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More details on this replacement scheme from this public exhibition blurb:
A replacement basement cinema is shown.
The purposed quasi-“pastiche”/postmodern (or whatever—“carbuncle-style” will do ;–) ) exterior design, IMO, is hideous.
The 400 seater at least has the potential to be a decent “large format”-style screen and (presumably?) is needed for moveovers from the OLS. The cinemas (once opened) could be repurposed as conference spaces, but then again, they can always be hired out as such anyway…
MasterImage 3D’s DUAL3D system to be installed in the IMPACT screen:
Further thoughts on the (potential?) Atmos installation: the rear stalls don’t have enough height for the ceiling speakers. Also, might they be intending to become a “Dolby Cinema” location, which Dolby are promoting as an IMAX-competitor? (Laser projectors., HDR, etc…)
On a different topic, I recall before the 1998 refurbishment, when the “flying ladies” were recreated, there sections of red neon strips on the splay walls which mirrored the red pattern on the main tabs. I cannot find any photos or reference to this anywhere, although by then it looked terribly dated!
It would appear that a lot of politics are in motion in relation to Empire’s IMAX screen!
Empire’s booking page shows that the current and next film for IMAX/Screen 3 are IMAX releases.
I completely agree, non-IMAX features should not be advertised as such, though I’ve not noticed anything other than the gaff with the online booking system.
Empire seem to have gone to some lengths to get IMAX signage up, I notice the planning application for a “high level” sign (visible from the Coventry Street approach) was rejected but one has been installed nevertheless, so I assume it went to appeal.
One also has to also wonder if IMAX were aware of the potential booking situation, as the Empire is cited by them as being of their “landmark” installations in a world-famous location and is one of the venues due to be equipped with their laser projectors. I imagine that it remains to be seen how this plays out; the current situation is at best absurd.
The former Screen 1 had premium ticket prices, e.g. the “£9.95 all day” offer is/was only valid for Screens 4-9.
AFAIK the cost of the IMAX/IMPACT conversion was £4m.
The above-linked BBC article states that “the tower of the OLS… still stands today… despite not being listed.”
This is, of course, true, but since Leicester Square is a conservation area, the frontage is afforded some protection. I suspect an OWE-like scheme for the OLS would go down like the Titanic.
All of these issues—IMAX exterior branding and potential confusion—occur with all multi-screen venues with a single IMAX screen. The strategy of IMAX Corporation in recent years can be questioned, but there is plenty of upside.
Of course, Empire used to have a THX sign attached to the marquee, and that did not mean all screens were THX-certified!
Non-IMAX films aren’t advertised as “IMAX” presentations and Empire’s IMAX screen should be listed as “Screen 3.” There seems to be a slight problem with the online booking system in this respect, as when proceeding with the booking it displays “IMAX” as the screen, but on the main listing page all of the IMAX branding is dropped.
As I understand, most IMAX screens play IMAX content for the vast majority of—if not all—presentations. The Empire Leicester Square is unique in having difficulties in obtaining IMAX bookings.
Looking through the “Decision Notice” in the previously linked planning documents, Condition 6 of the Planning Permission states that “the hotel use… must not begin until the cinema has been provided with services and made ready for fit out by the relevant tenant and evidence has been submitted to and approved by the Council…”
I have fond memories of seeing movies in Screen 2. But let’s be fair, the cinema—with its asbestos and crumbling-ceiling laden void areas—not to mention the rest of the block—is long overdue for an overhaul.
In my view, however, this scheme is a missed opportunity, as the two screens are almost the minimum option, being tucked away in less than one half of Basement Level 2. If only slightly more space had been allocated! Granted, services and structural considerations may render that impossible.
One might anticipate that Odeon will install a 50ft. wide screen in the larger auditorium and brand it an “iSense” screen…
Finally some good news after much speculation!
I assume this means that the ‘Dutchess’ will be kept.
Not sure what there is to ‘expensively’ refurbish in the auditorium other than upgrading the seats—perhaps some carefully integrated elements to control the acoustics?
I don’t understand how Dolby Atmos could be installed without eliminating the rear stalls. The only option I can see is to have two levels of side and ceiling speakers, with the lower level time aligned/delayed with the upper, and careful choice and positioning of the upper speakers. Still would seem to be an audio scrambled egg in the making!
I do hope the current bland foyer areas will be completely reimaged.
FanaticalAboutOdeon-As I understand it, non-IMAX films in IMAX digital cinemas don’t have the same projection quality as IMAX releases, e.g. only one of the two projectors is used. Also, the picture hasn’t been gone through IMAX’s DMR processing (nor has the sound been remixed for IMAX’s sound system, and, AFAIK, the Empire IMAX doesn’t have a rear array for non-IMAX films.)
The on-screen announcement is, therefore, absolutely necessary.
I agree that sitting in the front row could be overwhelming, but I’ve found middle seats absolutely fine. As mentioned in a previous post, the screen width to auditorium depth ratio is about the same as found in a “classic,” purpose-built IMAX venue. In some ways I preferred the smaller Empire 1 screen, which somehow “felt” bigger than these monster screens, but the central seats in the IMAX auditorium are right in the sweet spot.
Regarding the side seats, sitting on the far sides of the front rows would be a poor experience… but those seats are currently not even in use for IMAX presentations, with the seating down to less than 500 seats for IMAX 3D. However, in my view, the width of the auditorium is an advantage—making it feel spacious, and prevents a problem I find with “wall-to-wall” screens in rectangular auditoria, where I am constantly aware of the side walls framing the screen.
The new LED lighting lacks the diffuse properties of cold cathode lights, and the new walls are black. The effect is more one of slightly inconsistent “bands” of light rather than smooth “bands” with the walls being “washed” in colour. But, the flipside is that Empire did not have to reinstate anything, and it seems much attention to detail has been lavished on this project—I notice the steps up to the aisles have been moved and rebuilt… in exactly the same style!
The lack of tabs is a shame but in some ways the large screen speaks for itself, being most impressive when one first enters the auditorium and is presented with it and the very wide, colour-lit space. I have found the standard of presentation to be very good, with pre-show music, lighting fades etc. all well-timed, IMAX trailers, and so on. Much of the magic is still there!
On the other hand, the IMPACT screen desperately needs tabs and masking, and some other extra touches.
I took someone to see “Lucy” at the Empire IMAX and their jaw dropped on entering, not expecting the screen to be that big and afterwards they said that they had never seen or heard anything like it.
Visited Screen 5 today for a preview screening, a typical turn of the millennium VUE (or rather Warner Village.)
There are a couple of rows of (newer?) “VIP seats” in the middle of the auditorium, but the rest of the seating is tired, dirty, with tears in the upholstery. The sidewall stretch fabric is sagging in places, and there is even a section of carpet held down with gaffer tape! Considering the tickets for standard seats can be almost £11, this is quite unacceptable.
The screen is wall-to-wall and “letterboxed” for scope format; the lack of masking did not work well due to the high black level of the projection. The projection and sound quality were mediocre albeit in all fairness it was a preview screening of a “work in progress.” Rear array speakers are Martin Audio.
The IMAX and IMPACT screens are featured in the current issue of Cinema Technology Magazine. Not much new information, but some lovely pictures, and equipment is listed for the IMPACT screen.
Apparently the dividing wall weighs 90 (!) tons, is 1 metre thick, is built using 8 layers of plasterboard, and is hung from new girders in the ceiling.
The IMPACT screen has 87 JBL speakers including 5 stage speakers and 16 18" subwoofers (same as Screen 1) and some 58 surround speakers… plus 8 more 18" subwoofers in the side-walls! The Barco projectors have been moved over from Screen 1.
Unfortunately, not much info on the IMAX system other than the usual vague corporate stuff, except that all 750 seats will be available for 3D screenings once the laser projection system is installed.
Both screens are fitted with the fully-sprung “Empire” seat from Seating Concepts.
The article ends by saying that “the Empire Leicester Square has two new first class auditoria capable of producing the finest in picture and sound. Both have an undeniable ‘wow’ factor and won’t disappoint anyone.” It goes on to say that “for those of us who knew the unforgettable Empire One in its starlight glory days, [the new screens] just can’t recreate that special magical environment that went before.”
A sentiment, I think, that we could all agree with.
Have not seen a film there in some time and last time I did was not impressed by what I can only describe as an outdated and run-down multiplex. It isn’t closed for good though, it’s being refurbished into a Picturehouse and it will have its own entrance.
Now that’s the sort of thing I expect to see… not peeling paint! :–(
Empire have confirmed on their Facebook page that they are not getting “The Hobbit” although they will be “involved with the premiere.”
Wall covering manufacturer project page, with photos of auditoria:
Sound isolation case study blurb:
d8rren—Thanks for the reply. Can’t say I’d noticed that the screen was smaller but I do sit towards the front and 3D films are impressive.
On my last visit to Empire LS (a Wednesday evening) the foyer was quite busy. I’d imagine they get a reasonable number of customers in for their mini-screens. (Anyone seeing the ‘IMAX’ sign would be in for a shock, although I gather that those mini-screens are actually pretty good.)
London has now many modern local cinemas with large screens, but still, the BFI IMAX does well so some people are willing to make the trip and pay extra for something special.
Can’t work out the point of the 70mm ‘Interstellar’ screenings at the OLS when there are two other venues in London with 15/70 prints, but I suppose it’s not something to complain about!
Maybe the rumours are quite unfounded…
D8rren, any idea how the Empire LS is doing? How big is the smaller screen used for 3D screenings in the OLS?
This place was an absolute flea-pit; I last visited in 1991, and the person accompanying me, not well versed in technical aspects of film presentation, complained that the “sound is quieter than my TV”! Admittedly, it does look more attractive in old photos.
The developer had promised a small replacement cinema in the former foyer building, to be built in Phase II, with the apartments built in Phase I. However, after Phase I had been built, the developer applied for permission for use as a gym, which has now opened.
As for the courtyard “mosaic” artwork intended to keep the memory of moviegoing… I fail to see the point.
For me, rule number 1 of a cinema is that it should be indoors and has enough elements to create a good sense of expectation. Rule number 2, it should have excellent HVAC.
(Rule number 0, of course, is that it should have the ability to show films!)
I think that’s as polite as I can be about the development.
Planning permission, of course, is valid for some time so nothing may happen for a while, and this is assuming that the roof replacement means concurrent changes to the auditorium. Presumably it would make sense for the OWE replacement to (finally) go ahead first…
It may be extraordinary that Leicester Square does still has any “original” cinema buildings left—from what I gather from looking through archived material, the Empire was sold to Mecca with the original scheme being to knock it down and build an office block/dance hall. Only later articles refer to the reconstruction scheme into the famous 1330 seat cinema (and dance hall underneath.)
There was also a scheme to redevelop the block of buildings next to the Odeon Leicester Square (1983) into various uses cinemas… perhaps someone has more details on this and what the effect would have been on the OLS?
Summary of the 1983 proposals: http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=ZZZZW3RPXC669
The planning application for the replacement roof has been approved.
This company appears to have been the acoustic consultants for the Screen 1 conversion. To quote from the linked page: “Cole Jarman are proud to have worked on this monumental scheme to transform the historic but ageing Screen 1 into two new auditoria… We provided design advice… [including] the technically challenging wall which separates the two new screens.”
On that page are also some more photos, or rather 3D renderings. The IMPACT screen is shown as having an architectural lighting scheme with strips of red lights on the sidewalls… which I did not see nor is shown in any photos so far…
That does sound good, perhaps the hotel conversion will finally put paid to the Trocadero being no-man’s land as it has been for a decade…!
“Behind the Scenes” article on the Empire IMAX installation, sadly lacking in detail but a nice hi-res fisheye shot from the rear of the auditorium:
Behind the Scenes at Empire’s Leicester Square IMAX