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FanaticalAboutOdeon—I completely understand what you’re saying and why it’s not for you.
A little confused that you should end up with headache at the Empire IMAX and not elsewhere? The auditorium depth is about the same as the BFI IMAX…
FanaticalAboutOdeon—I still clearly remember my first visit to Screen 1—and, like you, loved it ever since.
Sadly, we all know that it was no longer commercially viable and (the IMAX screen) is a very good conversion, resulting in what is still a large and comfortable auditorium (about 90ft.x130ft.) and now equipped with perhaps the best projection available today.
It is still very much run as a flagship venue—helpful and friendly staff, glitzy foyer areas, premieres, etc. Of course it’s not the same and I wish the conversion hadn’t happened, but I still find what it has to offer is far above average.
I can understand if one finds the massive IMAX screen to be altogether too overwhelming—I felt weak to my knees after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”!
Finally, I have found pictures of the 1987 house curtains and splay wall neon feature:
House curtains and neon splay wall feature
Neon splay wall feature
The cove lighting can also be seen.
Details and photos of the 2014 Screen 1 Refurbishment.
A few hidden features from the past are revealed.
And on this page, a photo of the refurbished Screen 1. Looks very nice.
Screen 1 conversion details
Including a photo of the IMPACT auditorium under construction.
The challenges posed by the conversion project are discussed in some further detail than the Cinema Technology Magazine article; to summarise:
The dividing wall is 15x40m and weighs 50 tons (a different figure?)
As Cinema Technology Magazine noted, the dividing wall had to isolated from the floor and is hung from the roof; additional considerations were that Empire had no access under the auditorium floor and it was incapable of carrying the dividing wall’s load. The difficulties in doing so are briefly mentioned (e.g. monitoring roof structure deflections as building work progressed.)
Building of the IMPACT auditorium also had constraints on floor loading and lack of access. The balcony is supported by a 17m long main girder, visible in the second photo on that page.
Article on the basement construction of the second auditorium
Lots of demolition photos at the Arthur Lloyd site, including the auditorium block.
Photo of demolition.
Another photo of demolition.
All that Glitters: A Memorial to Ottawa’s Capitol Theatre and its Predecessors
Including construction photos, plans, historical background on the development of the “Movie Palace” and on the design practices of architects, particularly Thomas W. Lamb.
Construction photos and plans in this section.
Under construction (incl. balcony structure) and early interior photos; videos of the ‘Dutchess’ being played, opening day ‘plaque’ reveal, lowering of the safety curtain, and building work; interviews.
Perhaps someone could identify the individuals featured?
Video of demolition.
Photo of the current site state uploaded.
December 2015 newsletter posted on the hoarding says that the entire site has now been cleared and pre-piling works are complete.
Basement cinemas or not, the sooner this gaping hole in Leicester Square is plugged the better! With the adjacent 48 Leicester Square rebuild (facade retained) well progressed, the South West corner of the square is presently one big building site.
I spent a pleasant hour or so in the main bar, a comfortable and airy place to seek refuge from the chaos outside—at least earlier in the day!
The interior is a mish-mash; worst of all are the exposed ceilings/services, and bare brick walls—no objection to this, if it’s done right—not when it (particularly in the bar area) reveals the scars left by years of alterations. (The Trocadero is, after all, a labyrinth block of various buildings knocked together.)
Then there’s the “art” (to be charitable) by the entrance staircase…
Nit-picking aside, though, I concur with SethLewis—a very, very nice pre/post-film hangout.
Some key points:
Screen 1/Screen 2 are renamed Screen 2/Screen 1.
Screen 1 is fitted with a Dolby Atmos system.
2 largest screens are equipped with 4K projection.
4 screens support RealD 3D.
35mm/70mm capability in Screen 1 (formerly Screen 2), 35mm in Screen 7.
All auditoria retained but completely re-fitted, including increased floor rake in Screen 1 and increased screen sizes in 1 and 2.
Photos – inc. Screen 1
I have now paid a visit to the Empire LS to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
A few comments on the “IMAX with Laser” system.
As promised, it is capable of resolving excellent levels of details, freedom from pixellation (end credits, for example), and the colour rendition is outstanding—light sabres, for instance, look very “fluorescent” and “neon-like.”
Black levels are good, though not zero level as IMAX implies.
The caveat is that it feels very much like a “1st generation” system—if not quite out of the prototype stage. It must be stressed that most of these are minor issues, but they are enough to be distracting and signal to the brain “this is not a window onto a fictional reality… it is digital projection.”
There appear to be some minor digital image processing artefacts. Furthermore, a slight dithering was visible, manifesting as very fine grain; and I am not sure if the laser speckling issue has been completely resolved.
The “IMAX with Laser” system uses Dolby 3D (!) glasses (due to patent issues.) Before the main feature, sometimes only one projector was in use and putting on the glasses revealed as such as the image appeared to be visible in only one eye. Unfortunately, closing that eye revealed a surprising level of crosstalk in the other eye.
With the 3D glasses on, at times the extremities of the screen exhibited noticeable colour shift with a distinct purple (IIRC) tint; and the image brightness was insufficient.
In a brief discussion with a member of staff after the film, he expressed the view that the glasses aren’t big enough, and this needs to be fixed. Thus, this lends weight to my contention that the system is still a work in progress.
The laser projection system is punishing in revealing the limitations of the source material—and “Star Trek: The Force Awakens” was largely shot on 35mm.
(I did not like the movie.)
“IMAX with Laser” is, in my view, almost there and if/when niggling points are ironed out it will be excellent. I reiterate that I am being ultra-picky (in view of the grandoise promises made by IMAX)—as it stands this is a spectacular moviegoing experience.
Finally, as the full screen width is now filled, not only is the image even more immersive—but a surprising benefit is, when seated in the middle of the auditorium, the design of the IMAX conversion of Screen 1 looks better proportioned and harmonious.
They were in use during my last visit (Screen 7, 2010) and the overall standard of presentation was good. However, the seats were in desperate need of an overhaul.
It seems the presentation standard is now failing to meet the standards one would expect of a (previously) flagship West End venue, with prices to match. I will not return until I hear anything to the contrary.
Do the curtains still work?
An article on the IMAX with Laser install; some technical information.
Article with photos.
In particular, this one of the auditorium.
The additional new IMAX speakers can be seen, and the seats are bear the marque “Pepsi MAX – IMAX.” (Sigh.)
Also, the new laser projectors are visible.
And What Hi-Fi also has a write up with photos and positive comments on the picture quality.
IMAX Laser projector has been installed, the second in the UK.
Piet_Morant: The sound system you refer to was the THX-certified one from 1989 with the main stage speakers being JBL 4675, and by the mid-1990s, support for all 35mm digital sound formats.
I, too, recall the sound was first rate (excepting the acoustic problems of Screen 1.)
(I also visited the Empire for “Forrest Gump”—but not “Speed,” for which I visited the Odeon West End…)
By the end of UCI’s operation, the THX certification had been dropped and the screen speakers changed to Martin Audio, which did not seem to be an improvement.
In the mid-2000s, Empire Cinemas completely replaced the sound system in Screen 1 with JBL ScreenArrays and no less than 16x JBL 4645C subwoofers.
An incredible system, but it didn’t seem to be as well tuned as the original THX installation (too much HF.) Dolby Atmos was more recently added. The system was moved to the IMPACT screen (with upgraded surrounds and no THX certification.) Alas, on my trip, the performance was not in the league of the Screen 1 install—perhaps it’s been better tuned since then.
The sound installation in the IMAX screen is also excellent and the acoustics much improved over Screen 1.
After a busy few months, I finally have a chance to see Star Wars with the new laser projector system and additional overhead/side IMAX speakers. Report to follow…
Empire Cinemas is advertising the installation of the ‘IMAX with Laser’ projection system at the Empire Leicester Square, the first in Europe.
According to this article, it will be installed by ‘the end of summer.’
The Picturehouse/Cineworld (née MGM) was perhaps first though built within the shell of the Trocadero. No idea how much reconfiguration was involved though the old Pepsi IMAX was a good example of what could be achieved within its cavernous space!
SethLewis—“Vue West End was a couple of years before its time”—not quite sure what you mean by this? Thank you.
Cjbx11—I agree with you that there are too many small screens, and I suspect this is likely to be off-putting to potential repeat customers.
The small screens at the Empire are perhaps better than might be expected—bigger screens than you’d think, and decent sound. Also, back in the 90’s, the smaller screens (i.e. other than 5 and 7) at the Warner were certainly better than the average multiplex—the ones in the basement are a bit compromised (off-centre screens and too much sound leakage) but the rest were exemplars of the time and good presentation throughout.
On the other hand, the Odeon Mezzanine screens—haven’t visited since the refurbishment/rebrand to Studios—were just too small.
The Empire’s IMAX auditorium does offer something that no local multiplex offers—the widest screen in the UK—and, soon, IMAX’s laser projection system.
I think it’s difficult to reconfigure the VUE; as it was a total rebuild on the site of the 1930’s cinema, the footprint is already well utilized—i.e. there isn’t void space to use! So much so that, looking through the Westminster Planning Applications archives, the original proposal was for a 7 screen multiplex—and it seems that only later were two extra screens added at roof level. Still, that doesn’t excuse the seemingly poor upkeep… a “lick of paint” wouldn’t go amiss.
So, hopefully the Empire remodelling, and the Picturehouse, are votes of confidence into the future—still awaiting the OLS refurbishment…
FanaticalAboutOdeon—Based on photos, I too would probably have considered the original interior to be somewhat over-bearing. However, the abruptness of the transition to the “flat” wall section, having seen photos of the original, doesn’t quite look right; still, the auditorium is very attractive and has become the OLS interior that we all know and love.
For me, the recreated “golden ladies”—aside from (my apologies to those who very much like them) that sort of feature not being to my taste—look rather “tacked on” and I would prefer something to better match the “streamlined” part of the auditorium. I suspect they are considered the “jewel in the crown” of the 1998 refurbishment, though, so without drastic changes to the OLS one may not expect to see them replaced!
I cannot remember the colour-changing lights in the circle lounge—come to think of it, nor can I recollect what the foyer and circle lounge looked like prior to the 1998 refurbishment—albeit nothing like photos I have seen of the original interiors. Whilst, as you say, the circle foyer lighting makes for an attractive feature from the (now other side!) of the square, the replacement metal signs did not seem to me to be a step up from the previous neon scheme.
The recently installed LED displays, though, are a most useful feature during premiere events.
Thank you for your updates on the proposed refurbishment, I await any further news with bated breath!
FanaticalAboutOdeon — Thank you once again for the fascinating info! Strange that the splay walls went through several changes over the years—only for the “flying ladies” to be returned; I shall have to seek out photos.
I, too, find the fibre optic scheme to be “muted”—but it does look OK, as you say, from the front stalls.
On the topic of the shelved refurbishment planned for this year, I just ran a search on Westminster Council’s Building Control Records, and there is an application from February 2015 for a “Refurbishment of Cinema” proposed to start in March 2015. However, the application status is “Withdrawn.” I assume no further news is forthcoming on this?