobbies will include: – Demolition of existing floors, ceiling and wall finishes at ground floor lobby and public access to upper levels.

“The works will include: Breaking of the lower level concrete slab of the room and rebuild at a lower level to increase the space required for the system and new seating arrangement. Installation of suspended trusses between the columns which will support the equipment for the 4D effects (wind fans, water spray tanks, snow machine, fog machine) – Removal of all projector and installation of new one at the back of the room, in the former projection booth. – New floor, wall and ceiling finishes – New finishes at the access staircase and lobby. – All fire escapes remain unchanged”

So there you have it—how to convert Screen 2 to 4DX!

Agent name is listed as Chapman Taylor, a large architectural practice, who it turns out were responsible for the 4DX auditorium at Cineworld Wandsworth, as well as the rest of the Cineworld Wandsworth refurb.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 18, 2017 at 5:52 pm

As expected the non-existent row A being bookable is just an error. The view from Empire’s short-lived beanbag seats must have been truly terrible.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 17, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Row A has made a reappearance on the bookable seat map for the Superscreen (or what Empire called Impact). This row was originally beanbag seating, but it’s absent in most photos of the screen – seats start at row B which causes a lot of people to sit in the wrong wrong as the row letters and seat numbers are on the floor and are very hard to see, so they count the rows. I’ll report back tomorrow as to whether this is just an error on the website or if some sort of seating has been installed here.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 13, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Screen 2 now seems to have closed for its conversion to 4DX. To compensate West End Unlimited card holders no longer pay a surcharge for the Superscreen.

CF100
CF100 on August 11, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Re: 1986 foyer photos — little changed since the 1962 reconstruction, I think, right down to the (very nice) carpet?

I guess the “Empire — The First 100 Years” (to the right of the stairs in https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105035479/in/album-72157603441125079/ is related to the same titled book (by David High.)

I can never work out why the section with the sloped ceiling (presumably due to the stadium seating structure above) is “curtained off” in these old (pre late 1980s refurb) photos…

CF100
CF100 on August 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Zappomatic: Thanks for the info on the foyer rendering. Here’s the link: http://www.cineworldplc.com/~/media/Files/C/Cineworld-PLC/reports-and-presentations/2017-results-presentation-final-for-website.pdf (http://www.cineworldplc.com/~/media/Files/C/Cineworld-PLC/reports-and-presentations/2017-results-presentation-final-for-website.pdf)

LSQ is listed as “Refurbishment starting” (p17 – PDF page number) although according to an article in The Telegraph , “[LSQ] will get a makeover at the end of the year.”

I’ve just spent the last hour being very angry and grumbling to myself about Cineworld not “getting” the Empire LS (as a flagship venue with decades of heritage) and simply wanting to engage in a rebranding exercise for the sake of it.

OTOH, actually it’s a pretty bold piece of reimaging. I’m assuming expensive finishes and I guess the ceiling, in a way, is a nod to the existing one. Lots of concealed lighting and coving too.

Would be nice to see what they have in mind for the main section though. They had better put in some decent seating!

I assume they won’t be moving concessions to the stop of the stairs as queues would block the route to the IMPACT and 7/8/9 screens, and they still have the “curved” section with a poster (or maybe LED display?)

Talking of which, it looks like there are small LED displays above each auditorium entrance.

Reading through the presentation, Cineworld discuss their multiple “premium screens” approach so the addition of 4DX in Screen 2 and not the IMPACT screen makes sense.

A previous presentation (p29 – PDF page number) says “4DX and Super Screen expected to be installed in Leicester Square” so I wonder if any changes will be made to the IMPACT screen? To keep it at the currently available state of the art they need to install laser projection, which has very good black levels thus obviating the need for masking.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm

Foyer as seen in 1986:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105035479/in/album-72157603441125079/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105037121/in/album-72157603441125079/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105817336/in/album-72157603441125079/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105819354/in/album-72157603441125079/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105820902/in/album-72157603441125079/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/2105822748/in/album-72157603441125079/

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 10, 2017 at 7:13 am

Cineworld’s first half year results presentation features an image of part of the foyer refurb. Starfield ceiling is gone and no more carpet, but they’re keeping the brass handrails and picking this out with gold accents in the ceiling. Sadly it doesn’t show what’s happening to the retail section of the foyer.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 7, 2017 at 11:12 am

CF100: Yes, there’s a staircase to the right as you go in. Once you’re up on that level the bar is sort of L-shaped.

CF100
CF100 on August 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

zappomatic: Never been to the Empire Casino, not having any interest in gambling nor drinking!

There are lots of “360 degree” photos of the Empire Casino on Google Maps—it seems the Icon Bar is accessed from the corridor from the main entrance and is not integrated with the main casino area?

CF100
CF100 on August 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

theatreofvarieties: Many thanks for your reply! Most interesting regarding the sintered glass tiles. I assume these were then painted the same colour?

Having tried to research 1960s tiles, I can find no likely products that could have been the original tiles, given that they were apparently “plaster tiles in a mink and gold colour scheme” (from the 1962 Gala Opening Programme.)

I’ve long been puzzled by the “bump profile” tiles in their various patterned arrangements, which seemingly look like they were intended for acoustic control, but are too small to do anything.

Looking at the coefficients for sintered glass tiles, they do seem to be effective at mid/high frequency absorption. I still found the 2006 THX system had dialogue intelligibility issues, although otherwise it was one of the very best sounding systems I’ve heard.

There are some aspects of the 1960s reconstruction that I am curious about. I suspect the “grand foyer” must be higher in level than where the original “tea room” was. It seems that the original circle was shortened also, as including the rows of “loge seats” at the front, the original went past the “kink” in the right wall—approximately, I think, where the dividing wall between IMAX/IMPACT auditoria is. Case study blurb from the contractors and consultants involved mentions weight limitations of the concrete slab floor, so I’m guessing this part of the original circle was removed.

Where is the remaining piece of 1927 wallpaper located behind the right wall? Must be near the first (from the rear) vertical “cove”?

On the coloured lighting—I can see what you mean by “1980s disco”—although I rather like all things 1980s—at least other than bad hairstyles and ripped jeans! Although the “uplighting” at the bottom of the screen could be a different colour?

P.S. I can’t remember if I’ve posted the link before, but there was an article in Light + Sound International magazine on the 1980s Equisse Design refurb (on p19.)

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on August 4, 2017 at 9:31 am

The Icon bar is quite a handy place for a drink before a film, always bizarrely empty even when they’re doing half price drinks 5pm-8pm Monday to Friday (a G&T and a beer came to less than £6 on my last visit).

theatreofvarieties
theatreofvarieties on August 4, 2017 at 6:02 am

CF100 – the lights can be programmed individually, i wanted them to change colour in the way they do as i didnt want it to look like an 80’s disco, just personal preference. The original side wall tiles had a sintered glass tile adhered to them on 2006 to get down the amount of slap echo (worked very well) when the auditorium was once again converted to THX. the mink and gold paint scheme that was original to the 60’s rebuild was exposed when a fire exit sign was removed. every scrap of the 60’s wall and ceiling plaster was removed.

CF100
CF100 on August 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Here’s a video of the foyer level in 1996—footage from the Mission Impossible UK Premiere from AP’s archives.

Lots of blue and red neon lighting from the late 1980’s makeover!

The marquee is also shown.

UK Mission Impossible Premiere – Empire Leicester Square

(I have linked to the relevant starting position soas to skip over irrelevant footage including screaming Tom Cruise fans outside the Empire!)

CF100
CF100 on July 28, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Good to hear that the IMAX screen is doing well, although thanks for the heads up—early screening it will be for me!

I have no idea how any “extension” into the Casino (“Icon” bar) could work, particularly in view of the comment by theatreofvarieties, and Cineworld will surely want to funnel customers via the concessions stand en route to the main auditoria. That really leaves at the top of the entrance stairs.

Better arrangement would be to remove Screen 4…

I am uneasy about changes to the foyer—I will not be happy if the essentials of the 1960s design are lost!