Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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CF100
CF100 on October 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Robert: I noticed, in my last visit, a printed stand-alone sign outside the IMAX auditorium saying something like “IMAX (Screen 3).”

Removal of the Empire signage seems to be pending the full foyer/lobby areas refurbishment, quite why Cineworld couldn’t just cover them up with stick-on signage or similar is beyond me…

I can only imagine patrons have to use Google Maps or similar to actually find the “Cineworld” in LSQ; there were a number of American tourists in the auditorium during my last visit.

Shame about the non-functioning masking. :–(

CF100
CF100 on October 25, 2017 at 1:18 pm

theatreofvarieties: Many, many thanks, once again!

NO, THE STADIA ONLY DATES FROM 1962 AND THATS WHERE THEY ARE FROM.

Ah… combined with your post saying that the 1927 circle went higher, the jigsaw puzzle of the 1962 conversion finally makes sense.

For instance, I could never work out why the old “tea room” seemed to be wider than the 1962 main foyer area, with the sloped ceiling implying that the stadia structure is encroaching on the right side of the 1962 foyer.

(Put that way, it seems obvious now; but the layout of the rear of the 1928 auditorium is similar.)

Overlaying redrawn section plans (which I’d previously assumed were simply in no way to scale) suggests that the original projection ports were higher, and the 1962 stadia lower and slightly less steeply raked.

The position of the original circle seems to be approximately at the top of the lighter coloured tiles at the bottom of the sidewalls of the Empire 1’s circle section?

IIRC, from the book “Empire Leicester Square – The First 100 Years” (David High) the original circle was formed by a continuous pour of concrete. The 1962 reconstruction must have been extreme indeed; I can’t work out where the primary girder for the circle could be.

NO, IT HAS BAFFLETTES AROUND THE STAGE SPEAKERS

Fantastic. :–)

It was the 1960 comfort deluxe model, there were 100 taken out and saved, the rest were scrapped.

What happened to the 100 that were saved, and were any other elements of Empire 1 removed and saved?

Also, I wonder about the specifications of the IMAX concealed colour-changing LED lighting, and the cold cathode concealed lights that were in Empire 1?

With the LED lights, I assume that flexible strip types are used, other than the ones around the screen?

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on October 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Masking also not operational in screens 4 and 9. No idea about 7 and 8, but the bottom masking in 6 worked last time I saw a film in there about a month ago.

Robert L. Bradley
Robert L. Bradley on October 24, 2017 at 4:16 am

Just saw a movie in Empire 5, as it is still called, and I was surprised that they didn’t use their masking.

CF100
CF100 on October 24, 2017 at 2:46 am

Visited the Empire Leicester Square to attend a screening of “Blade Runner 2049” in the IMAX auditorium.

Absolutely stunning film; one could say it’s exactly the film the auditorium was built for. Outstanding picture and excellent (12 channel) sound as well.

Auditorium spotless with very good air conditioning, lighting all well timed to match programme, “non-sync” music from the movie soundtrack.

Pre-show announcement by a member of staff began with “Welcome to the Empire… er… Cineworld Leicester Square…”

“Blade Runner” version of IMAX “Countdown” trailer played.

Foyer continues to deteriorate.

Photos uploaded: “Strictly No Cameras” notice at the entrance to the IMAX auditorium, HVAC extraction duct grille on the 1962 stadia riser.

CF100
CF100 on October 12, 2017 at 10:32 am

Turns out that the American Seating Company has sold its architectural fixed seating business to the Irwin Seating Company, also of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

They still offer the following product from the American Seating Company range suitable for auditorium use:

Irwin Seating Company – American Seating Products – Stellar.

This seems to be the closest available new seating to the seats that were installed in Empire 1.

They also have a page showing an example refurbishment of old American Seating Company product.

Aspects of these seats are rather familiar.

theatreofvarieties
theatreofvarieties on October 10, 2017 at 4:40 am

The small grilles I think are visible in your photos of the strip-out—do these date back to the 1927 auditorium? NO, THE STADIA ONLY DATES FROM 1962 AND THATS WHERE THEY ARE FROM.

I hope you won’t mind if I ask a few more questions…

-In the IMAX auditorium, I assume the “boxing out” beneath the ceiling at the screen end and the “kinks” at the ends of the adjacent curved ceiling section cover up parts of the roof structure? YES.

-The IMAX auditorium I estimate to be 120x90ft. max, with the screen moved forward by 40ft. or so from its position in Empire 1? CANT REMEMBER

-I assume there is no baffle wall in the IMPACT auditorium? NO, IT HAS BAFFLETTES AROUND THE STAGE SPEAKERS

-In UNICK Architects' rendering of the IMPACT auditorium, it shows red LED strips on the sidewalls. Were these originally planned but later dropped? CORRECT.

-It seems that the American Seating Company no longer sell auditorium seating. Do you know the model of the seats used in Empire 1? It was the 1960 comfort deluxe model, there were 100 taken out and saved, the rest were scrapped.

CF100
CF100 on October 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm

As part of my ongoing research into all aspects of cinemas, I stumbled on the following, which I found amusing:

“In the Towngate Theatre (Poole)… (there is a very) obvious echo (from the rear wall)… Acoustic tiles were installed (as an attempted remedial treatment) in 1978, but the NEXT DAY (my emphasis) (they were painted) the same colour as the adjacent walls… blocking the pores which made them acoustically absorbent.”

(From the book Auditorium Acoustics and Architectural Design.)

At least it took more than 25 years for the same blunder to occur in Empire 1!

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on September 27, 2017 at 8:34 am

CF100: Regarding non-Central Seats, on this occasion I was with a friend with a dodgy knee who needed the aisle to stretch into. The reclining seats don’t have anywhere to recline into (except for the knees of the person behind!) so that could have been pretty unpleasant. I do sometimes prefer an aisle seat myself but don’t book them in the small screens here due to the sound issues.

CF100
CF100 on September 26, 2017 at 4:33 pm

PhilipWW: Forgot to say—I did ask about the 4DX auditorium screen size, but I didn’t get a clear answer.

In terms of width, tricky to do much, e.g. there is a fire exit on the right side etc., unless the screen is moved forward.

4DX has nothing to do with the picture whatsoever, control data is added for the seat movements and FX (lights, smoke, scents, etc.)

According to the British Board of Film Classification:

“The 4DX DCP is identical to the regular DCP that we will have classified in the usual way. So, unlike a 3D or IMAX version of a 2D film, 4DX does not involve a different version of the film. In a 4DX exhibition, the classified DCP plays in parallel with a file containing instructions [for the 4DX seats/equipment.]”

CF100
CF100 on September 26, 2017 at 4:12 pm

theatreofvarieties: Thank you very much, your comments are clearing up a lot of questions that have been floating around in my head!

Suffice it to say that spending £4 million on it wasn’t done whimsically and without very good reason.

Of course—I was just curious. :–)

Sintered tiles http://www.rpgeurope.com/products/product/reapor.html

RPG… I shudder to think of the cost… Alas, I can’t find anyone selling them online.

two decorative brass ones under the projection overhang in the back wall (only decorative part of the 60’s auditorium to survive albeit now sprayed black) in addition to about 300 small grilles under the seating at every level.

I noticed that feature remained—that solves what was another mystery for me. As a teenager, I had thought they were “hatches” that could be opened to sell concessions!

The small grilles I think are visible in your photos of the strip-out—do these date back to the 1927 auditorium?

I hope you won’t mind if I ask a few more questions…

-In the IMAX auditorium, I assume the “boxing out” beneath the ceiling at the screen end and the “kinks” at the ends of the adjacent curved ceiling section cover up parts of the roof structure?

-The IMAX auditorium I estimate to be 120x90ft. max, with the screen moved forward by 40ft. or so from its position in Empire 1?

-I assume there is no baffle wall in the IMPACT auditorium?

-In UNICK Architects' rendering of the IMPACT auditorium, it shows red LED strips on the sidewalls. Were these originally planned but later dropped?

-It seems that the American Seating Company no longer sell auditorium seating. Do you know the model of the seats used in Empire 1?

CF100
CF100 on September 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Zappomatic: Interesting point, might be because the high frequency dispersion of the screen speakers doesn’t work with a relatively wide auditorium with seating that close to the screen?

Having a quick look at speakers for small auditoria, the specification sheet for the JBL 3678 gives 90deg as the nominal horizontal coverage for the high frequency horn section. So based on that, the side seats in Screen 7 would indeed be outside this for the centre speaker.

Albeit the screen perforations will cause some high frequency spreading, which might help.

OTOH, why would you sit off centre, if you had a choice…? Where possible, I always pre-book centre seats.

I haven’t been to the IMPACT/SuperScreen for a while, but IIRC the picture didn’t have perfectly straight edges, some “barrel” (like a goldfish bowl) distortion.

Whereas the IMAX seems to be perfect in this respect.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on September 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm

The trouble with screen 7 (and some of the other wide but shallow auditoriums) is that with the way the audio is set up and balanced, if you’re not sitting in the middle you end up so close to one of the left or right front channels that it almost drowns out the centre dialogue channel.

Screen 6 still does have bottom masking. It’s a slightly claustrophobic auditorium.

I can’t say I’ve found the Superscreen to particularly suffer from its lack of masking as there’s a good level of contrast and sharpness from the current projectors. Conversely the masking isn’t working in some of the smaller screens and they definitely do suffer for it.

CF100
CF100 on September 26, 2017 at 9:57 am

PhilipWW: Empire Cinemas gave the screen sizes as:

IMAX: 26.5mx15.6m = approx. 1.7:1.

IMPACT/SuperScreen: 20.5mx11m = approx. 1.86:1.

I don’t think the IMAX projection quite reaches the top of the screen, but IIRC almost all of the screen was filled for the segments of Dunkirk shot using IMAX 15/70 cameras. The IMAX laser projectors can do 1.4:1.

BTW, Screen 1 is actually the IMPACT/SuperScreen, Screen 3 is the IMAX.

When I spoke to someone from Cineworld (who has worked at the Empire since the UCI days) last month, they told me that the 4DX conversion and foyer refurbishments were the first priority. I walked past the Empire yesterday, I couldn’t see any sign of foyer refurbishment. The 4DX is definitely underway as a month ago progress was at least up to the point of completing the strip-out.

Screen 7 is definitely impressive for the size of the auditorium, I think it’s as big as those much larger auditoria in some other nearby venues, almost the same width as VUE West End Screen 6, if I’m not mistaken.

The IMPACT/SuperScreen definitely needs masking and I can’t understand why it wasn’t installed in the first place.

An upgrade to laser projection would also be good.

PhilipWW
PhilipWW on September 26, 2017 at 9:08 am

I would be interested in knowing what the aspect ratios of all the screens are now.

Screen 1 is presumably the 1.90 digital IMAX ratio. When not used for IMAX presentations, standard 1.85 films will be shown very slightly pillarboxed and Scope films letterboxed at 2.39.

Screen 2 : I hope will be 2.39 Scope when refitted as a 4DX screen. I am not familiar with Cineworld 4DX standards.

Screen 3 Impact I presume is 1.85. I have seen one Scope movie there which by necessity was letterboxed to obtain 2.39. An Empire projectionist did tell me at the time that they were thinking of installing top and bottom masking as it would be better, but I guess nothing came of that.

Screens 4 and 5 were 2.39 Scope with side masking. Screen 4, I thought, was very impressive for the size of the auditorium.

Screen 6 was just 1.85 ‘Flat.’ I only went there once and didn’t like it. If I remember correctly they had bottom up masking to achieve the Scope frame. That may have changed now.

Screens 7, 8 and 9 were 2.39 Scope with side masking. Screen 7 I also thought was an impressive size for the auditorium.

Has anything changed or is anything about to change under Cineworld ?

theatreofvarieties
theatreofvarieties on September 25, 2017 at 7:23 am

The casino have a lease over the whole building (they are the cinemas landlord) and yes, their lease is 25 years, the cinema lease pre-dates their lease and is for longer, weird i know but thats how it is.

As a forward thinking landlord, you would routinely object to this sort of thing, doesnt mean you are actually thinking of doing it!

It would take too long to list all the issues of the fabric of the auditorium, the physical properties and the political properties that all factored into why it was no longer viable. Suffice it to say that spending £4 million on it wasn’t done whimsically and without very good reason.

Sintered tiles http://www.rpgeurope.com/products/product/reapor.html

I have some more arcane questions, if you would be kind enough to answer them.

So, just wondering what changes, other than raising the ductwork, if any, were made to the air conditioning?

none – the grilles are the new supply ducts that replace the old supply ducts that were previously hidden in the back of the coves. the new design didn’t have enough room to put the grilles back there again. the extract ducts are two decorative brass ones under the projection overhang in the back wall (only decorative part of the 60’s auditorium to survive albeit now sprayed black) in addition to about 300 small grilles under the seating at every level.

-In your photo of the IMAX auditorium—"New ceiling framework“—there is a black area in the middle of the right curved ceiling section. Slightly confused as I thought it was normal practice to attach stretched fabric to (fixings on) plasterboard, and also acoustic absorption behind the stretched fabric? It doesn’t looks like there’s much space for it. – the black fabric is tensioned with black plastic gripping rails, the absorption is fitted in-between the metal purlins, nothing unusual going on, just a slightly different method of attaching, a skin of plasterboard would have made the ceiling too reflective at higher frequencies so it was simply omitted.

-Was there insulation above the ceiling in Empire 1? I would have expected that it would be required for THX certification? Yes there was.

Thanks for your reply to my photo of the worn out ceiling, shame no-one will apply flocking in-situ these days, I imagine Health and Safety reasons. – No, its just there is not enough demand for it apparently.

CF100
CF100 on September 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

theatreofvarieties: Thank you once again for your very informative posts.

That’s great to hear that Cineworld have a 60 year lease on it—I will be able to sleep easier at night knowing this!

My (clearly outdated) understanding was that the casino held the head lease, expiring 2030, with the cinema subleased.

L&R formally objected to windows being installed (as part of the hotel conversion) on the rear of 1-4 Leicester Sq. as it could compromise future development potential. However, permission was granted permission on appeal. (16/00408/TPCON.)

I wonder what you mean by “[Empire 1] had too many things wrong with it and needed too much money just to keep it in one piece”?

I guess the origin of the tiles shall forever have to remain a mystery! I would, however, be interested in the source of the sintered glass tiles that you said were applied to the existing in 2006?

I have some more arcane questions, if you would be kind enough to answer them.

-My third visit to the IMAX auditorium in 2014 was for a late night screening. I noticed that the room temperature was cycling between hot/cold, although this now seems to have been fixed. Empire 1 always had fantastic air conditioning in my experience. The IMAX clearly has four vents in the ceiling, which I assume are for the return? Empire 1 seemed to have vents just behind the edges of each ceiling “cove” and the set for the cove just ahead of the projection booth can be seen in your photo. So, just wondering what changes, other than raising the ductwork, if any, were made to the air conditioning?

-In your photo of the IMAX auditorium—"New ceiling framework“—there is a black area in the middle of the right curved ceiling section. Slightly confused as I thought it was normal practice to attach stretched fabric to (fixings on) plasterboard, and also acoustic absorption behind the stretched fabric? It doesn’t looks like there’s much space for it.

-Was there insulation above the ceiling in Empire 1? I would have expected that it would be required for THX certification?

Thanks for your reply to my photo of the worn out ceiling, shame no-one will apply flocking in-situ these days, I imagine Health and Safety reasons.

theatreofvarieties
theatreofvarieties on September 20, 2017 at 5:26 am

CF100 – the bump tiles were just decorative, they didn’t do anything. The 1927 circle stadia did indeed go higher than the current (1962) stadia, there was clear evidence of this in the side walls. Haven’t got a clue what the 1962 tiles were exactly but its very obvious they were there to attempt to control the sound as they were applied onto the fibrous backing plaster moulding. If they were just decorative then the whole thing would have come in as is from a mould, plus they would have been smooth rather than aerated.

theatreofvarieties
theatreofvarieties on September 20, 2017 at 4:43 am

it cost £4 million to convert and make the two auditoriums, would have paid back in less than three years but obviously paid back in spades when Cineworld purchased it. Commercially it was a necessity, you can disagree all you like and pitch in theoretical sounding ideas ‘that would definitely have worked’ but at the end of the day, it lost a lot of money because the auditorium was too big, never filled except on (loss making) premieres and had too many things wrong with it and needed too much money just to keep it in one piece and a like for like refurbishment would not have promised as much additional product and custom as an IMAX would (and has!) Empire are still based in the old dressing rooms and tank room that is accessed from Leicester place. There were no financial issues involved in the sale, Cineworld approached Empire and paid silly money just because they desperately wanted a leicester square cinema and they wanted to buy market share so they could beat Odeon consistantly. Empire is structured exactly the same as Odeon, each cinema is it’s own company with a parent company. L&R cant pull the building down, Cineworld have a lease with 60 years left on it, that’s the landlords next opportunity to take the building back on the basis of a conversion.

CF100
CF100 on September 19, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Zappomatic: During my last trip (Dunkirk), I had a look behind the back of the cinema (Lisle Street/Leicester Place), mainly to take photos of urine stains outside the fire exits for amusement value, but I thought perhaps it was getting altogether too silly to upload them!

Anyway, there is a sign by a door on Leicester Place which says “Empire Studios”. (I’ll upload the photo tomorrow.) I don’t remember it being there previously, and it’s not visible on Google Maps Street View.

The relevant planning application is 06/08456/FULL — “Alterations to existing tank room to create additional office space, erection of new tank room and alterations to staircase at roof level, together with erection of canopy above Leicester Place entrance.”

For some reason the documents aren’t available? “Planning Application details not available.”

Anyway, you can see the location of the “tank room” here, in the lower cross-section plan:

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/sites/default/files/publications/pubid-295/images/fig104.gif

(The upper cross-section plan, of course, is for the 1927 auditorium; not sure why the “dome” is included in lower one.)

I imagine it was originally used to house the organ.

Also, there are high level offices behind what was the left hand wall of Empire 1, which I assume are part of Empire Studios.

I recall from the 2006 planning application that Muraspec wall coverings were specified. That stuff retails for, say, £15-30+ per sq. metre… very expensive for wallpaper, so I assume the offices are nicely decorated!

(I thought I might buy some myself… until I realised the price was “per linear metre” (130cm width) and not per roll!)

I imagine it’s a fancy “head office” rather than housing all staff. An embarrassing situation indeed!

Empire Cinemas 2 still exists as an active company, being an indirectly held subsidiary of Cineworld. Looking at Cineworld’s Annual Report 2016, Picturehouse had the same structure, e.g. “City Screen (Cambridge) Limited.” All of those City Screen (aka Picturehouse) subsidiary companies will soon be dissolved, though.

Zappomatic
Zappomatic on September 19, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Hadn’t noticed Empire Cinemas still have their head office listed as being Leicester Square. Wonder if it’s really just a front for a PO box? Otherwise it’s slightly embarrassing, a bit like still living with your ex after you’ve split up… Although, Empire’s structure looks like a rather questionable house of cards with each cinema registered as a separate company in Jersey. Company names take the form of (Location) Cinema 2 Ltd eg. Walthamstow Cinema 2 Ltd. Tax efficient, some might say.

CF100
CF100 on September 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

t still says “Cineworld Cinemas Leicester Square at the Empire Theatre” on Facebook—that’s the only “public” place I’ve seen them use “Empire.” It’s always been Cineworld Leicester Square AFAIK on their website.

The foyer rendering has “Cineworld Empire” on the right vestibule wall.

To be fair, it is confusing to use the word “Empire” when there’s the “Empire Cinemas” chain, plus potential trademark issues.

OTOH, I think it’s pretty clear from the foyer rendering that they are not interested in the heritage aspects, and their annual reports/presentations say that they have achieved their long held ambition of having a flagship West End site. I expect it therefore will continue to be run as a West End flagship, but with Cineworld branding it as their site… “star” logos emblazoned all over.

As long as the Casino is called the “Empire Casino” the Empire name shall remain. Additionally, Empire Cinemas' HQ is still in the same building!

The long term risk may be if owner London + Regional Properties tears the whole building down to make way for a hotel, presumably with downsized leisure areas in the basements. I imagine Cineworld have more leverage than Empire Cinemas to stop the real doomsday scenario…

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on September 18, 2017 at 7:24 pm

Cineworld Leicester Square appears to have dropped the Empire name altogether now. Shameful.

CF100
CF100 on September 10, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Thanks, Zappomatic, for those photos of the access to Screen 9.

What a dreadfully scrappy arrangement with the “wooden box” at the back of Screen 9.

The stairs/lobby areas look pretty good, but the “starfield” is bodged—not remotely comparable to the 1989 fibre-optic starfields in the foyer/Empire 1. There’s some information on them in the Lighting + Sound International article I previously linked to (PDF p19-21):

“Par Opti Projects used no less than 14,000 fibre optic lenses producing 26,000 light points in the ceiling, created by various size fibres. The new Eldon bezels were specifically developed for the four sizes of star lenses, together with twinkle wheels…”

BTW, the “studio” screens use Eomac stretched fabric wall systems—“gold frames by others” according to the PDF linked to from that page.

Wonder when the foyer/associated areas work will commence? I assume at some point they will have to completely close during the works, and looking at their website, Cineworld have performances scheduled through the end of this month.

Sooner the better as I already said my “goodbyes” to the existent foyer—no desire to go through that process again! :–( Thankfully, on my last visit to Screen 1 I had no idea about the impeding conversion—theatreofvarieties' strip-out photos were fascinating, but time (and nice replacement auditoria) heals. It would have been far too emotional to bear.