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Update from a trip to Leicester Square yesterday:
Remainder of the blue LED linear strips to façade now on, “halo” lighting to right Odeon sign also (above former “Studios” entrance.)
Gold coloured cladding fitted to canopy, numerous LED “pip” (?! — as the planning application refers to them?) installed to the soffit and working.
“Band” of LED display modules to canopy fascia installed and operating, very bright, the centre section currently permanently reads “ODEON LUXE LEICESTER SQUARE HOME OF PREMIERS.” The two setback sections to the left and right of this alternate between left reading “NOW OPEN” (sic) and something else (can’t remember,) and the right, “SCREENS 2-5” and something to do with Costa coffee. Looks very good, with a nice choice of typeface being used.
Site is buzzing away with activity, with central sections of the hoarding removed, workmen spilling out into the square for breaks and materials simply left in front. Numerous containers for a Flowcrete 2-part resin flooring system could be seen (presumably for back-of-house areas, e.g. the “food prep” area in the former rear stalls.)
Portakabin in front of former “Studios” entrance moved from first floor level, “door” opening in hoarding for access.
I overheard a worker saying that the seats weren’t in yet, albeit I am not sure if by this he meant the main auditorium or the former “Studios.”
Difficult to see inside; however, the ground floor foyer appears to be unfinished; wire bundles still hanging from the ceiling. The circle foyer appears now to have its ceiling in with general lighting working.
The service yard/access from Charing Cross Road was also active, the Portakabin and hoarding having been removed. At the time of my visit, at least 9 workers in or just outside the service yard, disposing of site waste, and a grinder (or similar?—sparks flying!) was being used in the yard. Visible through an open door at above ground level were yet more bundles of wires could be seen hanging from the ceiling.
Hopefully, I will be able to do add more report to CT just before opening day.
A further article on the refurbishment has been published on Pocket-lint; it appears that they had a tour of the site on the same day as other members of the press.
The article page includes a number of photos.
My first visit to OLS was during 1971 and air conditioning had already replaced the theatre’s incorporated plenum system (whose main intake/outtake grilles were behind the mountings for the golden ladies). I was a member of the audience then and sat towards the front of the stalls.
Just looking at the old “Wonders of the Super-Cinema” diagram—it makes reference to “washing and heating plant for air conditioning,” just under the front rows of the stalls. I’m assuming, then, that at the time of an opening an old “air washer” system was used for cooling (which, of course, doesn’t help with humidity!) rather than a “condensing” system.
The diagram also shows return ducts under the seating; at least at stalls level, I suspect that is no longer there or disused?
Any information that you have to offer on the changes made to the air conditioning over the years would be most appreciated.
The air con. has always seemed extremely “soft” and never struck me as intrusive even when the theatre has been dark during mornings.
My recollection is that the HVAC system/air conditioning noise wasn’t “intrusive,” but was audible as a slight “hiss”/“rumble.” I have visited auditoria in which the air conditioning seemed to be inaudible—at least going back to the original THX standard, it was part of the requirements for certification.
The rationale was to ensure that it didn’t “mask” low-level sounds in quiet scenes; alas, IME, this actually does not work with an audience; instead, in quiet scenes, every slight sound made by the audience can be heard, even someone many rows away taking a sip of a drink or adjusting body position in their seat!
Aside from this, I find a slight air conditioning sound quite relaxing, and so it doesn’t concern me. However, I suspect that, in keeping with the improved acoustic control and isolation that’s been added to the OLS, as a “flagship” Dolby Cinema site, HVAC background levels may be brought further down to “inaudible” levels. (I’m not sure what the requirements are for a “Dolby Cinema,” but certainly high standards were specified in older guidelines from Dolby as well as SMPTE recommendations.)
I remember seeing “Ryan’s Daughter” on the ELS’s vast 70mm screen and being taken aback by the “thumpity thump” coming up through the floor while Sarah Miles wandered over the breathtaking sands of the Dingle peninsular and the music on the soundtrack was relatively soft. I wondered at the time what David Lean might have thought!
One can only imagine that he would have been, at best, most unimpressed!
Improved sound insulation could well have been incorporated in the twinning of ELS’s 1962 auditorium as well as new floor surfaces and the casino below likely has background music and, usually, much chatter and general activity on its side. The odd distant explosions or roars of space craft are probably just taken to be part of the overall noise.
I don’t think any isolation was added to the concrete slab between the cinema and casino during the IMAX conversion, unless one counts the addition of the new stadium seating structure in the IMPACT/Superscreen. With the dividing wall between the two auditoria “floating” off the floor and supported by the roof girders, presumably all the screen frame supporting the front speakers behind is isolated from the floor, stopping direct mechanical transmission of vibrations.
The former rear stalls down to the screen were definitely screeded—presumably some minor relevelling occurred as, behind the floor “cove” (?), on the left/right side, down to the screen bottom, three shallow steps can be seen—photo.
Overlaying the licensing plans post-IMAX conversion with the previous licensing plans for Empire 1 suggests these three steps are in the exact same location as the fourth to second to last rows of the former stalls. (The screen centre being more than 8 rows back into the former stalls.)
A problem post-IMAX conversion has been that, as the screen speakers/subwoofers were moved closer to the stadia/former circle, every “explosion” could be heard in the foyer underneath, IIRC to the point of the structure shaking! I’m not sure if an attempt to tame this was made in Cineworld’s foyer refurbishment.
“Before and after" conversion photo slideshow.
LARGE_screen_format: You’re welcome, glad you found it interesting.
Trip to Leicester Square today—OLS refurbishment update—externally visible changes:
Replacement blue strip accent lighting added to façade tower—very bright and consistent linear look. Hard to believe LEDs are used—perhaps the best LED “imitation” of “neon” I’ve seen to date—and it looks far better than my recollection of the previous (even when it was fully intact and working.)
High level Odeon signage now lit.
2x lower level “large format” LED module displays reinstated.
“Glass box” now fully glazed, Odeon sign added.
View inside not possible due to glazing and temporary sheeting behind.
Good to see the building almost “back on the road!”
HowardBHaas: Thanks for the links.
Wider rendering of the 2008 proposed “amorphous blob.”
Update: Had a look around the outside of the building again today—nothing of note externally visible since my last update.
The above links no longer seem to work properly.
However, high resolution images of the cinema under construction, as well as its frontage in 1975, and today as the “Athena,” are available on the “Story of Leicester” site.
During its construction, a sign read: “Odeon – A large modern super cinema is being erected on this site – Odeon theatres set the standard throughout the country for – artistic decoration – luxurious comfort – entertainment value.”
To add to zoetmb’s response:
To show content supplied in DCP format, the projector must be “DCI compliant.” Almost all of these use DLP chips, which have 1000s of “micromirrors” on them that tilt in order to adjust the amount of light reflected back off them.
(Sony in particular use LCoS, a liquid crystal layer adjusts the light reflected off a reflective layer below.)
Prior to the introduction of so-called “laser” projectors, the light source that reflects off the DLP chips (one for each of red, green and blue colours) has largely been Xenon lamp(s).
There are now various DCI-compliant products offering laser light source projection, therefore some of them are lower-end and intended for use in large “PLF” auditoria, nor would two projectors be used in all cases.
Some people feel that film’s inherent colors
Improvements to colour gamut/contrast is an area that’s undergoing rapid development; particularly in the consumer space, with a mushrooming of “HDR” formats, and in the theatrical space IMAX have their proprietary laser projection system (IMAX with Laser), as do Dolby (Dolby Vision.) I’m not clear on what additional capabilities the source format for IMAX with Laser system uses (IMAX digital releases aren’t distributed in DCP format, they use IMAX Digital Format (IDF)—an “extended” version of DCP), but certainly IMAX say they separately colour grade (in the mastering of) content specifically for IMAX with Laser.
The original IMAX with Laser projection system was designed for full-sized “Grand Theatre” IMAX venues, being intended as a replacement for the 15/70 film projectors.
It is a dual-projection system. As aligning to 2x4K projectors to sub-pixel levels is, apparently, impossible, in 2D mode, crudely, one projector outputs a lower resolution image, the other fills in the details, forming an overall “smooth” image, avoiding the “pixel grid” effect caused by the gaps between each of the mirrors in a DLP chip.
The new generation “IMAX with Laser” projection system, now being rolled out to smaller venues, and, IIRC, not capable of 1.43:1 but 1.9:1 only, is a single projector system
In any case, provided the system is capable of getting the desired look on screen, then in colour grading it can be made to look any way desired creatively—oversaturated, tinted, etc.
But today’s few 70mm prints are generally made from digital intermediates
To add, inherently digital aspects in the “workflow” of creating any modern feature film include digital “matting”/compositing and CGI. One need only sit through the end credits to see how many people are involved!
Christopher Nolan claimed to have used an “optical finishing” process for, e.g. Dunkirk, but, I’m not clear on to what extent that means an uninterrupted “all optical” chain from the camera lens to print. (See above paragraph.)
Technically trying to compare film/digital projection is a minefield with so many variables, but I’ll say this: Neither is the perfect, “holy grail;” both have limitations and unwanted artifacts. In the case of laser light source projection, there is a “speckling” issue. Significant effort has been put into ameliorating it; IMAX bought thousands of Kodak’s patents in developing their “IMAX with Laser” projection system.
One known method that IMAX use to reduce “laser speckle” is to fit the screen with hundreds of small transducers, which slightly shake it.
IMO, digitally captured/generated material shown using the IMAX with Laser system (first generation—will be visiting a smaller cinema that’s just had the new system installer very soon) looks very good indeed.
15/70 projection I recall “back in the day,” at its best, as looking amazing—however, expectations change, and the last film I saw in 15/70 was “Interstellar,” and whilst I don’t think anyone would say it looked “bad,” film artifacts were very obvious—grainy, inconsistent colour.
Also, today’s few 70mm prints use DTS digital sound and while the specs are better than analog, I feel the old 6-track magnetic analog soundtracks when they were at their best, sounded far superior.
In a world where Atmos exists, both are throughly obsolete. Theatrical DTS uses apt-X lossy compression, which dates from the 1980s; it, therefore, is compromised over “lossless” digital audio delivery systems.
davidcoppock: The original interior had long been lost—the original ceiling did remain above the one “inserted” below in 1968, albeit by the time of closure, in something of a “crumbling” state, and punctured by services in numerous locations.
Whilst the exterior was not listed, it did have a measure of protection afforded by the Leicester Square Conservation Area designation.
Looking through the planning documents in a couple of applications relating to the redevelopment of the former OWE and adjoining properties, English Heritage (as it was then) did object to the entire block being demolished. The redevelopment project has gone through a few iterations over the years; a document with the description field “EH REBUTTAL 11.10.13 – APPENDIX” in application 13/07443/FULL, makes reference to a response by English Heritage in application 08/03016/FULL—alas, I can’t find this anywhere.
(N.B. The two above-linked planning applications relate to the first and second schemes, distinct in their differences—the second scheme is the one that is under construction, albeit with some alterations set out in later applications; of particular relevance here, the cinema layout was substantially altered.)
Nevertheless, the “EH REBUTTAL 11.10.13 – APPENDIX,” whether one cares to agree with the assertions therein, is a pretty good overview of the heritage “situation” as it was.
I think it is fair to say that, whatever the merits of the replacement “basement” cinemas, and it would surely be better if they were more ambitious in scope, externally the new building looks a great deal better than what was there before; above all, the view from Orange Street of the metal sheeting to the side of the former stage house. It is also a vast improvement over the original “amorphous blob” proposals shown in the 2008 application, with its form and “rhythm” better echoing the previous Leicester Square Theatre/OWE.
The Cineworld ads. do nothing to create either anticipation or sense of occasion – they are crass commercialism.
Couldn’t agree more! My apologies for suggesting that OLS might be lumbered with a similar “slide show”—with the OLS and OWE out of action, my visits to Odeons have been infrequent of late. However, as I mentioned previously, I did recently visit the “iSense” screen at Odeon Orpington, and was quite impressed—whilst it is a “black box” auditorium berefit of tabs, it does feature moveable masking on a “scope” screen, and the whole operation from start to finish felt like a “real cinema” with what appeared to be a thoughtful progression from a bright street level lobby, “open” with much glazing and height, up escalators to the main foyer, gradually getting darker and more intimate towards the auditoria.
As a sidenote, IMO Cineworld completely messed up the refurbishment of the Empire Leicester Square foyer/lobbies in this respect. (Notwithstanding the cack-handed “territorial marking,” stripping out—or at least not reinstating [e.g. the red flocked ceiling/domes] in some form—everything remaining from 1962 that made it unique.)
Odeon’s most recent on-screen content as one entered the auditorium prior to the programme starting was a huge capital ‘O’ in the 1998 style of ODEON characters. Behind the letter is a multi-coloured cloud […]
Now this I do remember—along with the rest of Odeon’s current on-screen branding, very good and perfect to set the “relax and escape to the cinema” mood.
I felt that Odeon’s idents in the period following the redesigned logo/“Fanatical About Film” rebrand were poor and wished for the 80s set to return, panning around a miniature in the style of a classic “streamline moderne” Odeon building. Obviously, they would now be quite dated—and, I guess, many would consider the accompanying “jingles” altogether too brash!
I suspect there’s about as much chance of the “digital” Safety Curtain being shown as the “OSCAR DEUTSCH ENTERTAINS OUR NATION” inverse backronym (?) being the permanent text on the front edge canopy LED display, as was shown in some renderings of the facade. More likely it’s there to fill “blank space” with heritage overtones, and perhaps the screen will be instead be filled with pre-show slide(s), being an opportunity to promote “Dolby Cinema,” “Limitless” cards, and so on.
Should an image of the safety curtain ever be projected onto the screen, then presumably it will be a “better version” than the photo used in the renderings!
All speculative, though, until the finished proscenium is revealed! There is the possibilty of tabs being installed but left open save for “special events” using the stage, or a slide show being projected with the tabs closed, etc… The renderings of the IMAX auditorium across the square, released just after the Empire 1 conversion works started, were a poor representation of the screen end, including simply having a “flat” rectangular image “pasted in,” rather than the curved screen that was installed.
N.B. Can’t remember what Odeons have on-screen before the feature, Cineworlds have a slide-show for branding and promotional purposes (Unlimited card, etc.):
PhilipWW: You assume correctly.
Looking at a couple of performances of “Mary Poppins Returns” on the 3rd January 2019, the price of a recliner seat in the centre section of the “Royal Circle” is at 7:45pm is £30.75, and at 10am, £20.75.
Logging in to “My ODEON” account (free signup,) for the 10am performance, a “promo code” reduces the ticket price by £2, although there is an additional 75p/ticket online booking fee, so the effective price is £19.50.
For the 7.45pm performance, the effective price is £28.50.
Pricing, therefore, seems to vary from the reasonable (given the venue and location) to absurd! It should be remembered that these are for the best seats in the house—using the “My ODEON” discount, a mid-stalls recliner (10am 03/01/2018,) for instance, is effectively priced at £15.
With “sticker shock” out of the way, onwards to the opening day…
Not certain exactly of the proximity of Leicester Square underground station to the Odeon but I have often been in the front stalls/orchestra pit area when the cinema has been “dark”, devoid of members of the public and otherwise completely quiet […]
The Piccadilly Line, according to Google Maps, passes within ~130ft. (ground position, ignoring elevation) of the OLS' outside walls. Of course, the Westbound line would be nearest; given your account, whatever its exact position, it seems more than plausible that ground-borne vibrations could indeed be audible in the auditorium. Was the air conditioning in operation during these “dark” and empty times?
The entire base of the BFI IMAX building is supported by numerous columns which have springs mounted on top.
Clearly, the OLS' refurbishment could not have gone that far without rebuilding from the ground up (!); however, IME the air conditioning was on the noisy side, and bringing its level down—as has almost certainly be an objective of the refurbishment—might just make “leaked” background noise levels that much more obvious. As the stalls have been restepped for the recliner seating, this may have afforded the opportunity to “float” a supporting structure off the existing concrete base floor; for instance, using neoprene pads, as is common in new builds.
It might be wondered does wonder how the Empire Casino copes with potential leakage from upstairs—perhaps background levels in there are simply for anyone to notice the odd distant rumble?! Certainly, were the 1962 conversion undertaken today (if only!) the cinema and dance hall wouldn’t have been separated by “just” a thick concrete floor.
West End cinema ticket prices are already too high, but I’ve often paid them to view films in the best available auditoria. £40+ for a cinema ticket, with no extras (food, beverages, etc.) packaged in, however, is nothing short of intolerable—and whilst Odeon say that the pricing will vary depending on product and demand, I’m inclined to say that they have already insulted their customers.
Indeed, Terry, by the time a non-advance long distance return rail fare is added in—and thank goodness I don’t have to suffer those prices to get to the West End—it makes for one absurdly expensive excursion.
Any absence of tabs only adds salt to the wound.
joeswin: Many thanks for the links!
For the sake of prosterity, the first post to which you linked includes the following information:
It repeats the claim of “400 speakers” which without qualification is not helpful.
I’m seeing £40.75 for the “Royal Circle” centre section. (“Mary Poppins Returns,” 21st December, 4:30pm.) Seats in the last two rows of the circle are £10.75! The cost of any suitable seat for this performance, in my view, is more than £30.
I wonder what the “uplift” charges are for “Limitless” card holders?
Fanatical About Odeon and I are probably dinosaurs when it comes to screen presentation and maintaining the belief that tabs are essential for this purpose.
The “general public” may not have any expectations regarding presentation—however, alas I’m in the same box of “dinosaur” as I remember all too well the high presentation standards achieved in the key West End flagships and being horrified to find multiplexes with bare screens and no moveable masking—and I certainly would expect tabs at the Odeon Leicester Square of all venues! I am willing to accept an absence of moveable masking if fully straight edges and good black levels in the disused areas can be achieved, albeit it would still be preferable.
Put another way, if it were up to me, ALL auditoria would have moveable masking and tabs, as well as seamless sequencing of lighting, non-sync music, and all the rest… I have been very critical on here of presentations that end with a “pop” and a flash on the screen, and non-sync music suddenly cutting in 30 seconds later—even if I’m the only one left in the auditorium by then!
FanaticalAboutOdeon: Thank you for your very interesting reply—that does explain why the “Home Cinema Choice” article says that Odeon still “owns” the safety curtain.
Tube lines aren’t shown directly under the cinema in Google Maps—is part of Leicester Square station under there? IIRC, the cinema used to get its water supply from the ground underneath?
I am, of course, in full agreement with yourself and Terry about curtains—would be a terrible shame and a puzzling omission.
However, it doesn’t look to me as though AMC are “imposing” a carbon copy of their North American operations on the UK & Ireland, with the Odeon brand being retained and nurtured.
I might have guessed that AMC would do something like this and an old maxim which includes the words ‘ship’ and ‘tar’ comes to mind…..
Quite, but would AMC really “veto” proposals for tabs coming over from their Odeon colleagues?
joeswin: Thanks for the link to the Home Cinema Choice article.
Apparently, 70mm projection is being retained, and the flying ladies will be reinstated, the article saying they are being restored, one with a broken toe.
I’m slightly confused by the article’s statement that line arrays are “uncommon” in cinemas. Various companies market line array products for cinema applications, including Dolby SLS, as IIRC specified for this refurbishment.
If they are using line arrays to reinforce the screen speakers on a delay, then that would certainly be unusual.
Regarding the photos, multiple publications feature some of the same photos, of which several are also included in an official press release:
Iconic ODEON Leicester Square Undergoes Significant Transformation to Become the UK’s First Dolby Cinema.
Do you have a link to the photos to which you refer on Twitter, please, as I can’t find them?!
joeswin: Hadn’t even noticed that when booking, interesting pricing strategy.
This means that ticket prices in the main auditorium on opening day are, in some cases, significantly less than the former Studios/Mezzanine auditoria?
Since the opening day titles are standard DCPs rather than Dolby Cinema releases, perhaps the cost will be increased for those releases—presumably, also a surcharge for 3D?
For the “Luxe Recliner” option, the £10.75 seats are in the rear stalls to the sides—mostly under the balcony (last 3 rows.)
For the “Luxe Classic” option, £10.75 applies to ALL of the circle except for the front “Royal Circle” recliner rows.
However, there are three different “Luxe Classic” options/sections shown in the circle, all priced at £10.75, which points to pricing being increased for the better locations, at least.
With an evening adult non-2D “Luxe Classic” seat currently being £18.25 in the former “Studios” auditoria, I can’t see these prices being held down—but maybe Odeon’s thinking is that it’s the only way to fill all parts of the main auditorium?
terry: That’s what I referenced. Perhaps the the old safety curtain design being shown is aimed at presenting the retention of heritage aspects; as no pleating is shown in the render, it isn’t clear as you say whether it’s meant to be tabs or the screen itself.
I expect the old safety curtain was disposed of, as IIRC it contained asbestos (and should I remember incorrectly, it’s highly likely that it did.)
Terry—Yes, the tabs look to be the same as those from the 1992 rebuild; no idea if they’ve been replaced since then. Particularly 5/7 also have other “traditional” theatrical elements to their design, including splayed sidewalls and the “stepped” coving below and to the sides of their proscenia.
There appears to be relatively little latitude for radical changes to the Vue West End, with auditoria being surrounded by fire exits and services/plant rooms. My previous trawls through Westminster Council’s planning records revealed that Screens 8/9 were actually a “later” addition with a further planning application to the original, being essentially a roof extension—and it’s pretty clear from aerial images that the roof adjacent to auditorium 8, at the rear of the building, slopes down to avoid overshadowing the Church of Notre Dame—the circular building next door.
Screens 5/7 could perhaps have had new floating screens just ahead of their proscenia—albeit I’d estimate that would make them ~20% wider and a bit closer to the audience in exchange for losing the “unique” features that those screens have over typical multiplex auditoria.
I am aware, however, of no exceptions to the ‘no tabs’ policy by AMC, Odeon’s parent company. Should they happen to diversify from their stringently enforced doctrine at OLS, I shall be amazed – albeit most pleasantly……….
Tabs are shown in the publically released rendered views of the refurbished auditorium.