Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square 4DX

5 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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Empire Screen 2

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 16 comments)

Zappomatic on August 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

Quite a lot of work going on to fit in the 4DX, with the floor lowered and old projection booth brought back into use.

“Breaking of the lower level concrete slab of the room and rebuild at a lower level to increase the space required for the system and new seating arrangement. Installation of suspended trusses between the columns which will support the equipment for the 4D effects (wind fans, water spray tanks, snow machine, fog machine) – Removal of all projector and installation of new one at the back of the room, in the former projection booth. – New floor, wall and ceiling finishes – New finishes at the access staircase and lobby. – All fire escapes remain unchanged.” (with thanks to CF_100 for finding the building control application)

Zappomatic on March 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Former screen 2 is now bookable for Avengers: Infinity War from 26 April. It’s now named 4DX (rather than having a number however I suspect it’s now technically screen 4) and seating is reduced to 136 across 9 rows (8 rows of 16 and the back row of 8).

CF100 on April 22, 2018 at 5:37 am

Wider view of the 4DX.

Photo of the vestibule and another of the 4DX.

From the latter linked article:

“The work turned up some historical artefacts, including a press cuttings book from the early 1950s, with articles about the cinema, visits of Hollywood stars and dancers pulling on tap shoes to mark an auditorium makeover.”

Really now… maybe it was found when they lowered the 4DX’s concrete floor?!

Some more articles with photos:

Photos of the foyer, 4DX, and the “Press Cuttings” book.

View of the 4DX screen from the back of the auditorium.

Still the problem of the low ceiling, but looks like a good remodelling of what was once a throughly unappealing place to see a film. (Particularly if you ended up behind one of the columns as I once did—albeit that was back in the mid-90s!) They’ve certainly managed to “jam” a “4DX” into the old “Ritz” auditorium, and it must have been a nightmare project; it’s so similar in layout to other 4DXs that, if you weren’t aware of the auditorium’s history—and naturally the vast majority of patrons won’t be—you might even think that it was entirely purpose-built!

CF100 on April 29, 2018 at 11:08 am

On the main Cineworld (Empire) LSQ page I previously posted a link to a building control application, which rather confusingly described the works as:

“Cineworld 4D 2.0 – Saturday 28 April 2018. The structure will be truss based and include staging, graphics, Heras fencing, mobile LED screen.”

Details of this are currently available on the Heart of London Business Alliance site — to quote:

“An interactive activation (sic?) will be positioned on the North Terrace of Leicester Square (in the dip), opposite the venue. […]

“There will be a stage and members of the public will be encouraged to sit in a moving chair […] and be exposed to the 4DX elements – water, mist, wind and movement for one minute.”

An “operational set-up plan” can be downloaded from the above linked page.

CF100 on May 8, 2018 at 5:38 pm

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 8, 2018 at 11:44 pm

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 9:26 am

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 3:06 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 10, 2018 at 4:26 pm

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 10:06 am

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.

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