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Just realised my previous post doesn’t say that the planning application was for a “Sports Cinema Venue.”
Plans for the project can be found on Sutton Council’s website, planning application no. B2017/77471.
Two IMPACT auditoriums are to be included, one an “IMPACT LUXE” (no. 3) and the other an “IMPACT BLUE” (no. 8) (whatever that means?) There will also be a D-BOX auditorium (no. 2.)
Seats to include recliner and sofa premium options, except D-BOX (all recliner?)
Preliminary details follow (pending survey following strip out, acoustic engineer’s report, etc.)
Seat counts: 90, 30, 167, 66, 36, 96, 60, 156, 60, 107 = 868 total, of which 147 are recliners, and 238 are sofas.
IMPACT LUXE – 13.95x7.54m. (~46x25ft.)
IMPACT BLUE – 13.16x7.12m.
D-BOX – 7.71x4.17m.
Comparing to the existing plans, existing auditoria 2 and 5 are being converted to IMPACT auditoria, with all other auditoria subdivided to form an additional screen each.
The “flyer” on Empire Cinema’s website says “IMPACT Powered by Dolby Atmos,” so I assume both IMPACT auditoria will be so equipped.
Drawings submitted for planning are by UNICK Architects.
theatreofvarieties: Thank you once again for your very informative posts.
That’s great to hear that Cineworld have a 60 year lease on it—I will be able to sleep easier at night knowing this!
My (clearly outdated) understanding was that the casino held the head lease, expiring 2030, with the cinema subleased.
L&R formally objected to windows being installed (as part of the hotel conversion) on the rear of 1-4 Leicester Sq. as it could compromise future development potential. However, permission was granted permission on appeal. (16/00408/TPCON.)
I wonder what you mean by “[Empire 1] had too many things wrong with it and needed too much money just to keep it in one piece”?
I guess the origin of the tiles shall forever have to remain a mystery! I would, however, be interested in the source of the sintered glass tiles that you said were applied to the existing in 2006?
I have some more arcane questions, if you would be kind enough to answer them.
-My third visit to the IMAX auditorium in 2014 was for a late night screening. I noticed that the room temperature was cycling between hot/cold, although this now seems to have been fixed. Empire 1 always had fantastic air conditioning in my experience. The IMAX clearly has four vents in the ceiling, which I assume are for the return? Empire 1 seemed to have vents just behind the edges of each ceiling “cove” and the set for the cove just ahead of the projection booth can be seen in your photo. So, just wondering what changes, other than raising the ductwork, if any, were made to the air conditioning?
-In your photo of the IMAX auditorium—"New ceiling framework“—there is a black area in the middle of the right curved ceiling section. Slightly confused as I thought it was normal practice to attach stretched fabric to (fixings on) plasterboard, and also acoustic absorption behind the stretched fabric? It doesn’t looks like there’s much space for it.
-Was there insulation above the ceiling in Empire 1? I would have expected that it would be required for THX certification?
Thanks for your reply to my photo of the worn out ceiling, shame no-one will apply flocking in-situ these days, I imagine Health and Safety reasons.
Zappomatic: During my last trip (Dunkirk), I had a look behind the back of the cinema (Lisle Street/Leicester Place), mainly to take photos of urine stains outside the fire exits for amusement value, but I thought perhaps it was getting altogether too silly to upload them!
Anyway, there is a sign by a door on Leicester Place which says “Empire Studios”. (I’ll upload the photo tomorrow.) I don’t remember it being there previously, and it’s not visible on Google Maps Street View.
The relevant planning application is 06/08456/FULL — “Alterations to existing tank room to create additional office space, erection of new tank room and alterations to staircase at roof level, together with erection of canopy above Leicester Place entrance.”
For some reason the documents aren’t available? “Planning Application details not available.”
Anyway, you can see the location of the “tank room” here, in the lower cross-section plan:
(The upper cross-section plan, of course, is for the 1927 auditorium; not sure why the “dome” is included in lower one.)
I imagine it was originally used to house the organ.
Also, there are high level offices behind what was the left hand wall of Empire 1, which I assume are part of Empire Studios.
I recall from the 2006 planning application that Muraspec wall coverings were specified. That stuff retails for, say, £15-30+ per sq. metre… very expensive for wallpaper, so I assume the offices are nicely decorated!
(I thought I might buy some myself… until I realised the price was “per linear metre” (130cm width) and not per roll!)
I imagine it’s a fancy “head office” rather than housing all staff. An embarrassing situation indeed!
Empire Cinemas 2 still exists as an active company, being an indirectly held subsidiary of Cineworld. Looking at Cineworld’s Annual Report 2016, Picturehouse had the same structure, e.g. “City Screen (Cambridge) Limited.” All of those City Screen (aka Picturehouse) subsidiary companies will soon be dissolved, though.
Originally opened with an Iwerks screen, as of 2015 it has been equipped with IMAX Digital in one auditorium. It was one of the first two Vue sites in the UK to have an IMAX screen, Vue being the last major UK operator with no IMAX screens in the UK.
Video of the IMAX screen installation. The video includes seating and flooring installation, screen frame assembly, screen speaker installation, and screen installation.
The screen speakers are not the same as those installed in larger IMAX venues, and there is no “Voice of God” speaker.
There is also plenty of height remaining above the screen!
t still says “Cineworld Cinemas Leicester Square at the Empire Theatre” on Facebook—that’s the only “public” place I’ve seen them use “Empire.” It’s always been Cineworld Leicester Square AFAIK on their website.
The foyer rendering has “Cineworld Empire” on the right vestibule wall.
To be fair, it is confusing to use the word “Empire” when there’s the “Empire Cinemas” chain, plus potential trademark issues.
OTOH, I think it’s pretty clear from the foyer rendering that they are not interested in the heritage aspects, and their annual reports/presentations say that they have achieved their long held ambition of having a flagship West End site. I expect it therefore will continue to be run as a West End flagship, but with Cineworld branding it as their site… “star” logos emblazoned all over.
As long as the Casino is called the “Empire Casino” the Empire name shall remain. Additionally, Empire Cinemas' HQ is still in the same building!
The long term risk may be if owner London + Regional Properties tears the whole building down to make way for a hotel, presumably with downsized leisure areas in the basements. I imagine Cineworld have more leverage than Empire Cinemas to stop the real doomsday scenario…
The redevelopment of the Grants Department Store only kept the facade, with the rest of the building demolished.
Al Alvarez: It’s a very good thing having a sound system that does allow for high peak levels… which are effective if used in a dramatic way, i.e. transiently at climaxes. 2 hours of wall to wall chest pounding, ear popping sound… like driving a sports car at 200mph non-stop just because it can go 200mph… is not effective storytelling… :–(
Veterans will probably need new hearing aids!
Al Alvarez: Huh?
StunPlex: Regarding your query on 15/70 IMAX vs. IMAX digital sound, both 15/70 IMAX and IMAX Digital have 6 channel uncompressed digital audio.
(Of course, IMAX Digital also supports 12 channel audio, but that’s a moot point if the movie isn’t released with a 12 channel mix. Also, I don’t know if 15/70 IMAX digital audio is a 16-bit system—which might mean there are differences in headroom compared to IMAX Digital?)
The digital audio for 15/70 works using synchronised CD-ROMs, here’s a couple of pictures I took in the projection booth at London’s BFI IMAX:
Picture 1 – The unit in the left rack with screen, CD drives below, and keyboard.
Picture 2 – AFAIK remote controller unit, notice it says “SONICS” on it—IMAX audio stuff was supplied by SONICS, and they were later acquired by IMAX.
As for the differences in sound, one factor is that the same equipment with different room acoustics and calibration will sound different.
Some older IMAX venues still use previous generation IMAX speakers rather than the current generation.
IMAX’s nXos EQ system will recalibrate the system (back to how it was originally “tuned” by human(s)) every day—but again, may not be found in older venues? Come to think of it, I have no idea whether the nXos unit works with 15/70 IMAX digital sound.
Anyway, it’s easy to see which generation of speakers are in use by looking at the two rear surrounds.
Joe Vogel: 4DX may at the time of your post only had a handful of installations in the US, but internationally it’s installed in 400+ screens. It’s not exactly what I’d think of as the future of cinema but… target market etc… you may not enjoy it, but I imagine, for instance, a 10 year old would love it.
Here in the UK, Cineworld have an ongoing programme of new installations, including one at the Empire Leicester Sq., so I think it’s here to stay, at least for the time being…
The RPX auditorium in the JKRP Architects pages that you posted a link to can also be seen on Eomac’s site.
Rather an odd choice of wall colours. I wonder how big the screen is?
It turns out that there was a further planning application to Westminster Council in 2016, with amendments to the previous scheme.
Believe it or not, one of these is the “chopping off” of the NW corner of the building, as during enabling works, a UK Power Networks tunnel was “discovered”! (Underneath Leicester Square is a primary substation.)
Floor level numbers have been altered, and the cinema is now primarily on Levels B3 and B4, with the alterations outlined with cross-section plans and 3D visualisations in the Design & Access Statement Part 1.
The cinema aspect of the scheme has been changed, with the gross area reduced by over 2,000sq.ft., now being approx. 20,700sq.ft.
Screen 2 is rotated by 90 deg anti-clockwise. I’m not clear from the cross-sections on whether this involves a reduction in the auditorium’s height, but the basement foyer area is now under Screen 2, instead of being underneath the stepped seating structures of both Screens 1 and 2.
Screen 1 is in about the same location but its layout seems to have been slightly improved; however, being in the NW corner of the building, the auditorium is also slightly sliced off to the right of the screen (which is positioned on the West side of the building, facing East.)
Measuring the screen width on the drawing (fortunately a scale is included), it is about 50ft. wide, with the distance to the last row being about 70ft. or so, i.e. 1.4 screen widths away, which matches another Odeon iSense auditorium.
Permission for the above application has been granted, and I notice that the planning condition (number 6) to have the cinema ready and handed over for fit-out before the hotel opens is still there.
There is another application providing details of public art proposals in relation to a condition of planning permission.
The proposals, which have been approved by Westminster Council, are not for anything that one might reasonably have expected as “public art,” but rather cover proposed facade details and finishes, with lots of drawings, renderings and photos in the document titled “PUBLICARTSCHEME_PART1_LOWRES.”
Bureaucracy aside, I don’t object to the idea of the facade being informed by a schooled artist as having value, and this makes the application of far more relevance here; I see the proposals include faience tiles.
Brintons Carpets case study with photos.
“A hand painted design created in the 1930’s was selected and served as inspiration for the final carpet design.”
Very, very nice!
I went here in the late 90’s on one occasion.
At that time it had, IIRC, the same type of pleated fabric wall coverings, and definitely the same seats, as were then fitted to the Warner Village West End. JBL 8330 rear array.
However, the use of some of the same parts doesn’t equate to the same whole! Presentation was extremely poor.
It has now been refurbished, although how extensively and to what standard I do not know.
According to Vue’s website, Vue Westfield London and Vue Westfield Stratford City are the 1st and 3rd highest grossing cinemas in the UK. I wonder what’s the 2nd—is there a list somewhere?
They are both a few miles from the edge of Central London and can easily be accessed by tube from there. Vue Westfield London is probably about as close to the West End as a 20 screen “megaplex” will ever be built!
They are both listed as flagship sites by Vue but IMO Vue Westfield London is very much a run of the mill multiplex.
I went here a couple of times in the late 90’s. Absolutely dreadful multiplex in a very unappealing secondary location. I gather Digbeth, nearby, is now “trendy.”
Rear array speakers were JBL 8330.
Thanks, Zappomatic, for those photos of the access to Screen 9.
What a dreadfully scrappy arrangement with the “wooden box” at the back of Screen 9.
The stairs/lobby areas look pretty good, but the “starfield” is bodged—not remotely comparable to the 1989 fibre-optic starfields in the foyer/Empire 1. There’s some information on them in the Lighting + Sound International article I previously linked to (PDF p19-21):
“Par Opti Projects used no less than 14,000 fibre optic lenses producing 26,000 light points in the ceiling, created by various size fibres. The new Eldon bezels were specifically developed for the four sizes of star lenses, together with twinkle wheels…”
BTW, the “studio” screens use Eomac stretched fabric wall systems—“gold frames by others” according to the PDF linked to from that page.
Wonder when the foyer/associated areas work will commence? I assume at some point they will have to completely close during the works, and looking at their website, Cineworld have performances scheduled through the end of this month.
Sooner the better as I already said my “goodbyes” to the existent foyer—no desire to go through that process again! :–( Thankfully, on my last visit to Screen 1 I had no idea about the impeding conversion—theatreofvarieties' strip-out photos were fascinating, but time (and nice replacement auditoria) heals. It would have been far too emotional to bear.
Oh dear, trying to decipher patents is enough to make one crazy!
At least this one is quite specific and straightforward and most of the key information is in the short abstract at the start. One thing missing is the front row distance:
“a seat in the centre of the front row would be located is spaced apart perpendicularly from the screen a distance not less than 0.3 times the width of the auditorium adjacent the front wall”
This is exactly what Fig. 3 shows.
I am interested in why you think a close front row and steep raking is not suitable in particular for a small auditorium?
BTW, a strange story loosely related to this: A couple of years ago, I had booked seats in Empire Leicester Square Screen 7 to attend a midday screening for myself and a friend. On entering the auditorium, I stopped at the front pondering where to sit, saying to my friend that the front row seats I’d booked seem to be too close to the screen.
Sitting in a middle row was an Irish gentlemen, formally dressed IIRC, who said, “No no no… don’t sit there… sit at the back. There will only be a few in…”
It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I can’t help but wonder if the gentlemen wasn’t Thomas Anderson himself!
Lunch at Wong Kei, eating therapy for cinema obsessions (!), sounds good to me. ;–)
Photos of plasterwork remnants can be seen in documents submitted in relation to the following planning applications:
http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=0206506ADLBC — see “PROPOSALS FOR THE SALVAGE & REUSE OF EXISTING DOORS / PLASTERWORK” – PDF page numbers 18-20. Note that this part of the document is excerpted from an earlier 1998 survey. Also within this document are details of a later survey (PDF p4), and on PDF p21-22 are plans from the 1998 survey showing locations where plasterwork and other auditorium decorative remnants were found.
http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=I70H4KRP59000 – see “PHOTOS” – which are of a couple of removed sections of plasterwork.
http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=IGFO5IRPR1000 – see “PLASTERWORK SCHEDULE” – details of the four sections of plasterwork removed and proposed restoration work (white paint only!) – and “PHOTO” – showing the proposed wall display of these sections.
madorganplayer: In response to your question about whether the roof was “taken off,” it certainly seems to be the case.
This can be seen in Google Earth (desktop application) by turning on “Historical Imagery” and setting the date to 2003.
For convenience, and since Google allow limited use of these images on third-party sites providing attribution is included, I have exported the relevant image from Google Earth and uploaded to the Photos section.
Documents associated with the planning application for the 2000s reconstruction are available. (N.B. Some modifications were made to these proposals in subsequent applications.)
The roof plan shows new glazed roof areas, and most of the remaining part of the roof is a “flat roof to plant enclosure.”
Looking at the section plans, the plant rooms and central section of glazed roofing extend above the original building. Beneath them, there are offices (fourth floor) which also extend above the original building.
Given the extensiveness of the reconstruction, requiring the facades/dome to be “proped up,” I’m afraid that the chances of organ parts remaining up there are, I’d suggest, zero.
You are absolutely right, I felt guilty whilst doing it knowing that I had “more important” matters to attend to.
I couldn’t help myself, once I started thinking about it I felt compelled to figure it all out as far as I could! :–( On the face of it, it has almost no practical value whatsoever other than satisfying my own curiosity—and it is, I hope, of interest to anyone who bothers to read my ramblings—although they might equally well wish that I would shut up!
The best cinemas for me are a more “magical” environment than anywhere else. Very little can touch them in terms of the special feeling I get from them.
For better or worse, the engineering side of my brain wants to know “how and why it works,” so I always end up “pulling things apart” to find out.
Whether my “cinema obsession” actually makes any sense… hmm. I enjoy it, but I do drive myself nuts at times. Few people “get it” so, maybe I should find a “normal hobby” like following football! :-O However, I consider the intense interest in watching a ball being kicked around a field for 90 minutes, hoping that it will eventually make its way into the “right” net, and the tribe-like devotion to football teams, to be somewhat “insane”! (My apologies to football fans…)
As for these 60s/70s mini-cinemas like the Odeon Wardour St./Swiss Centre—I find the auditoriums very strange. Yes, there were lots of constraints but why should they result in odd shaped auditoria with such small screens? I think we can do better today with “boothless” digital projection. A small auditorium can be a comfortable and intimate environment; a good experience if the design, decor, seating layout, screen size/position and sound system are right.
BTW, (if anyone is “crazy” enough to want to read it!) you may be interested in a patent application (I’m not clear on whether the patent has been granted) by Thomas Anderson (Empire Cinemas etc.) relating to the design/geometry of small auditoria.
Now, where do I find the group hypnotherapy session to stop the “cinema obsession”…?
I think I’ve now figured out a possible way this scheme could be implemented, based on available plans, publically stated project goals, presumed retention of the organ and stage, the structural constraints of keeping the existing circle structure, and the assumption that the proscenium cannot be significantly raised in height:
-Removal of front splay walls at least up to approx. location of the left/right front stalls fire hoses. According to the licencing plans, this would mainly affect stairs at stalls level on the right side that may require relocation, or possibly could simply be eliminated. Removal of splay walls to a position slightly beyond the front stalls side fire exit doors would be advantageous, to gain more screen width and aesthetic integration with the existing walls, but modification of other access and service areas etc. would then be required.
-Replacement splay walls in new location to accomodate new wider screen and sightlines therefore required.
-Replacement screen between 60-65ft. wide, where 65ft. by my estimates is the limit.
-Removal of approx. last 5 rows of existing stalls seating to accomodate sightlines to top of new screen; move stalls level rear wall forward (possibly with new toilets behind.)
-Acoustic absorption with suitable covering fitted to walls and ceilings at screen end, noting that Eomac’s catalogue includes “acoustic wood” and various design options for fabric covering-based systems.
This would still leave a compromised auditorium by current standards, but would essentially keep the original form, including retention of stage and organ, and should leave sufficient space for tabs also.
By my estimates, assuming a 65ft. wide screen, such a layout would put seats in the centre part of the front 4 rows in the Royal Circle more or less within IMAX standards (where the rearmost seats should be no further than ~1 screen width from the screen) for seating distance/position in relation to screen width, albeit located a little too high. The other 2 rows of the Royal Circle would still be OK.
Having a look at the layout of a new build iSense auditorium, the rearmost seats are 1.4x screen width away from the screen. By my estimation the scheme outlined above would put all but the last 8 rows of the circle within this distance, and in this respect it could be said that a majority of seats would meet current expectations of “immersiveness“ as found in auditoria marketed as “premium large format” cinemas, albeit not comparable to a textbook IMAX or the Cineworld/Empire LSQ IMAX (nor the IMPACT/Superscreen at the Empire, for that matter)—although some may consider this to be preferable!
So, as long as you are in the “right” seats, assuming laser projection and Atmos, it seems to me there is a good chance the pending refurbishment/alterations will make for an up-to-date “immersive” cinema experience with all the trappings of a super cinema to boot.
A 2012 application specifically to confirm that this would be in keeping with Class D2 use and thus not require planning permission, resulted in a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development confirming this would not constitute a material change of use being issued by Westminster Council.
As this scheme has not been taken forward this would appear to be of largely academic (!) interest; however, the application does include existing plans. The remains of old decor on the “right hand side wall” in the photos posted by Ian I would assume to be in the “PLANT/SERVICE AREA” on the existing plans.
Amazing that alterations to these buildings result in them being chopped and changed so much, almost like “Trigger’s broom”!
Demolished. Bowling alley which occupied units in the building to the right of the cinema’s former location converted and extended to form a new Asda superstore. Part of this extension, surface level car parking and ‘click and collect’ pick-up point now occupy the former site of the cinema.
Lionel: Afraid I don’t. However, you can view the plans for the cinema within this licencing application.