Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square 4DX

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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Empire Screen 2

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, with a seating capacity for Empire Screen 2 being 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.

In August 2017 the Empire Cinema – at the Empire Theatre – Screen 2 was closed for conversion into a 4DX screen to the plans of architectural firm Chapman Taylor. It reopened in March 2018 as Cineworld Cinema -Leicester Square 4DX with a reduced seating capacity of 136.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

CF100 on May 9, 2018 at 1:38 am

Visiting the 4DX today to attend a screening of “Avengers: Infinity War,” I must first say that the whole experience was tainted by what must be the worst film I’ve seen in a cinema in a very long time—quite possibly ever.

I’m not someone who would normally watch a “Marvel franchise” film, and for me it was 160 minutes of incomprehensible drivel, interspersed with “jokes” (albeit, whilst I rolled my eyes, they were a good source of mirth for the other patrons.)

Onto the 4DX auditorium. As I fumbled around with my phone to check my seat number, a member of staff actually picked my up bag and 3D glasses off the floor, and carried them over to my seat. Fantastic!

The auditorium is exactly as expected—I previously posted the notion that the average patron “might even think that it was entirely purpose-built,” and that was absolutely the case. (I should add that the auditorium and the lobby/foyer areas still retained some of the scent of being new.)

The projection was very well aligned, with slight barrel distortion towards the bottom of the screen, and it did seem to fill the entire screen during the main feature, for which—given the dark surroundings—the lack of masking was not objectionable. There was some fall off of brightness towards the edge of the screen, but this was only really noticeable during the end credits.

However, the projection had poor black levels, whilst this was ameliorated by the 3D glasses, and colours seemed to be reasonably well calibrated, dark areas were clipped, and the brightness was not really sufficient for 2D, let alone 3D.

Klipsch rear array speakers are used. The sound was pretty good, and at times loud, although it seemed to ultimately lack LFE capability and seemed pushed and limited at peak levels. The screen speakers also sounded slightly too dull.

The 4DX seating seems to be upholstered in what I assume is microfibre-type material. The seats are well padded, but the armrests are not, and I suspect wear and tear will take its toll. They are certainly not as comfortable as they look!

Onto technical aspects of 4DX: the seating motion is impressive, the water and stobbing effects aren’t, and the fog and scent effects are reasonable, albeit the fog tends to “drift” in the current direction of airflow within the auditorium.

It worked very well indeed for the 4DX trailer, but it felt very much “tacked on” to the feature itself, and for me it tended to draw my attention out of the film rather than adding to the immersion. As an example, when an on-screen character was physically attacked, the seating poked my back! Frankly, in the context of a feature film, a sound system with good LFE capability is more effective at providing a visceral augmentation of the picture.

A word of caution: the 4DX Safety Warnings, also prominently displayed at the entrance to the 4DX, must be carefully read and understood before entry, and adhered to in the auditorium. For the sake of adding context, for example, the guidelines state that “4DX motion chairs employ strong motion,” and they mean it: the seats move rapidly with tremendous force at times, almost reminiscent of certain rollercoasters (“Saw: The Ride” at Thorpe Park, for instance.)

I think it would be a fantastic system for theme park use, it just doesn’t really work for feature films not created as 4DX-specific content from the outset.

I imagine, however, that the rest of the patrons in attendance enjoyed both the movie and the 4DX element; Cineworld have certainly made something out of a “dud” auditorium, and the limitations of 4DX may well be forgiveable in the context of a film that I liked.

Finally, the auditorium was too hot; it wasn’t stuffy, so the air change rate was adequate, but I didn’t expect to have to rely on blasts from the 4DX fans to cool off!

A few more observations and photos, particularly of the staircase down to the auditorium, to follow.

PhilipWW on May 9, 2018 at 7:44 am

CF100, you mention the lack of masking. So, is the new screen just 1.85 rather than Scope. The two photos of the screen in the ‘Photos’ section both show a Scope screen. Were these then taken before its 4DX conversion ?

If indeed Cineworld have taken out the Scope screen and replaced it by a 1.85 Flat screen, this does seem rather strange as nearly all films nowadays are filmed for Scope.

Not an improvement in my opinion at all.

CF100 on May 9, 2018 at 5:26 pm

PhilipWW: I’ve uploaded a photo of the screen, when one of the slides before the programme was displayed, although I don’t think it quite filled the whole screen. Staff were eager to get everyone safely seated and, following the end credits, to clear the auditorium for the next screening, so I didn’t want to start wandering around the auditorium to take photos.

(That reminds me: Given the various issues discussed on CT regarding lighting in Cineworld auditoria, the lighting were well dimmed during the main feature, although they were slightly distracting due to the low ceiling. They were raised up when the end credits started, and raised up again after with the red sidewall concealed lighting and the “4DX Leicester Square” sidewall signs also turned on. Or rather, “sign,” as the one on the right wall had failed! “Non-sync” music playback was also concurrently initiated.)

The two photos you mention were most certainly taken before the 4DX conversion; a photo taken from the back of the auditorium is included in this linked article, and though hardly an accurate method, it does measure ~2.4:1 in that photo.

Based on these photos, referencing to the front right exit door location, the screen does seem to have been increased in size from the Empire Cinemas makeover; it’s about the widest screen that would fit given various constraints including sightlines due to the columns, access to the doors left/right of the screen, and perhaps the arrangement of the void/walls behind.

(Incidentally, IMAX have a patented system, intended for use in conversions of existing auditoria, which allows for the screen to cover front wall exits, and in case of an emergency, part of the screen is automatically moved!)

The non-IMAX version of the film was released in 2.39:1 ratio, with 1.90 used for the IMAX Digital version. IIRC, some shots actually didn’t quite fill the screen horizontally.

It was shot on Arri Alexa 65 cameras, which have slightly larger than 65mm film CCDs for digital capture; full frame = 2.11:1. Of course, in a such a CGI heavy film, some sections may hardly have been “shot” in the first place!

Based on the licensing plans, I’d guess the screen is just under 30ft. wide.

So, the above is a ridiculously long winded way of saying, no, they haven’t put in a “flat” ratio screen!

CF100 on May 9, 2018 at 11:06 pm

A selection of photos taken yesterday relevant to the 4DX have now been uploaded, mostly of the access from foyer level down to the auditorium entrance.

CF100 on May 11, 2018 at 12:26 am

Chapman Taylor – Cineworld Leicester Square – Refurbishment of a World-Famous Movie Premiere Location.

Architectual practice Chapman Taylor now have a project page for the refurbishment, which includes a photo of the 4DX auditorium.

According to the page, the 4DX is 410 sq. metres (=4400 sq. ft.) in area.

CF100 on May 12, 2018 at 6:06 pm

Correction to previous post: The screen is not filled by the pre-show slides, (out of focus) photo uploaded showing the right side unmasked screen area.

Zappomatic on June 11, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Paid my first visit to this screen since the conversion today (for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and I have to say I am impressed. The screen is noticeably larger than before and has a nice curve to it. Perhaps some tweaks have been made since CF100’s visit as brightness and black levels were good. LFE seemed decent and at a couple of points caused the wind-effect fans to rattle but I agree that the screen speakers could have sounded a little brighter.

I sat in row C which due to the spacing between the seats is far back enough be able to get the entire screen into your field of vision but I think for any future visits I would probably choose row D.

From a structural point of view I noticed that the strange little foyer space under the seating has been eliminated however it’s now possible to walk behind the back row. I think as well as the auditorium floor being lowered the ceiling has also been raised as the suspended ceiling is interrupted by a pattern of what I assume are concrete beams (which sit flush with the rest of the ceiling).

CF100 on June 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Zappomatic: Interesting that you didn’t find the projection brightness to be inadequate; hopefully this has indeed been rectified as the projection seemed underspecified!

How did you find it compared to the Wandsworth 4DX, including picture/sound/4DX effects, and did you find that the 4DX effects had been programmed to work effectively with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”?

It turns out that 4DX actually have several versions* of their system with “premium” variants for additional types of “Environmental Effects” and enhanced “Motion Chair Effects” options.

(*At the time of posting this comment, in the “4DX THEATERS” section of this page, with PRIME/PRO/STANDARD/ECONOMY options and respective “Motion Chair Effects” and “Environmental Effects” capabilities listed for each.)

Regarding the structural aspects of the conversion, I’m not sure what you mean by visible beams, save for those used to suspend the 4DX gear?

I suppose I’ll now have to consider getting an “Unlimited” card as seeing a film in all available formats is an absurdly costly proposition for a cinema trip—even allowing for inflation, almost 10x times the cost of a ticket for a weekday matinee performance at Empire 1 in the 1990s!

Zappomatic on June 12, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Regarding the picture here I actually found it to be one of the brighter 3D presentations I’ve seen, and there was practically no ghosting.

I was not impressed at all with the picture and sound at Wandsworth, other than the sheer size of the screen – picture appeared washed-out with poor black levels and appalling ghosting (so much so that the couple sitting in front of me turned around during the credits and asked me if the 3D was “dodgy” for me or if it was just them), and the sound was pretty lifeless. I’ve not been back to see if this was a one-off or if it really is this poor.

Effects for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom seemed quite effective although there was a moment when the strobes stayed on long enough for it to feel as though the auditorium was floodlit. I was dressed for yesterday’s weather and at times ended up feeling uncomfortably cold and wet thanks to the prolonged wind and rain effects!

When I say beams I mean that the suspended ceiling is interrupted by an off-centre grid of solid sections around 75cm wide that sit flush, presumably supporting the floor above.

For Unlimited cards do bear in mind that a surcharge of £2-£6 is payable every time you see a premium format although for some reason the Superscreen in Leicester Square is included if you have a West End card. Plenty of referral codes about online that will get you your 13th month for free – mine is RAF-35LH-35FJ-42BF-17NU (moderators please delete if this is not allowed).

CF100 on June 13, 2018 at 11:18 pm

Zappomatic: I was surprised by your comment on the screen size as I’d previously estimated it to be about the same as the Leicester Square 4DX in width. I’ve just reestimated it from the licensing plans and it looks to be as much as 50ft. wide.

That being the case, I wonder if dual projectors are being used and poor alignment between them might explain the “ghosting” issue you identified? (Or perhaps they’re not using a suitable screen for the 3D polarisation.)

Regarding 4DX effects, I found that they were sometimes “glitchy,” and the timing wasn’t always quite right. (Could have been just bad programming or hardware bugs/limitations.) If my recollection is correct, after an intense sequence of “motion chair effects” the seats would stop moving and a few seconds they would then slowly return back to unity position, which seemed odd.

When I say beams I mean that the suspended ceiling is interrupted by an off-centre grid of solid sections around 75cm wide that sit flush, presumably supporting the floor above.

Looking at a high resolution photo of the auditorium (presumably reposted from Cineworld press materials) with some post-processing in Photoshop to pull out the low level details, so it is. Well spotted!

I think you are right that the ceiling has been raised, and—I can’t be sure but—above the suspended 4DX gear it looks like there’s an exposed concrete slab. They certainly seem to have used every last inch of space available and I can’t see that there would be much left space for HVAC ducting—it looks like there’s something boxed out above the right sidewall, just behind the suspended 4DX gear.

Many thanks for the Cineworld Unlimited code, I’ll use yours if I decide to proceed so that you also get the free month in return—it would seem to be a no-brainer if the Leicester Square Superscreen doesn’t incur an additional uplift charge. I can’t find the uplift charges for IMAX, 4DX or 3D at Leicester Square, though?

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