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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
If Odeon are going to “reconfigure” then perhaps this is a possible conversion: Move the screen to a position just ahead of the circle, remove the first few rows of the circle and create a new flat ceiling section in the screen area. This would then allow a screen size of say 70ft. x 30ft. The existing circle would thus be extended slightly forward, but this could be built as a “mezzanine”-type floor on columns if necessary.
Most of the stalls seating area would be “eliminated” (or some very small screens could be jammed in under the circle!) with the stage and void to the back wall used to form a second main screen.
Correction to previous post: The original THX guidlines were, AFAIK, for sound from adjacent auditoriums to be audible a maximum of 1% of the time.
(See p7 of http://www.diyaudio.rs/JBL/JBL%20-%20Cinema%20Sound%20System%20Manual%20(Original,%201990).pdf )
Of course this requirement is easier to meet with optical sound. Despite this, Dave Pring’s figure of 5 or 6 times for up to 30 seconds gives a maximum value of 1.6% of the time… which suggests good soundproofing.
Wurlitzer in the Empire Leicester Square in 1933!
Discovery Channel Documentary on the Chinese Theatre (uploaded by TCL):
Odeon have applied for planning approval of a new pitched roof to replace the existing asbestos one. That being the case, presumably the auditorium block isn’t due to be demolished any time soon!
Shame that most of the remainder of the Trocadero is being reconstructed into yet another hotel, there’s more than enough space for all sorts of more interesting uses. I suppose £150/night rooms are more profitable than cinemas (or run-down arcades!) May as well remove entertainment from the heart of the West End and build hotels instead. :–(
Looking worse than ever, I’ve uploaded a pic of peeling paint!
The hotel works seem to be well underway and sealed off from public access, AFAIK the area occupied by the former IMAX screen has been completely gutted out.
It was a 15/70 IMAX but the (now obsolete) PSE headsets with active shutter LCDs for 3D were of course digital and used an infra-red wireless system. The sound came from 2 additional digital tracks which were pre-recorded with the binaural processing. (The IMAX screen/rear speakers were used as well.)
It closed yesterday for the conversion to a ‘Picturehouse’, for reopening next year. I have uploaded pictures of the lobby one day before closing and the boarding opposite the entrance for the hotel conversion work. Not the most welcoming approach!
Reading through the above linked planning application, the existing old Trocadero friezes are to be kept but with improved lighting.
Dave Pring, for what proportion of time was it noticeable during ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and was it a distant rumbling sound or was faint dialogue audible?
THX requirements were for STC 65 (at the top end of the American ‘Sound Transmission Class’ rating system) soundproofing and sounds from adjacent auditoria should only be audible something like 10-15% of the time maximum, recognising that complete elimination is impractical. I imagine those requirements were created before digital, which of course has much higher maximum sound levels than optical sound.
I hope the new screens continue to do well but it seems that Empire aren’t getting IMAX bookings. No ‘Transformers 4’ and they are not advertising ‘The Equalizer’.
High level sign is now up on the left side of the Leicester Square frontage, the design is shown in the following application, which was refused by Westminster Council. Presumably it went to appeal.
There are two photos of the IMPACT screen on the Empire Leicester Square Facebook page.
The row A is about 0.45 screen width away, row M about 1.0. (Row AA and N are not used for IMAX presentations.) This gives minimum horizontal /vertical viewing angles of ~53/32deg, and maximum viewing angles of ~96/66 deg.
If you read http://www.lfexaminer.com/20090522a.htm, you’ll find then, that this, give or take, is exactly the recipe for a “classic” IMAX venue and a central seat is absolutely immersive and perfectly positioned.
IMAX releases are transitioning to 1.9:1, so the ratio would be the same even in 1.4:1 venues.
The fact that this has been achieved in a conversion of a conversion, the building dating from 1928, and the shoehorning in of such a large screen, is remarkable. There is an operating Casino below and it is not as if they can dig a large hole in the ground; the project was delayed by months due to structural difficulties.
Empire Cinemas should be applauded for doing their very best in preserving what they could of Screen 1 and commissioning what must have been an expensive and difficult project.
I sincerely hope that IMAX will do something to differentate such “premiere” venues, perhaps once the “laser” projection system is installed, as there are a number of other IMAX venues now in London suburbs with smaller screens (typically 50ft. wide.) (The BFI, on the other hand, hardly needs it as it is well established.)
A more useful note: I can confirm that there is some sound leakage from the IMPACT auditorium in the IMAX auditorium. However, it was only audible when there was no audio playing (after the main feature had ended) and it was a distant rumble, which must have been at peak levels. I have heard similar in VUE West End Screen 7, so I would guess “THX” requirements for inter-auditorium sound leakage would be met.
The critical feature of IMAX is not the aspect ratio, it’s the horizontal and vertical viewing angles. (Size as well, to a point—sitting up close to a 15" laptop screen isn’t the same.) The Empire’s screen roughly falls well within those requirements, the auditorium is about 1 screen width deep, and any central seat is certainly very immersive.
Also, the screen height is within the range of IMAX GT venues (albeit at the bottom end), and the width (87.5ft) is far greater than many, the smallest is 71ft wide.
As for the projection, the entire industry has transitioned to digital and IMAX isn’t immune to that transition; furthermore the use of film for shooting purposes is rapidly diminishing. IIRC they had a replacement digital projection system in development, but it didn’t work out and they ended up using DLP projectors. The other risk, of course, is that eventually the rest of the industry would have digital projectors capable superior quality to 15/70.
The DLP projectors do surprisingly well in the Empire, and are perfectly aligned, but of course we wait laser projection. The lack of masking isn’t an enormous problem as there’s not much light leakage, in 3D it’s almost black. (I did, however, find it to be a serious problem in the Empire’s IMPACT auditorium.)
The Empire (and Chinese) have been reconstructed for the laser system, DLP is only a stopgap. Even so, the picture and sound as it stands, as Dave Pring says, are both superb and the conversion is excellent.
So the real question, which awaits a definitive answer, is does the IMAX laser projection system match 15/70? If it does, then there’s nothing “Lie"MAX about the Empire. As for the resolution—the “real world” resolution of 15/70 as projected is not the same as the potential resolution.
If the IMAX laser projection is, as IMAX claim, superior to competing products, then surely Empire have actually done the right thing to ensure that their flagship auditorium is equipped with the very best?
There wouldn’t be so many “tentpole” IMAX releases now if they had not expanded via “scaled down” venues; the problem, I think, is taking it too far. Perhaps the laser projection system will give IMAX the chance to do some differentiation among between different venues, presumably they will want to shout from the rooftops about it.
There’s a number of newsreel footage (British Pathé) clips on YouTube which feature the foyer/lobby areas of the 1928 Empire. These two, though, are a bit different:
Views of the 1928 auditorium (skip to 2:50 on…) and stage
Foyer/lobby areas of the 1962 Empire, in 1964…
Very familiar, but some of the decor, fit-out and fixtures have changed considerably!
Sadly, we can’t pull out a magic genie from nowhere to grant our wishes, can we? It’s not that I (or presumably anyone else) don’t share your disappointment and sadness over this, but it’s happened… Love or loathe it, to say the least it’s a heck of a lot better than, for example, my old local inexpensively twinned Odeon, long closed now… looks very nice in photos taken back in 1930… but in my time an absolute flea-pit!
Of course it will never be the same and I would far preferred Empire 1 to have been kept, albeit with a bit of a makeover (new acoustic absorption on walls/ceiling, seating reupholstered, etc.)
I’m heartbroken but I also try to maintain a balanced perspective. So, what were the alternative options? Keeping Empire 1 wasn’t one of them as it’s a commercial operation. Strip out and conversion to another Casino floor? Another hotel? I can think of many worse outcomes than what’s happened and I’ve been expecting something to happen to Empire 1 for years.
Believe me and everyone else who are big fans of Empire 1, and were horrified when it was closed for subdivision, the IMAX auditorium is very impressive and comfortable, it is a great place to see a film, obviously not greater than the “cathedral” that was Empire 1 but still excellent, the online photos and videos don’t really do it justice.
Details of the planning permission are up on Westminster Council’s site via the above linked page. More than £5m of contributions, for Crossrail, “public realm,” affordable housing, etc. are required per the S106 agreement!
The cinema has hardly come down to a low level, Empire 1 was long overdue for an overhaul with sagging seats, tired looking tiles and serious problems with dialogue intelligibility due to the excessive reverb time/slap echo. The subdivision is regrettable indeed and it would have be nice to keep the THX baffle wall/JBL sound system, but by sheer chance, the old rear circle dating back to 1928 has made for an excellent IMAX auditorium. For the most part, it seems that Empire Cinemas have gone out of their way to preserve what they could of Screen 1 and have waited for a suitably grand scheme. There could have been really horrendous outcomes, such as the circle being subdivided down the middle!
IMHO it’s one of the best screens in the country. The IMAX projectors and DMR’d picture is an upgrade, the laser projector is on the horizon, and, yes, no Dolby Atmos but it does sound very good, we’ll just have to wait for IMAX to introduce their new sound system.
A quick look at Empire’s IMAX booking page shows that an evening screening of “Guardians of the Galaxy” has a high percentage of seats reserved in advance.
FanaticalAboutOdeon, thanks for the structural information, very interesting. Another other option I can think of is to use the rear circle as one auditorium, and the Royal Circle as the balcony along with the front stalls to form another, perhaps increasing the rake of the front stalls. As with the Empire IMAX this might yield difficult viewing angles from the side seats, but presumably e.g. columns could be used to support the dividing wall if required.
One would hope that if a completely new auditorium block was on the cards then the recent refurbishment of the Mezzanine/Studios would not have occurred, as it would have been better to concurrently replace it with less compromised auditoria!