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Plans for the conversion are to be found within a Licensing Application to Westminster Council
Looks like it’s possible that some of the tiled walls on the left side wall could be hidden away…
Rumour posted on a forum which states that the OLS is likely to be converted into two screens.
Photos of the 1928 Empire Leicester Square…
I prefer the 1962 interior but no doubt it was very ostentatious.
rasLXR, I completely agree with you as Empire 1 was one of the greatest cinemas ever built, but I also accept that Empire 1 was no longer viable and that the outcome could have been far worse.
Videos of the new auditorium (not mine!):
Behind screen/screen installation photos
Looking at the photos of the IMAX auditorium and comparing to Empire 1, it seems to me that the false walls/ceiling in the circle section were mostly not gutted out but retrofitted with acoustic material/black fabric covering. This wasn’t clear from the renderings Empire posted, in which they looked slightly different. The seating area there is slightly narrower, and an extra row has been added at the back.
The renderings bear the logo of UNICK Architects, who I assume were involved in this project.
Incidentally, according to my ticket, the Empire has regained a Screen 3—the IMAX screen.
rasLXR, many thanks for the replies! I assume that, for example, like THX certified screens, IMAX has standards for auditorium noise levels—I certainly couldn’t hear any HVAC noise or any sound leakage from the adjacent IMPACT auditorium (keeping in mind the screens are “back to back.”)
While the Leicester Square THX certified screens had excellent sound, I’ve been to some (e.g. the Hoyts Cinema at Bluewater, before it became a Showcase) that were unimpressive. No way of knowing if they were operating to spec on the day of visit though; I imagine that IMAX auditoria benefit immensely from the daily calibration/quality control of picture/sound. In the UK I’ve only visited the BFI IMAX and the PEPSI IMAX, and with all the “Lie-MAX” potshots out there, it would certainly be good to hear that the other new IMAX installations are of the same standard.
Photos of the IMAX Auditorium:
Green white? lighting; better capture of ceiling detail
Red lighting — opposite side wall
These were the best I could do with staff milling about. I also have photos showing green and blue lights, but of very poor quality.
Having visited the IMAX auditorium today to see “Edge of Tomorrow,” I can say that the Empire Leicester Square is back as the premier cinema in the West End!
It’s all there—the auditorium feels cavernous in height/width, colour-changing concealed lighting (which has now been added at the back of each row of seats), super air conditioning, and a sense of occasion and being transported out of the outside world.
I’ve not been to an IMAX digital screening previously, but the Empire’s installation seems to be top-notch.
The DLP projection is very good for what it is; it is well aligned and there was no barrel or “smiley face” distortion which plagues some screens. 3D images are however too dark, and the pixels clearly visible, particularly on text. The picture does not quite fill the screen yet, which is presumably sized for the coming laser projection; although there is no moving screen masking there is relatively little light leakage (although within the projected area black levels were a bit on the high side) and with the image darkened by 3D glasses it is hardly missed. The main feature was “letterboxed” although some of the adverts were not.
Presumably thanks to IMAX’s DMR process, the picture was exceptionally consistent from scene to scene in terms of colour, detail and a complete lack of grain/picture noise.
I can’t be sure, but the new concrete floor screed in front of the screen, which I saw during my brief visit a few weeks ago, didn’t yet seem to be covered.
The sound is also as you’d expect from the Empire, being very well tuned, excellent stereo imaging, effortlessly wide dynamic range and “tactile” sub-bass. I almost feel that ATMOS is unnecessary as IMAX’s two rear speakers do a very good job of front-back surround stereo imaging.(IMAX are working on a 9-channel system)
The interior fittings (quality wall coverings, seats, etc.) are mostly identical to the IMPACT auditorium, but the ceiling is also covered with what looks like fabric, presumably concealing acoustic treatment. The acoustics are very good, perhaps not quite dry but the terrible “slap echo” of Empire 1 has been tamed. Only subtle behind seating lighting in the apparently disused side seats (according to the booking page on Empire’s site) are on during the main feature. Unlike the IMPACT auditorium, my seat, although very comfortable, did not recline although I did not find this to be a problem in relation to viewing the screen.
Obviously, there are no tabs/curtains.
In my view, unlike the IMPACT auditorium, they really have got it right—accepting that it’s a automated digital cinema—this really is a flagship “West End” cinema with the attention to detail you’d expect!
The premier screens at the VUE (or rather Warner) West End were multiplex cinema interiors of the time (e.g. “SoundFold” pleated wall coverings), yet were still well designed auditoriums with extra finishing touches (proscenium, attractive curtains, etc.), not to mention the excellent acoustics and air conditioning.
Unfortunately the Empire IMPACT auditorium feels like it’s been jammed into remaining space (front stalls/screen) of Screen 1 and the screen is effectively framed by the sidewalls which is distracting, albeit it still retains some sense of spaciousness due to the high ceiling.
Given the extensiveness of the rebuild, it’s perplexing that it should miss the mark for the sake of a few relatively minor details. It’s a still a good place to see a film but given the ticket prices one should expect no compromise. :–(
Still, I am looking forward to the opening of the IMAX auditorium in a few days.
The exterior of the VUE West End is a disgrace; in the Warner days (post 90s rebuild) it was an attractive and welcoming beacon with modern elements woven into the original façade.
A few days ago I entered the ground floor foyer and could not see any obvious way to interact with staff selling tickets (maybe they sell them at the concession stand like Empire Cinemas?) nor was there any information on showtimes other than by using the electronic ticketing machines.
On a recent trip to Croydon, I had a quick look inside the Grant’s Entertainment Centre. The main lobby for the VUE situated within is on the top floor, but there are ticket offices on the floor below. These were also closed, with not even a sign to say where tickets could be purchased from; at least the showtimes were posted on the wall. (I have otherwise never visited that cinema and certainly the lobby on the top floor was busy with people queuing for the concession stands.)
I have not seen any screenings at the VUE West End in a couple of years but last time (Screen 7) the picture and sound was still very good, though the seats needed to be reupholstered or replaced and IIRC one of the ceiling tiles at the back was pushed up slightly for wiring! I imagine it has further deteriorated since then?
That’s interesting. Do you know why the screen the last thing to be installed?
I also managed to sneak a peek into the IMAX auditorium from the main foyer, although did not enter this time. (Carpet was being installed—black with red speckles—so a door was left open for this.) It does not look like the screen as yet been installed.
The foyer doors to the screen now have what looks like “padded leather” attached to the front of them, to add a touch of luxury—but this means there is no window.
There are two large and very fancy looking (backlit?) IMAX signs placed in the foyer, one to the left hand side of the seating area.
I saw “Pompeii” at the IMPACT screen today. In case anyone is interested, here’s my notes:
-As expected, access to the IMPACT auditorium is gained by turning right at the top of the vestibule stairs and then left. This leads to a narrow corridor which goes diagonally across the “kink” in the wall and then straight on leading to a door on the left to the auditorium for the stadium seating. The balcony entrance is further up the corridor.
-The door opens into the front left of the cinema, and you can see the edge of the screen frame, which is not flush with the wall.
-The interior features are as follows:
–Rectangular shaped auditorium with straight side walls. The side walls are mostly covered with stretched black fabric, black carpet towards the floor. The ceiling is a drop-in tile suspended type, flat in the rear of the auditorium, and rises diagonally up towards the top of the screen in the front.
-Black leather upholstered seats with generous padding. (Memory foam—seems to conform as it heats up?) They do recline back slightly and are quite comfortable, but in my view, aren’t as good as Empire 1’s American Seating Company red upholstered chairs.
-Red LED concealed lighting at the back of each row of seats, i.e. near the riser up to the next row. Unfortunately, these were left on for the entire duration of the main feature! (The ceiling lights were dimmed to completely off.)
-Aside from the aisles (red carpet), each the floor of each row has wooden stripped flooring, with the seat number marked on the floor in square cutouts. These appear to be stuck on; some were already starting to peel off!
-The balcony starts above the last three rows of the stadium seating.
-All of which are to say that the auditorium is effectively a black box and doesn’t look much different to the Basildon screen shown in Basildon screen (without the sidewall light fixtures.)
-The screen is large in relation to the auditorium size, and I would guess is about as wide as Empire 1’s screen. I think it has the “new” IMAX 1:9:1 ratio, and therefore “scope” films are “letterboxed.”
-Not only does the screen lack curtains, but also lacks masking. It is only slightly curved and protrudes out from the front wall; on entering the auditorium, you can see the edge of the frame and the screen material wrapped over onto the back.
-The front set of ceiling downlights are too near the screen, causing problems during trailers/adverts before the main feature.
-The picture had very poor brightness consistency from the centre out to the edges, looked too much like video projection, and had some barrel distortion.
-The sound quality was good, but didn’t seem to be played at reference level, and the sub-bass wasn’t of the same standard as Empire 1. I could feel the floor and seat shake, so it’s possible the stadium seating steps/risers are not solid and as a whole it act as a “bass trap.”
-The shallow depth of the auditorium compared to Empire 1 does affect the surround sound in the sense that it is more “small scale.”
-On the main stadium seating level the rear speakers are JBL, as follows:
-10xJBL SCS series (not sure which model) – 8 mounted on the rear wall, 2 mounted at the very back of the the side walls. I assume these are used for ATMOS.
-10xJBL 9320 on the rear wall. -Not sure if there are side wall speakers hidden behind the black fabric on the walls, but it would be puzzling if not as they are required for ATMOS.
-I counted 10 ceiling speakers; these are covered with black fabric "grilles", but unlike Empire 1, do not protrude from the ceiling. I assume these are also JBL SCS series, as they are square shaped.
-As d8rren found, it was difficult to take photos; ushers were standing by the entrance door at the front left of the auditorium, and there was a “suit” sitting at the back until the main feature. Or rather I should say flash photography was out of the question; I did take a few photos with my smartphone, and the results were dark and blurry.
-I overheard one of the staff members say “better put the music on” and dashed up to the booth to do so! It’s definitely early days.
-Before the main feature, a member of staff spoke using a microphone to welcome us to the new screen, and to say that we should give them feedback afterwards. Which I did, and I’m pleased to say that they made a note of my comments.
All in all not up to what I’d expect from a top West End cinema. It is very early days and no doubt audiovisual problems can be ironed out; the lack of masking is the most serious issue.
However, the lack of “framing” around the screen, I felt, destroyed the “window into another world” experience. I understand that a “real” IMAX screen is immersive because it fills up so much of the field of vision; but I do not think that this IMPACT screen does. In my opinion, such a “stripped down” auditorium design, which throws out all so many traditional elements of good theatre/cinema design, only serves to demonstrate those elements were the standard.
The IMPACT screen opened yesterday (16th May) and is playing “Pompeii”.
The Auditorium Information page confirms Dolby Atmos as a feature, and also the following:
277 Luxury Stadium Style Seats.
99 Luxury Balcony Seats (Over 18’s ONLY).
22 Bean Bags” (Ugh!—and since when did Bean Bags count as seats?!)
Looking at the seat booking page, the auditorium has equal numbers of seats on each row so presumably is rectangular in shape, and there are only 3 rows of “balcony” seats. (10 rows of “stadium” seats.) There appears to be a complete lack of centre aisles!
A new IMAX sign has been installed on the marquee, replacing the “CINEMA” sign. (Shows how strong the IMAX brand is!) There was an application for a high level sign but it has been rejected. I have uploaded photos.
I have also uploaded a photo which may show the back wall of the IMPACT auditorium and (on close inspection) possibly under a raked floor for (stadium) seating.
(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos; they were taken with an old smartphone, and I don’t have Photoshop installed on this laptop!)
Sorry, I get it now—stadium seating in the front stalls. Would appear to be a good idea and would also enable the ceiling speakers required for Dolby ATMOS to be installed.
It will also be interesting to see if VUE West End screens 5 and/or 7 are revamped; they used to be well specified (THX certified, SDDS in screen 7, etc.) Considering it ought to be the flagship, it seems to have been ignored in recent years.
Extending the circle forward would obviate some of the problems with the OLS, but how would it be commercially justified? Presumably the stalls would have to be repurposed. Remodelling into one or more auditoria would be restricted by the ceiling height of the rear stalls (uncomfortably low), and I can think of other problems (support structures for the extended circle, routing of HVAC/services, etc.) In other words, more ‘shoebox’ sized cinemas!
Four-in-one-cinema – Design Journal (1969) article published at the time of its opening as a Cinecenta; it includes a number of photos and a plan. Quite a compromised (asymmetric auditoria) design for a new build.
I have now (briefly) seen the new IMAX auditorium.
The fit out is at a very advanced stage with seating installed; the screen frame and the IMAX screen speakers are installed. The screen itself has not yet been installed and I could see some (new looking) concrete on the floor area in front of the screen/dividing wall, not yet carpeted.
The reason for the delay is to meet building regulations; steel plates had to be fitted to hold up the 9 ton weight.
The IMAX auditorium, though not as massive as the old Empire 1, still feels very spacious and luxurious. The screen itself will be vast. It is certainly an expensively and properly done project.
However, on balance, it feels like (and, of course, literally is) a new cinema fitted into the space which takes some cues from the George Coles design; it does feel like little is left of the old Empire 1. That said, the multi-coloured concealed lighting has been installed but wasn’t on, and maybe that will make the difference.
I did not see the IMPACT auditorium but it will definitely feature Dolby ATMOS. Apparently, it is ‘back to back’ with the IMAX auditorium, so the projection will be from the end where the old Empire 1 screen was.
The IMAX auditorium will open on the 30th May. Can’t wait!
The planning permission news has again triggered a spate of articles where the headline declares that the “Leicester Square Odeon” will be demolished to make way for a hotel!
Robocop isn’t shown as bookable on the Empire Cinema website, either… IMAX had a picture of the projector packed up for shipping a month ago on their Facebook page, so the redevelopment must be at an advanced stage. I can only imagine Empire Cinemas are “embargo’d” from releasing information until the formal press release; the lack of engagement, in view of the interest shown by the many admirers of the cinema on their Facebook page, is perplexing. Surely, there’s some “insider” information or photos posted by someone?
Still scant information and no updates on the ‘IMPACT’ screen though…!
Empire Cinemas haven’t released any information on the ‘IMPACT’ screen, other than its seat count and confirming that Dolby Atmos will be installed. This is a pretty good indication of a high-end installation, as Dolby Atmos uptake has been very limited in the UK, with only a few screens equipped. Also, all of the other screens in the Empire have, IIRC, JBL screen speaker systems; however, without THX certification, the baffle wall will be no more.
As for masking, Empire 1 had a 60ft. screen and had the ‘IMPACT’ brand back existed at that time (2006 upgrade,) they may as well have branded Empire 1 an ‘IMPACT’ screen.
Considering that Empire 1 was host to many premieres, and the development of Leicester Square as an attractive location with the right infrastructure for them, presumably the IMAX auditorium now will be used to host most UK IMAX premieres.
The question is whether the ‘IMPACT’ screen will be used for non-IMAX or smaller premieres, or if these will go to the Odeon LS or (for the time being) the Odeon West End? In any case it seems set to be a venue for major events including the ‘FrightFest’ festival and therefore ought to be run as a premiere screen capable of handling all aspect ratios in the proper manor.
I’d hope that there’s more chance of full masking and tabs in the ‘IMPACT’ screen at the Empire LS than the average local cinema!