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FanaticalAboutOdeon: Of course any screen with gain is directional… despite the previously linked material, I have found the picture at the OLS in the front stalls to be excellent, and from that position, the 48ft. wide screen and excellent sound system make for a quality and “high impact” experience!
The large LED displays are particularly effective for premiere events where they can be used to show live video, and are a wonderful addition to the facade. (The planning permission only allows for static images outside of special events.)
Very frustrating indeed then that sorting out the auditorium lighting would be rather less costly!
Is it the case that people “don’t notice”…? (Albeit I’m always amazed by people’s lack of awareness of their surrounding environment.) With more obvious features perhaps they do notice when it’s there… but don’t notice that it’s absent?
Example: If my “usual” cinema were the local multiplex, and I turned up to the OLS with beautifully lit tabs, then surely I’d notice it as a special feature—but I’d not notice the absence of tabs—since I wasn’t expecting them anyway?
On the subject of the Royal Circle restepping/reseating, further details on this would be most appreciated… Were the new steps simply built “on top” of the old steps?
FanaticalAboutOdeon: The “new” Warner West End had a good standard of presentation, including as you say the “gold” tabs, and I had many enjoyable trips there. I’m not sure the others of that generation were of the same standard—the one at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock, for instance, was unimpressive. (Can’t remember if the tabs were in use?)
By the late 1990s, new (by then Warner Village) builds were of the “box” design with wall-to-wall screens and stadium seating (and, for some reason, inferior KCS speakers instead of JBL.) If I remember correctly, tabs had been dispensed with.
A real shame Odeon have stopped installing tabs—it hardly does Odeon’s proud design heritage justice! The streamline moderne Odeons are to my mind the canonical example of “what a cinema should look like.”
Ian: Interesting, I can’t say I remember it not filling almost the full width. Wonder if they’ve changed projectors? Perhaps the screen was intended for a future projection upgrade which has been shelved? (Ideal to upgrade to Dolby Vision with Christie 6P laser projection as it already is equipped for Atmos… but the politics around that must be delicate to say the least!)
Of course the problem is the screen “floats” off the wall… and you can clearly see that when entering from the sidedoor. (Visible in your photo “IMPACT SCREEN TO REAR.”)
FanaticalAboutOdeon—Picturehouse Central-and other venues—really show how there is very much a niche market for cinemas featuring “theatrical” trappings—but perhaps not for the “multiplex hoards”!
Would be nice if the Empire Leicester Square fitted tabs—and the Chinese reinstated them for their IMAX screen—but I doubt there is sufficient space. Vertically, from what I can tell, the screen is jammed right up against the rafters. Horizontally, the top of its sides are up against boxed out sections which I assume hide parts of the roof structure.
I do think the IMPACT screen could use losing a few rows, reducing the screen size, and having some sort of proscenium feature with tabs etc.
I recall the first time I visited a cinema lacking tabs—it was an AMC in the US—and I was absolutely shocked. The (American) individuals with whom I attended remarked “Umm, curtains in a movie theatre?! Aren’t curtains, like, old and stuff?!” Certainly they had no clue about “real” cinemas—and that multiplex had all the charm of visiting a branch of KFC. :–(
Ian—I am rather younger than you so I’d prefer not to think of myself as a dinosaur just yet! In this context, my question is, “back in the day,” was the average cinema-goer enthused by cinema interiors and presentational aspects of screenings?
I find most people today are not in the least interested—if they can be bothered to go to the cinema at all.
(I’ll add that the friend I dragged along to the IMAX with Laser screening previously went with me to see “Lucy”—and as I noted before on this site, his jaw dropped to the floor on entering the auditorium and after the film said that he had “never seen or heard anything like it.” Of course he had never been to Empire 1. Anyway, that was an effort of mine to provide (at least something like) a “real” cinema experience to someone else! Also, it is fair to say that many who I’ve shown pictures to of “Empire 1” can hardly believe their eyes—but equally many roll their eyes, “I don’t see what’s so fantastic about this!”)
Cinema operators do seem to be trying to differentate the experience, although from what I can tell, this equates to large reclining seats and (sigh) table service!
Exited via the fire-escape ladder? LOL—sounds about right. :–(
FanaticalAboutOdeon—Ah yes, I see what you mean regarding signs for both “cinema” and “IMAX.” My guess is this ultimately boils down to Westminster Council—it would perhaps make more sense to have “CINEMA” on the marquee and a high level “IMAX” sign on the front? As it is IIRC permission for the high level IMAX sign (visible when approaching from the West) went to appeal.
Regarding the dilution of IMAX, that’s a difficult one. AFAIK, the company’s finanical situation was, shall we say, not too good as long as they were in the “institutional” market. So, expand with “Hollywood” product… blow-up to 15/70 using their “DMR” process. And then, of course, they needed more venues.
The other problem, of course, is the demise of film as a distribution medium, and the development of increasingly better digital projection.
So, is IMAX Digital on a 60' wide 1.9:1 screen the same as a 15/70 in an “institutional” purpose-built venue? Perhaps not, although “immersiveness” is to an extent a function of auditorium size (or rather depth)—but is it bad? The IMAX Digital projection system is very good and they have their own patented technologies incorporated.
(By the way, I went with a friend for my first trip to the Empire to see the “IMAX with Laser” system—and I was surprised when it seemed they did not noticed the (blatant) difference between it and the previous “IMAX Digital” projection—let alone my laundry list of points!)
In the case of the Empire LS, given that few releases are 1.4:1 anyway, in all technical respects the answer is yes—as the “IMAX with Laser” projection system is the replacement for 15/70 projection in “classic” venues, and the screen width and auditorium depth are all well in line with “classic” IMAX cinemas.
IMAX seem to be sustaining what they’re doing at the moment, with massive expansion in China. There is a real threat from Dolby’s “Dolby Vision” system and more generally that 4K laser projection capable of filling “giant” screens is not exclusive to IMAX (which, again, ties in with the long term prospects for 15/70 as a distribution medium.)
Either way, as long as there are cinemas, IMAX or not, giant screens are here to stay.
In agreement with you on “tiles” and “monotony.” The difficulty is, if we accept the conversion of Empire 1 as a given, then what to do? Basically, I’m looking at it from the perspective of “could I have come up with a better proposal?” On reflection, maybe—perhaps modern acoustic tiles could meet the requirements whilst better retaining the original look.
(As for other theatrical aspects, keep in mind that I complained to GM Stephen Bush about the LED sequencing, after attending a screening on opening day!)
Of course the 1962 auditorium was a great place to watch films, one that I prefered over any other venue. Also, for a long time it had a reputation for its excellent sound system; but there’s no question that the slap/flutter echo was a problem—at times it made for poor dialogue intelligibility. (And why, going back to for instance THX standards, control of reverberation time in auditoria has been a requirement—all the more puzzling how Empire 1 was ever certified, even if the sound was first rate in all other respects.)
(Granted, if Empire 1 were kept, taming it may not have necessitated removing all of the tiles—perhaps just the addition of some absorption. The front of the projection booth would have been one obvious starting point. Having said that, it’s not fully tamed in the IMAX auditorium—but much improved.)
Hopefully this post hasn’t bored everyone to tears!
That being said, that reminds me—here are some links to photos (and accompanying notes) of some restoration work to the Empire’s frontage, carried out in 2007:
The facade is hideous and as I have said before on these pages, whilst I respect the classically informed work of Thomas Lamb, it certainly isn’t to my taste and the facade is the last (visibly) remaining section. The mismatched balcony only serves to make it worse. Better off covering it up again!
That said, the balcony is, as far as I’m aware, only used by the casino as an outdoor section of a bar—so I’m not sure how much of a “copy” of the OLS' balcony it is?
There are many questionable aspects of IMAX’s marketing, but the proof is in the pudding—they do have their own (often patented) technologies and in-house R&D. One has to consider that the IMAX signs alone are effectively worth a substantial sum in terms of advertising—given Westminster Council’s strong presumption of “no adverts.”
IMAX only ever have one auditorium within a multi-screen cinema.
On the subject of “clinicial and soulness”—I’ve often wondered, in a broader and general sense, whether this comes down to the use of old materials/products. For instance, the plaster tiles in Empire 1 were “unique” in the sense that one presumably not find them anywhere else today, but were surely a factory-made product. Stretch fabric wall coverings over acoustic absorption are not “unique”—but certainly technically superior. (Of course, cold cathode lights are “warm” whilst LEDs aren’t—but that’s another story.)
Ian: Thank you for posting links to those nice photos.
I think this is the “paper” on the OLS projection/screen I referred to in my last post-—really a collection of a few E-mails rather than a paper.
(I probably should post to a different forum… but just in case someone is interested!)
The most relevant part is on the bottom half of page 6—essentially the picture is brighter in the circle than the stalls.
“The Hateful Eight” Ultra Panavision presentation required the manufacture of new custom lenses, which can be seen on this page.
I, too, have noticed the “curved credits” issue, but on digital presentations; fine at the top but quite severe at the bottom of the screen—and by “severe” I mean it almost looks like a “smile.”
In one case the two projectors were also misaligned (“Star Trek into Darkness” at the Empire LS) towards the bottom, so when wearing 3D glasses, in addition to the “smile” distortion, two sets of letters could be seen!
As I’ve mentioned, the Empire LS IMPACT screen was even worse on my visit (2D), with barrel distortion—“goldfish bowl”-like distortion. (A major reason why I have not returned.) On the other hand, the Empire LS IMAX appears to be perfect.
There is an article somewhere on the technical problems of the projection rake at the OLS; if I find it I will post a follow-up link.
I usually sit in the front stalls at the OLS—the rear circle is too far away from the screen, and also to get a good stereo spread/imaging from the stage speakers.
Another issue in old/large auditoria, is that the front stereo image is ruined by excessive reflections from the sidewalls. Interestingly, in the video I linked to a few posts ago, it is said that the idea of the “ribbed” walls of the OLS was to diffuse and break up reflections. Just how successful that is/was may be questionable (too small?), but presumably better than nothing—and thus the 1960’s “Zing” treatment would appear to be further misguided. If I’m not mistake, the “flying ladies” restoration incorporates a large amount of absorption, hidden behind fabric.
Looks like paying out for the Royal Circle is in order for my next visit!
On the topic of Atmos and digital projection upgrades, the OLS has, to my knowledge, always been furnished with all the very best equipment and supported the latest formats; it is therefore most disappointing if Odeon are “disinclined” to proceed.
Some remarkable photos of the Empire auditorium block under construction in 1927…
This one in particular puts the Screen 1 conversion into context. As the IMAX screen is positioned slightly past the “kink” in the righthand wall, it can be seen how narrowly it avoids the roof structure, with the middle of the screen behind the truss, and the sides ahead of it.
It can be seen that the Coles-designed auditorium ceiling follow(s/ed) the shape of the roof, particularly the curved section adjacent to the booth.
The dome of the Lamb-designed auditorium under construction:
N.B. I am posting this is a matter of interest and to provide a record on this excellent site, rather than as a value judgement of any particular iteration of the Empire Leicester Square, although it goes without saying that the Coles-designed auditorium must stand as the canonical version.
FanaticalAboutOdeon—Thank you once again for the detailed information.
I’m afraid I’ve never liked the “blue” Odeon corporate theme nor the cut metal signs—bring back the red neon!
davepring—Just wondering whether a custom screen was used for the 2.76:1 presentation of “The Hateful Eight,” which would explain the lack of masking before the main feature?
I hope Odeon press on with the refurbishment. It now needs a technical upgrade, Dolby Cinema (i.e. Christie 6P laser projection and Dolby Atmos) would be ideal (albeit the auditorium may not be up to Dolby’s requirements?)
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.