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I never had the opportunity to see a film there, but my father went twice in the eighties, to see Altered States in 70mm and A Handful of Dust in 35mm. He said the sound was excellent. Though the quality was partially due to good Dolby Stereo recordings, he seemed to say that the auditorium sound system and acoustics were extremely good. Do some of you remember what equipment was in use, and in which of the two auditoria these films played?
Photo album on Flicker when it was 2 screens :
As I’m not a regular follower of this OLS page, it is only now that I read about the passing of fellow contributor James Bettley. I greatly enjoyed some of his extremely detailed posts. Let me extend my condolences to those here who knew him personally.
The largest auditorium of the complex now has 450 seats (pictures added in the Photos section). All auditoria were refurbished with black color (or dark grey) as the only colour for floor, seats, walls and ceiling.
More info and pictures of the auditoriums here:
I just posted my first film on YouTube. This is a Super 8mm film I shot in 1986 and 1988 showing fronts of West end cinemas (including this one) and theatres :
My description on YouTube : Old silent 8mm film showing fronts of West End cinemas and theatres, made with two different cameras and film stocks in 1986 and 1988. Bad quality due to age. The close-up of 70mm advertisement for “a winning double bill” was at the Prince Charles cinema for a re-run of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The close-up of THX Sound System advertisement was at the Warner cinema. The close-up of the “West End” words was part of the Odeon West End cinema sign.
My description on YouTube : Old silent 8mm film showing fronts of West End cinemas and theatres, made with two different cameras and film stocks in 1986 and 1988. Bad quality due to age. The close-up of 70mm advertisement for “a winning double bill” was at the Prince Charles cinema for a re-run of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The close-up of THX Sound System advertisement was at the Warner cinema. The close-up of the “West End” words was the Odeon West End cinema sign.
“Before today’s upsized “PLF” screens, it was a reasonable size; but it has long been unquestionably small in relation to the depth of the auditorium.”
I know and I agree, but I’ve now read a few comments back on this thread and somebody pointed out a previous screen width of almost 4 feet more than today’s screen, so this one is actually smaller. Tsss… what did they have in mind ?
Thanks for sharing. Is the screen smaller than before ? It seems so small to me, but the last time I was at the OLS was in 1995, so maybe I just got used quickly to these big wall-to-wall screens with no tabs in modern multiplexes…
Indeed Howard, these 2 films are ideal for a visitor. I too enjoy films showing London because I particularly love the city. By the way, the Eros cinema shown in “Werewolf” is featured on this site has an extensive photo album on Flicker here :
I wish I could have been old enough to see a film there when the cinema still existed. Never been to a porno cinema in my life, but because of all this nostalgia we have now, This is some kind of an experiment I regret not having. “Death Line” is great too, I saw it a few times and once again recently. This is a very unusual and good film with great scenes of underground stations.
Speaking of nostalgia, I believe we should enjoy what we experience as if it were the last time, but how can we guess in advance that it is something special ? For example, it seemed so common to me to see the restoration of Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm at the Odeon Marble Arch in the summer of 1989. A very exciting memory. I was just 19 years old. Today, almost 30 years later, I realised that what looked like a rather common experience was actually a privilege for few people. When I now tell the young generation about this, they look at me as if I were a war veteran – “Wow, you were there!”. We didn’t realise back then how spoiled we were to have all this. And today we can only mourn the deceased… ;–)
For all members on Cinema Treasures, I’ve translated in English the chapter where he mentions furniture that are acoustically problematic. Of course, he tells of his experience in luxury private home cinemas, but we see that the kind of infrastructure of these is now copied in bigger commercial venues.
“The problems never comes from the place, but always from people. However, we have to nuance. With sound engineers and studio professionals, we have consistent exchanges and things are going pretty well. With individuals however, it can quickly become a hell. They have their beliefs and think that the electroacoustic material will do all the work. The acoustics does not matter, they think only in terms of decoration. A cinema seat, for example, is an object that must respond to specific characteristics: its absorption must be the same as that of a spectator so that the reverb remains stable, whether the room is empty or filled. No matter how it sounds, individuals will invariably choose leather, a reflective material. This causes other problems, including the seat-dip (a drop of low frequencies between rows). In order not to dull surround sound, the backrest must clear the head. But giant headrests are a must in most home cinema. I have also come across tiled floors, shark skin on the speakers, chrome ceilings …”
CF100, here is the link to the interview, but it’s in French (my native language) :
I typically dislike alterations done to such architectural works of art as the OLS cinema. Preservation should be the key word. Even switching to wide picture formats in the fifties didn’t require alterations, only a bigger screen behind the curtains. would we modify a painting from Leonardo DaVinci under the pretext that the colours he used in his times aren’t trendy anymore in the 21st century? George Lucas is probably the only artist who would find it acceptable, considering the way he “enhances” Star Wars every two years, reusing shots and sound effects in an abusive way with a ridiculous result.
Now if the place isn’t sustainable as a cinema, let’s just drop films and place stage shows instead. No need to alter the foyer or the auditorium. And if it is really not viable at all, then, alas, tear it down and build a hotel or superstore. It hurts but I accept economical reality too. However as long as it keeps running, just preserve it, fix it when needed, but don’t change it. A work of art is something unique and final.
I agree with everything that has been written against the newest OLS renovation, which I’d rather call vandalism. Only the price is now premium. And why the hell do they have to turn more and more cinemas into living rooms or sitting rooms? This inclines people to behave more and more like if they were in their private space, as if the public space hadn’t been disrupted enough in the recent years with mobile phones. Now what they call luxury cinema is offering small dull rooms where people can reproduce the experience of eating breakfast in bed on Sunday morning while watching a film in public. But I’m afraid I just belong to the generation for whom luxury cinema meant watching a film in a theatre with an impressive decoration to look at and top-notch technology presented on a big screen dressed with adjustable screen masking and beautifully lit curtains opening on the studio logo. That alone was impressive enough to command quietness during the show and respecting your neighbour’s comfort.
It is a reason why, when I occasionally spend a few days in London, I now only go to the theatre to see a play or a musical, where the place keeps a more traditional infrastructure and the culture of theatre-going attracts a better-behaved audience. Exceptionally I’ll go to see a film in a Curzon cinema. For the rest, I stick to a specific small multiplex opened in 2008 in my country with a strict “no food or drink allowed in the auditorium” policy, covering all genres from Star Wars to Woody Allen plus occasional repertory. And for those who are thirsty or hungry, they have a real restaurant on the ground floor with fully licensed bar, where you can eat a small sandwich or a good steak with fries and salad. Why do exhibitors not develop this model more instead of turning the auditorium itself into a restaurant?
Recently, I was reading an interview of French sound engineer Jean-Pierre Lafont, who designed sound consoles for post-production facilities such as George Lucas' Skywalker Sound and other major Hollywood studios, and is a consultant in projection rooms acoustics. He was explaining this :
Spectators absorb sound but leather seats have a major drawback. They reflect sound instead of absorbing it, thus modifying the theatre acoustics during shows where almost no people attend. The bigger the room, the bigger the effect. For room equalisation done once and for all for a given theatre, whether it’s sold out or empty, and for good sound absorption such as recommended by THX guidelines, seats should not be in leather.
The original auditorium had 1200 seats including 350 in a balcony, then was multiplexed with 650 seats in the resulting main auditorium. New renovation in 1988 with a seating capacity reduced to 500 seats for more comfort, the installation of a new bigger screen of 17 x 7m (55 x 23ft) for 70mm projection and the second THX Sound System in France after the Forum Horizon in Paris. Here is a comprehensive article in French about the fifty first years of the Cezanne :
Archival footage briefly showing the entrance, shown from the street, of the Ritz and Empire in a row at 01:11 in the late seventies.
Archival footage: filmed when it was called the Scene, at 0:20 in this sequence. The marquee catches the eye but titles of the films played also visible at the very top of the frame.
The Residenz was equipped in Todd-AO.
When it opened, all screens had THX sound. The two larger auditoria with respectively 700 and 500 seats were 70mm-capable. I saw The Birdcage in 1996 in the largest auditorium, it had black walls and the screen had adjustable screen masking.
I read in the past comments that their THX theater was considered the best one in the UK. Why were Empire #1 and Warner West End #2 considered inferior? Was it poorer theater acoustics? Certainly not the hardware itself, as I visited the booth of the Empire and the Warner, and was even shown the speaker baffle behind the screen at Empire #1, there was absolutely no shortcomings on the hardware aspect.
Pictures of the Metro inside (lobby + larger auditorium) here :
I wrote that I’ve never been there but I suddenly have a doubt. I think I may have seen Dragonslayer in 1982 there, in one of the smaller auditoria, when I was a kid. I remember of classic and classy foyer surrounding looking like those found in old West End theatres (wooden panels and carvings, and that kind of things). Could somebody confirm that Dragonslayer was released at the Carlton too ?
I’ve never been to this cinema before but shall give it a try on my next trip to London. Howard, considering the new bigger screen, where would you recommend sitting ? Thanks.