Cineworld at the Empire Theatre - Screen 2
5 Leicester Square,
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The Ritz Cinema opened on 25th November 1937 with William Powell & Myrna Loy in “Double Wedding”. With a seating capacity of 430, it was designed in an Art Deco style by architect George Coles for exhibitors Clavering and Rose as an intended large newsreel theatre. However as it is located next door, to the left side of the Empire Cinema, then owned and operated by MGM (Loew’s Inc.), they decided it would make an excellent move-over house for their productions (the opening film had played for two weeks at the Empire).
Although not really suited to sit through feature length movies, due to poor sightlines and an oppresively low ceiling (the cinema was in a basement under an office building), it became popular due to its locality. “Gone With The Wind” moved over to the Ritz Cinema from the Empire Cinema and ran for four years during the war.
It was closed in April 1970 for modernisation to the plans of architects Sidney Kaye, Eric Firmin and Partners. It reopened on 21st May 1970. The seating capacity had been reduced to 393. On 9th November 1972 the Ritz Cinema was re-named Empire 2 and in 1973 it reverted back to the Ritz Cinema name. In 1978 improvements and modernisations were made to the cinema, reducing the seating capacity to 350 and it became Empire 2 again. The entrance and small foyer was converted into a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop and the Ritz Cinema’s canopy and signage were removed. It also resulted in the loss of most of the decoration in the auditorium, which is now bland. Patrons now had to purchase tickets from and gain entry to the cinema via the main Empire Cinema foyer, making the former Ritz Cinema, a screen within the Empire complex.
Current seating capacity for Empire Screen 2 is now 304.
In July 2016 five Empire cinemas were purchased by the Cineworld chain. Including the Empire Leicester Square, the other four are at Basildon, Hemel Hempstead, Poole and Bromley.
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