Vue West End

3 Cranbourne Street,
Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7AL

Unfavorite 10 people favorited this theater

Warner Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Originally on this site was a playhouse theatre, Daly’s Theatre, which was opened on 27th June 1893 and designed by architect Spencer Chadwick. It was closed on 25th September 1937, and was purchased by Warner Bros. to be demolished. Warner’s built the new 1,789-seat Warner Theatre on the site which opened on 12th October 1938 with Errol Flynn in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”.

The architects of the Warner Theatre were E.A. Stone and T.R. Somerford. The frontage was faced with reconstructed marble with a large relief panel by sculptor Bainbridge Copnall in each corner depicting spirits of sight and sound. There is a large central tower feature in a concave recess bearing the ‘Warner’ name. The Warner Theatre was equipped with a Compton 3Manual Paramount Mark 2 model organ. Many premiere’s were held at the Warner Theatre, including on 28th April 1967 the World Premiere of “Privilege”, a Gala Premiere on “You’re a Big Boy Now” on 25th May 1967, a Gala Premiere of “Triple Cross” on 22nd June 1967 and on 16th November 1967 a Royal European Charity Premiere of “Camelot” starring Richard Harris, which was attended by HRH the Princes Margaret. The original Warner Theatre was twinned reopening on 29th October 1970 and 12th November 1970 as the Warner West End & Rendezvous Warner West End. The Warner West End upstairs had 890 seats and the Rendezvous downstairs had 680 seats. In September 1974 the former bar was opened as Warner West End 3, with the other two screens being renamed Warner West End 1 & 2. Screen 2 was twinned in November 1975 and reopened as Warner West End 3 & 4 seating 270 and 454 Screens 1 & 3 were then re-named 2 & 1. In October 1981 the 180-seat Warner West End 5 opened in previously unused space. The auditorium section of the sub-divided original Warner Theatre was closed on 12th September 1991 and was demolished, retaining the original 1937 facade.

Nine new auditoriums were built behind the original facade to the plans of architectural firm HGP Greentree Allchurch Evans, and they created a total seating capacity for 2,482 when it re-opened on 23rd September 1993 with a Royal Charity Premiere of “The Fugitive” attended by Princess Diana and film stars Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, Roger Moore, and singers Sting and Phil Collins attending in person. On 6th December 1996 it was re-named Waner Village and in March 2004 it was taken over by Vue. In 2010 the seating capacities totalled 2,412: Screen 1: 177, Screen 2: 126, Screen 3: 300, Screen 4: 298, Screen 5: 414, Screen 6: 264, Screen 7: 410, Screen 8: 180 and Screen 9: 303.

The Vue West End closed for a refurbishment on 9th March 2017 to the plans of UNICK Architects, which includes the installation of 1,385 VIP and luxurious recliner seats thoughout all the screens, and Dolby Atmos sound in some auditoriums. It re-opened 11th July 2017.

It has an excellent location on Cranborne Street on the corner of Leicester Square and occasional premieres are held here.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 103 comments)

LARGE_screen_format
LARGE_screen_format on June 5, 2018 at 3:08 pm

@CF100

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your wealth of knowledge and answer so many of my questions.

Do you know if there are currently any commercial cinemas still in use today in the UK that are THX certified? They seemed to have slowly and quietly disappeared since the 90’s and early 00’s.

Greatly appreciated.

CF100
CF100 on June 5, 2018 at 4:08 pm

LARGE_screen_format: You’re very welcome, glad you liked my posts! :–)

I don’t think there are any THX-certified locations in the UK and there aren’t many left worldwide.

When THX was formed in 1983, there was a great need to improve sound in cinemas and get it closer to the then current state of the art.

Many venues had problems with excessive reverberation times (older ones in particular) and poor isolation (new build multiplexes or subdivided older venues (low cost “drop-wall” conversions and the like.)) Dolby Stereo had brought 4 channel matrixed sound to 35mm optical tracks but venues were just sticking in the Dolby Stereo decoder and adding surrounds with the old Altec Voice of the Theatre screen speakers still there, in whatever condition they were in by then.

THX venues would also feature baffle walls with flush mounted screen speakers (though there was nothing stopping non-THX venues from building them!) and the THX crossover/monitor unit.

Not only is the crossover/monitor unit a long discontinued product but it’s useless for modern 3-way screen speakers, let alone the emerging line array systems, and digital active crossovers that can be configured to do the same thing are available, so it’s not needed.

THX certification per se isn’t really an absolute guarantee of excellence.

Although the flagship venues clearly had attention to detail paid to them, that didn’t mean all THX venues sounded that good.

For example, there were 2 THX certified screens at the Hoyts multiplex in the Bluewater Shopping Centre (now a Showcase); they didn’t really sounded any different to any other run of the mill multiplex of the time (late 1990s), i.e. medicore.

Whereas e.g. the mid-2000s THX certified system in the old Empire 1 was amazing.

The IMAX Digital system has “21st Century” quality control included as the system is automatically checked and re-calibrated every day and the picture is constantly monitored by cameras in the auditorium, plus all installations are monitored by their Network Operations Centre in Mississauga.

Whereas THX only requires annual reinspections.

THX certification of cinemas didn’t really gain much traction in the UK; I heard that this was partially due to political reasons. On a worldwide basis I think operators started to drop it after the 35mm digital sound formats became commonplace—which makes sense since they could e.g. advertise “digital sound,” put the Dolby Digital logo above the entrance, and play the trailer. With DTS and SDDS out there as well, the average patron was probably confused by the “acronym soup”!

THX Ltd. has gone through changes of ownership and various directions over the years; they are now launching a new system to compete with Dolby Cinema and IMAX (which on the face of it doesn’t sound like a sensible move to me but there we are.)

LARGE_screen_format
LARGE_screen_format on June 5, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Must say I was somewhat surprised when I read that Creative Technology had taken over ownership of THX some years ago and more recently in 2016 by Razor Inc.

THX still seem to be quite active in hi-end home cinema equipment. Back in the mid 00’s used to have a THX Ultra 2 system at my last house.

One sound system that I never managed to experience for myself at the cinema was SDDS which I believe was 8-channel? Have you and if so, how did you find it compares to Dolby Digital and DTS?

CF100
CF100 on June 5, 2018 at 5:06 pm

The only time I can recall seeing a presentation with an SDDS soundtrack used was “Bad Boys” in Screen 7 at the Warner West End.

I don’t think the film used all 8 tracks and I don’t think Screen 7 had 5 screen speakers for the left centre/right centre channels either.

It worked fine and I didn’t notice any dropouts, which was a major concern as the SDDS data was stored at the edges of the film strip. I did like the SDDS trailer.

As for how it compared to the other formats, it would be impossible to meaningfully compare subtle differences between lossy formats under those conditions.

The SDDS decoder was an interesting device for that time, e.g. it had onboard DSP processing including digital EQ.

SDDS used Sony’s ATRAC lossy compression system. I still have an old Sony MiniDisc (ATRAC was also used for MD) recorder lying around somewhere (probably at the back of the loft!) which I thought worked well at the time (late 1990s) but since then I’ve trained myself to be very sensitive to the artifacts of lossy audio compression systems. ATRAC itself went through various versions and the encoder quality is critical with any lossy compression system.

In the early days of online music stores and applications (e.g. iTunes), I installed Sony’s Connect store/software on my PC, which as well as selling ATRAC encoded content could extract (aka “rip”) audio off CDs and then reduce the file size using its ATRAC encoder.

No idea how this compared to professional encoders used for theatrical releases or the ones found in consumer MiniDisc recorders but it certainly couldn’t compete with a good AAC or even MP3 encode. Audible artifacts and dulling of high frequencies.

Indeed THX are still around in the home theatre world, although I haven’t really followed what they’re doing these days. The brand did get tarnished once it started being slapped on Sound Blaster soundcards and low quality multimedia speakers!

Alas my own home cinema (front projection with custom speakers—Electro-Voice subwoofers and satellites fitted with coaxial bass/mids using HF compression drivers) and the room it was in were destroyed by a leak a few years ago. You really don’t want to hear the rest of the sorry story, but it will be put back sooner or later. :–(

CF100
CF100 on June 11, 2018 at 7:40 pm

Visited Vue West End Screen 5 today for a screening of “Jurassic World—Fallen Kingdom,” a film that might be described as well assembled but… that’s about all I can positively say about it.

However, I wasn’t there to see a throughly unnecessary franchise installment, but rather to attend a screening that would give the sound system to have a good workout, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m pleased to report that the tabs were used as was the moveable masking. The tabs were closed until a few minutes before the programme started, and on opening essentially a “slide show” was presented. (Vue marketing material etc.)

Alas, there was no non-sync music before or during the “slide show”, and at this time leakage, presumably from Screen 7, could be heard, predominantly LFE, although IMO this was considerably less irritating than the popcorn munching and other concession consumption-related activity by other patrons!

All “scope” format content before the main feature was letterboxed rather than full width.

All auditorium lighting was progressively dimmed/turned off towards the main feature, with the ceiling downlights ultimately at very low levels.

Unfortunately, all lighting was instantly raised to “house light” level as soon as the credits started! Perhaps 20 seconds after the main feature ended, the masking was moved back, and (IIRC) then the tabs closed.

The sidewall LED strips (presumably adhered to metal extrusions with diffusers attached) are, I think, amber-red rather than red; they do suffer from discontinuities as there were slight gaps between diffuser sections, and in my view they aren’t bright enough.

Despite having a dual projector system, the presentation was 2D, with a 3D screening over in Screen 6 (single projector, 7.1 audio only.) Perhaps that says something about the demand for 3D these days but most displeasing in my view as I would have preferred a 3D screening.

Sony Finity and Atmos trailers were played before the main feature, and there was also an audio announcement (blank screen) boasting of the excellence of the “All-new Vue West End!”

The picture quality from the Sony Finity SRX-R515DS dual projection system was very good, achieving good brightness, with uniformity across the screen as well as colour rendition, and the two projectors seemed to be perfectly aligned. Black levels could have been deeper and there was some clipping at low levels, and there was a very obvious barrel distortion towards the bottom of the screen, although it was only really noticeable with text (e.g. end credits.)

The Atmos system, with Dolby SLS speakers, which use ribbon tweeters, achieved very good sound quality. LFE was at times seat “shaking” and extended, and the sound was generally exceptionally clean and well balanced with extended high frequencies.

Stereo imaging was outstanding although I’m not sure whether the Atmos mix of “Jurassic World-Fallen Kingdom” used the overhead panning to the fullest extent, but Vue’s trailer certainly showed off the full surround capability (N.B. Unlike the version I’ve linked to, “DISCOVER DOLBY ATMOS” was the relevant caption used in this instead of “DISCOVER DOLBY AUDIO.”)

I should add that, in view of the relatively smaller screen size by today’s standards, I chose to sit towards the front, thus not being in the best location to experience the surround elements of the mix. On that subject, width-wise the screen size was fine in that location, although I have become used to the taller formats.

That said, I suspect the main feature was played at somewhat less than reference level. Peak levels were quite loud but did seem to suffer from headroom limitations; the LFE was never really visceral beyond “shaking” the seating, and when really pushed, mid and high frequencies became harsh, with an overall loss of clarity and separation.

Air conditioning was very good although the auditorium was slightly hot when I first entered, but filtered and dehumidified air was just what was needed today. (I don’t cope well in “warm” weather!)

Quibbles aside I must say I’m very impressed, Screen 5 is an excellent auditorium worthy of a West End flagship.

The foyer/lobby areas, as well as Screen 5, of the Vue West End look to be in excellent condition, and all parts of the cinema that I visited were absolutely spotless.

I’d better stop there before I collapse in front of my keyboard (!)—photos to follow.

CF100
CF100 on June 12, 2018 at 6:30 am

Oops, forgot to link to the Vue trailer that was played yesterday.

LARGE_screen_format
LARGE_screen_format on June 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm

What changes, if any, have Vue made to the auditoria since taking over from Warner Village Cinemas at this location? Has the projector(s) used, sound system and speakers all be changed/upgraded?

Which row would you recommend when watching a movie in screen 5 or 7, both from an optimum viewing position and audio sweet spot. I’ve yet to watch a movie at Vue, West End but plan to change that at some point soon.

The Vue trailer that you linked to is one of two that have been shown each time that I have visited one of their cinemas over the past few years. Often the sound during this trailer demonstrates the surrounds and LFE far better than during most/all of the movie!

That was quite a detailed account of your visit, the only thing missing from making it a mystery customer report would have been commenting on the purchase of your ticket and food/drink including whom you were served by and how courteous etc they were!

How full was the performance of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that you watched? AFAIK reference levels are usually saved for peak times when the auditorium is full or near to full. Certainly, off-peak performances when auditoria are often almost empty are played at lower volume levels.

Back in the 90’s the cinema that I visited the most (UCI Wycombe 6, now Empire Cinemas 8-screen) had red curtains installed in all six auditoria. Screens 1 to 4, the curtain would rise and in the two smallest screen (5 & 6) they would open from the centre outwards. All screens were scope and they had black masking on the left and right sides of the screen which would retract whenever scope movies were shown.

Nowadays this seems to have become less and less the norm. Most of the auditoria that I visit do not have curtains or masking. In addition to looking more professional in terms of presentation, would I be correct in saying that the movable masking provides not only a cleaner edge to the projected image but it may also enhance the perceived contrast as it is a true black, unlike the very dark grey that is seen by most non-laser projection systems?

CF100
CF100 on June 12, 2018 at 6:42 pm

What changes, if any, have Vue made to the auditoria since taking over from Warner Village Cinemas at this location?

To be uncharitable—but not entirely unfair—it might be said the only thing Vue did to this cinema (other than a sale and leaseback!) for a very long time was gradually let it fall to bits…

…but then, in 2017, all “public” areas were completely refurbished at a cost of ~£6.7m (as stated in Vue’s publicity.) This was covered in a Cinema Technology Magazine article on p82 of the September 2017 edition and I also posted several comments in relation to this on Cinema Treasures.

To recap:

  • All auditoria were restepped with wider row spacing, new luxury black leather seating of which some at the front are electronically adjustable reclining seats.
  • New floor coverings.
  • Side/rear wall coverings replaced with black stretched fabric walls and acoustic wall carpeting (Eomac), all finishes now black including the art deco “stepped” coving around the prosenia which had previously had each “step” coloured in a different shade of grey.
  • Existing suspended ceilings in 5/7 were I think completely redone for Atmos but otherwise existing presumably kept.
  • Prior to this any changes made were very limited, possibly the carpets were replaced but I can’t remember if this was prior to the Vue acquisition/rebranding. The
  • Existing tabs kept.
  • LED-lit side fibre optic rods at the top of the new step risers in aisle locations.
  • Screen 5/7 have LED strip features incorporated into the sidewalls.

Here’s a couple of photos of Screen 7 as it was before the 2017 refurbishment:

Photo 1.

Photo 2.

Has the projector(s) used, sound system and speakers all be changed/upgraded?

  • Digital screenings – Sony 4K projectors added as with all other Vue sites. Not sure if there were any changes made but IIRC they were not replaced in 2017 at which point there were 2xSony SRX-R515DS in each of Screens 5/7 and Sony SRX-R320 in all other auditoria.
  • AFAIK celluoid projection no longer available.
  • Harkness Clarus XC170 screens were installed in Screens 5-8 in 2017.
  • Screen 5/7 JBL speakers were changed at some point for Martin Audio speakers; I think this was prior to the Vue acquisition, and the auditoria were still THX certified with the replacement speakers (they are on THX’s Approved Equipment list)—however, that reminds me—the THX certification was dropped from Screen 5 first, and only later Screen 7. Vue have themselves used Martin Audio in other locations, so it does get confusing!
  • Screen 5/7 sound systems replaced in 2017 with CP850 (Atmos) processors, Dolby Multichannel Class D amplifiers, and Dolby SLS speakers.
  • Not sure about the rest of the auditoria. Post-refurbishment, going by photos posted by DavidSimpson on Cinema Treasures, JBL 8330 rear arrays are still used in some auditoria. They’d possibly still be OK for smaller auditoria but they were never designed for discrete digital surround and the bass and midrange drivers do use cone surrounds (prone to “foam rot”), and electrolytic capacitors (albeit bypassed) are used in the crossovers.
  • All auditoria other than Screens 5/7 equipped with Dolby CP750 processors providing 7.1 surround.

Photo of Screen 6 towards the end of the refurbishment. A driverless subwoofer cabinet can be seen!

Which row would you recommend when watching a movie in screen 5 or 7, both from an optimum viewing position and audio sweet spot.

Good question. When I said that I sat “towards the front,” I really meant the front row—which I had all to myself!

The first row in Screen 5, going by the licensing plans, I’d estimate to be about 0.6x screen width distance from the screen. Relatively speaking, this would relate to about row E at the Cineworld (Empire) Leicester Square IMAX, which is a couple of rows ahead of what I’d regard as the sweet spot in that auditorium.

Trouble is that the stepping isn’t as steep as more recent multiplexes and as was pointed out by someone else on Cinema Treasures the seating isn’t staggered so you might risk the screen being obscured, but this aside I think Row D might work well. Recalling that IMAX calls for no greater a seating distance than 1x screen width, this is altogether too far from the screen (I’d estimate just under the screen width away) but better placed for the rears/overheads.

Thinking about it, Row C might be a better choice, as (for the centre seating section) the next row are recliners, thus hopefully resolving the screen obstruction issue.

Also, Row C or D would probably relate to where I’ve sat in Screens 5 or 7 many times before the 2017 refurbishment.

But this is a somewhat arbitrary recommendation on my part—Dolby’s Atmos guidelines/manuals are likely to specify which location is to be optimised in terms of levels, time alignment, etc.

The Vue trailer that you linked to is one of two that have been shown each time that I have visited one of their cinemas over the past few years. Often the sound during this trailer demonstrates the surrounds and LFE far better than during most/all of the movie!

I’ve seen the Vue trailer at other locations (such as Vue Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush)) and I wasn’t impressed on those occasions but it was certainly very impressive this time—and, yes, embarrassingly far better than the movie itself!

That was quite a detailed account of your visit, the only thing missing from making it a mystery customer report would have been commenting on the purchase of your ticket and food/drink including whom you were served by and how courteous etc they were!

LOL. Thanks, I like detail and precision. :–) Having said that, this “cinema obsession” is a curse—maybe it would be better if I could just “relax and enjoy the film” rather than report writing in my head for a later brain dump!

How full was the performance of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that you watched? AFAIK reference levels are usually saved for peak times when the auditorium is full or near to full. Certainly, off-peak performances when auditoria are often almost empty are played at lower volume levels.

It was an early evening performance, when I entered the auditorium it was almost empty. There were other patrons in the row behind, so I didn’t want to keep turning my head around to see how busy it was but I did get out of my seat once the end credits started and it looked fairly busy though not packed.

Not sure how levels would be adjusted in an automated digital projection environment?

By “not reference level” I mean quite a bit lower, not just a slight adjustment down.

Incidentally, IMAX Digital systems do allow the operator to adjust away from reference level but this is presumably to allow for specific screenings. IIRC if it’s left there IMAX’s Network Operations Centre will soon be in contact to ask why it’s not been set back to reference level!

But I’ve certainly attended screenings in near-empty non-IMAX auditoria where the levels must have been well over 120dB peak with enough LFE level to shake teeth loose—although understandably that’s not to everyone’s taste!

Sleep is now due, so replying to the rest of your post is to follow.

CF100
CF100 on June 13, 2018 at 6:41 am

Corrections:

  • The suspended ceilings in Screen 5/7 appear to be the same as they were prior to the refurbishment, only with tiles removed where overhead speakers are hung.

  • “the bass and midrange drivers do use cone surrounds” –> “the bass and midrange drivers do use FOAM surrounds.”

  • “Not sure how levels would be adjusted in an automated digital projection environment?” –> “Not sure whether levels would be adjusted on the basis of auditorium fill in an automated digital projection environment?”

CF100
CF100 on June 13, 2018 at 4:18 pm

LARGE_screen_format:

The rest of my reply:

Back in the 90’s the cinema that I visited the most (UCI Wycombe 6, now Empire Cinemas 8-screen) had red curtains installed in all six auditoria.

Alas, I never did get there (in the early to mid 90s) as I was a teenager at the time and when I asked my Father “Where’s High Wycombe?” the response was “Miles away…”! (Read: “No, I don’t want to go for a jaunt around the M25 just to go to the cinema…”)

I suppose there might have been a window of opportunity that I missed after I’d learnt to drive.

Nowadays this seems to have become less and less the norm. Most of the auditoria that I visit do not have curtains or masking.

Alas so. I’ve told this story previously on Cinema Treasures but I might as well repeat it here: I remember the first time I went to a screen with no masking or tabs, it was an AMC in the American Midwest, where I was staying with some local people. When I complained about the lack of tabs, they said “Curtains? Aren’t they old fashioned?!”

In addition to looking more professional in terms of presentation, would I be correct in saying that the movable masking provides not only a cleaner edge to the projected image but it may also enhance the perceived contrast as it is a true black, unlike the very dark grey that is seen by most non-laser projection systems?

Digital projection will produce clean edges although if there is severe geometric distortion then those edges would be curved instead of straight. There can be a problem if the image requires “overscanning” because the side edges have unwanted content or aren’t always filled, which occurred with “Avengers: Infinity War” when I recently saw it in the Cineworld (Empire) Leicester Square 4DX. But then this could be fixed by performing the “overscanning” digitally, i.e. slightly upsampling the picture and cropping it, although I have to ask why it wasn’t resolved in post-production?

It does enhance the perceived contrast and also removes light scattering from the unmasked screen area which return back to the filled out, causing a subtle “wash out.” An auditorium with black coloured finishes also helps in this respect.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater