Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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Odeon Leicester Square

The Odeon Leicester Square was the ‘flagship’ cinema of Oscar Deutsch’s chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. It was built on the site of the Alhambra Theatre (1883-1936). Designed by architects Harry Weedon and Andrew Mather, the Odeon opened for business on 2nd November 1937 with the feature “The Prisoner of Zenda” starring Ronald Colman. The seating capacity at opening was for 2,116 (1,140 in the stalls and 976 in the balcony) and the seats were covered in mock leopard-skin!

It dominates Leicester Square with its 120 feet tall tower, and the entire facade and tower covered in black granite slabs.

Over the years there have been many alterations to the interior of the cinema, including an ill-fated £200,000 ‘zing’ treatment in 1967 which removed practically the entire original decorations. Only the elaborately painted safety curtain remains original today (and that is rarely seen or used). The last film to play in the original auditorium was Audrey Hepburn in “Two for the Road” on 20th September 1967. It re-opened with a gala premiere of “Smashing Time” with Rita Tushingham & Lynn Redgrave on 27th December 1967 with a stage show featuring Cliff Richard & the Shadows.

The projection equipment includes a Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 (two projectors plus a standby machine, with large capacity spools, and in addition a platter for running 70mm as and when necessary). It is also equipped to play digital presentations, VHS, DVD and 16mm.

All digital sound formats are supported, including 8 channel SDDS. Full stage facilities are available, as the screen and stage speakers are designed to retract. There is the forementioned safety curtain, a set of house curtains and a set of screen curtains. The stage has had occasional use over the years, one occasion being during World War II when Bob Hope, Adolphe Menjou and the Glenn Miller Orchestra took to the stage, and entertained an audience which included Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower.

The Odeon also contains its original Compton 5Manual/17Rank organ, with illuminated console on a lift, Melotone, and a Grand Piano which was opened by organist James Bell. It is still played on special events, accompanying silent films and occasionally during premiere presentations.

On 20th April 1990, five additional screens were added to the Odeon, built at an alleyway running between Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road and named the Odeon Mezzanine and have their own separate page on Cinema Treasures (now known as Odeon Studios Leicester Square).

In April 1998, the building was renovated and copies of the ‘Flying Ladies’ sculptures were re-instated on the side-walls and some of the concealed lighting in troughs in the ceiling were re-lit.

Always a first run cinema, initially the films played were mainly United Artist productions. Later it premiered many films from the Rank Organisation, who took over Odeon Theatres in 1941 on the death of Oscar Deutsch. From 1946 and for many years, it alternated each year with the Empire Theatre across Leicester Square to host the Royal Film Performance. The Empire Theatre was dropped from this honour after it was modernised in 1961. The Royal Film Performance is an Annual event, unique to the United Kingdom. The film industry invites the reigning monarch or a leading member/members of Royalty to attend a performance of an unseen film, the attending audience pay big money to participate in the event, the money made goes to charity. Many film stars and personalities also attend this glittering event.

Some early Royal Film Performances at the Odeon Leicester Square have been: 1947 Cary Grant in “The Bishops Wife”, 1951 Dinah Sheridan in “Where No Vultures Fly”, 1953 Richard Todd in “Rob Roy The Highland Rogue”, 1955 Cary Grant in “To Catch A Thief”, 1957 Gene Kelly in “Les Girls”, 1966 Virginia McKenna in “Born Free”, 1962 Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” in Panavision 70, 1967 Elizabeth Taylor in “The Taming of the Shrew”, 1968 Leonard Whiting in “Romeo and Juliet”, 1969 Maggie Smith in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, 1970 Richard Burton in “Anne of the Thousand Days”, 1971 Ali MacGraw in “Love Story”, 1972 Vanessa Redgrave in “Mary, Queen of Scots” in 70mm, 1973 Peter Finch in “Lost Horizon” in 70mm, 1974 Michael York in “The Three Musketeers”, 1975 Barbra Streisand “Funny Lady” in 70mm, 1976 Richard Chamberlain in “The Slipper and the Rose”, 1977 Gene Wilder in “Silver Streak”, 1978 Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 70mm, 1979 Michael Caine in “California Suite”, 1980 Dustin Hoffman in “Kramer vs Kramer”, 1981 Ben Cross in “Chariots of Fire”, 1982 Peter Usinov in “Evil Under the Sun”, 1983 Jon Voight in “Table For Five”,1984 Albert Finney in “The Dresser”, 1985 Judy Davis in “A Passage To India”, 1986 Mikhail Baryshnikov in “White Nights” and in 1987 Anne Bancroft in “84 Charing Cross Road”.

Other important events at the Odeon Leicester Square have been:
Gala European Premiere 27/8/53 “Melba"
European Premiere 19/11/53 "The Robe"
World Premiere 01/03/56 "A Town Like Alice"
Royal World Premiere 22/03/56 "Alexander The Great"
World Premier 24/05/56 "Storm Centre"
Charity World Premiere 05/07/56 "Reach For The Sky"
European Premiere 06/09/56 "Oklahoma"
World Premiere 13/03/57 "Fortune is a Woman"
Royal World Premiere 29/05/58 "The Key"
Gala World Premiere 30/12/59 "Our Man In Havana"
Royal World Premiere 11/02/60 "Sink the Bismark"
Royal World Premiere 05/01/61 "The Singer Not the Song"
Gala World Premiere 05/04/61 "The Greengage Summer"
Royal World Premiere 27/04/61 "The Guns of Naverone"
Royal World Premiere 04/01/62 "The Valiant"
Gala World Premiere 22/02/62 "HMS Defiant"
Royal World Premiere 10/12/62 "Lawrence of Arabia” in Super Panavision 70
Gala World Premiere 20/06/63 “The Great Escape"
Gala World Premiere 17/09/64 "Goldfinger"
Royal World Premiere 23/11/65 "The Heroes of Telemark"
World Premiere 5/05/66 "Modesty Blaise"
Gala British Premiere 30/06/66 "The Blue Max"
European Premiere 11/08/66 "Torn Curtain"
Gala World Premiere 10/11/66 "The Quiller Memorandum"
Gala World Premiere 27/01/67 "The Night of the Generals"
Royal World Premiere 12/06/67 "You Only Live Twice"
Gala Premiere 27/12/67 "Smashing Time"
Royal World Premiere 10/04/68 "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
Royal World Premiere 26/09/68 "Oliver"
Royal World Premiere 16/12/68 "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Royal World Premiere 18/12/69 "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service"
Royal World Premiere 16/07/70 "Cromwell” in 70mm
Royal World Premiere 26/10/70 “Waterloo” in 70mm
Royal World Premiere 13/01/71 “Murphy’s War"
World Premiere 07/10/71 "Bedknobs and Broomsticks"
Royal World Premiere 29/11/71 "Nicholas and Alexandra"
Gala World Premiere 20/07/72 "Young Winston"
Royal World Premiere 05/07/73 "Live and Let Die”
Royal World Premiere 08/08/74 “Caravan to Vaccares"
Gala World Premiere 05/09/74 "Gold"
Royal World Premiere 01/05/75 "Paper Tiger"
Royal European Premiere 18/12/75 "The Man Who Would Be King"
Gala World Premiere 13/04/76 "Shout at the Devil"
Royal World Premiere 16/12/76 "The Pink Panther Strikes Again"
Royal World Premiere 13/07/78 "Revenge of the Pink Panther"
Royal World Premiere 26/06/79 "Moonraker"
Royal World Premiere 18/12/79 "The Black Hole” in 70mm
Royal European Premiere 20/05/80 “The Empire Srikes Back” in 70mm
Gala World Premiere 17/12/80 “The Dogs of War"
Gala European Premiere 09/04/81 "Popeye"
Royal European Premiere 07/07/82 "Annie” in 70mm
Royal World Premiere 26/08/82 “Who Dares Wins"
Royal European Premiere 02/12/82 "Ghandi” in 70mm
Royal World Premiere 06/06/83 “Octopussy"
Royal World Premiere 01/03/84 "Champions"
World Premier 28/03/85 "Not Quite Jerusalem"
World Premiere 19/03/87 "The Fourth Protocol"
Royal World Premiere 29/06/87 "The Living Daylights"
Gala World Premiere 03/09/87 "Hope and Glory”

There are many, many, more and of course in more recent years the Odeon Leicester Square has become ‘the’ place for premieres, which seem to happen weekly!

The final regular film show was on 8th January, 2018 with “Star Wars:The Last Jedi”. On 9th January 2018 the European Premiere of “The Post” was attended by Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg. After which the Odeon was closed to be renovated & remodeled.

The rear stalls seating area has been taken over by new toilets, a switch room and larger concession area. The former front stalls is now 259 recliner seats on nine rows. The front of the circle (Royal Circle) now has three rows of 90 recliner seats. The rear circle has 446 regular seats on fourteen rows. Total seating capacity has been reduced to 794 + 6 disabled spaces (reduced from 1,683 seats of recent years). The Odeon Leicester Square was re-opened on 21st December 2018 as a Dolby Cinema with Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns”. The pre-film organ interlude had the refurbished Compton organ played by organist Donald MacKenzie. The World Premiere of “Alita-Battle Angel” starring Rosa Salazar & Christolph Waltz was held here on 31st January 2019.

The adjacent Odeon Mezzanine screens have been renamed Screens 2 – 5 Odeon Leicester Square(they have their own page on Cinema Treasures). It also re-opened on 21st December 2018 and have a reduced seating capacity of 116 in four screens.

The International Premiere of the Netflix film “The Irishman” was held on 13th October 2019, closing the 2019 BFI London Film Festival. The stars and director of the film attended.

Contributed by Steffan Laugharne, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 705 comments)

CF100
CF100 on October 24, 2019 at 5:01 pm

moviebuff82: Yes, it will be (2D.) There will also be a triple-bill with the previous two episodes on the 18th December, “The Rise of Skywalker” performance starting at midnight.

terry
terry on October 24, 2019 at 5:34 pm

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of one of this site’s most committed and prolific contributors, James Bettley (‘Fanatical About Odeon’):–

https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/announcements/deaths/deaths/17984020.JAMES_BETTLEY/

I believe that his last post here was mainly to express his delight about Odeon’s change of heart at OLS regarding house tabs (curtains) and the fact that they had – somewhat belatedly – been fitted after many months absence. He , like many of us, considered these features to be synonymous with Cinema.

I know that at the time of his last contribution he was due to pay a visit to his beloved Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square. I do hope that this materialised and that he was indeed fortunate to see the new house curtains in use during a public performance. He would, I know, be most upset to learn that their use was very short lived and that AMC quickly reverted to just having the bare screen on show, albeit with the nonsensical ‘Odeon Luxe Leicester Square’ image – as if people need to be reminded of where they are.

R.I.P., James.

CF100
CF100 on October 24, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Terry: I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about this. :–(

Whilst I never had the pleasure of knowing him outside of the limited confines of text-based communication on this site, his good manner, generosity and love of “real” cinemas always shone through.

Stored in his head, of course, was an irreplaceable catalogue of obscure information!

I will greatly miss his contributions.

R.I.P. James.

Ian
Ian on October 25, 2019 at 6:06 am

Sad news indeed. His knowledge and inexperience were vast.

CF100
CF100 on October 27, 2019 at 4:14 pm

Hello LoveCinema—

Thanks for your response. :–)

A 120fps movie can contain 24fps content—e.g. all that has to be done is repeat each frame 5 times.


So, as a way of thinking about this, how about a whole movie at 24fps, with only the end credits at 120fps? There is no way this could “ruin” the experience; but it would stop the end credits “jumping” their way up the screen, scrolling smoothly instead.


Going back to the videos in the linked page on the “American Cinematographer” site, these, again, are both at 24fps. Yet, the contents of these videos was captured at 120fps, and was converted to 24fps using the software’s “virtual shutter.”

The “virtual shutter” has settings which are based on the shutters of “classic” 35mm cameras. So, the software could actually be used to make 24fps content that looks more “classic” in style.

Or, alternatively, as the videos show, a different “virtual shutter” could be used for part of the picture, in one example creating less blur on the woman’s face.

Also shown in the first video is what happens when there is no blur on moving objects at 24fps—it looks awful! There has to be motion blur at 24fps or it falls to bits (end credits, of course, are an obvious example.)


The videos promote the software’s ability to create the “classical” look of 24fps movies… and it doesn’t have to be used to convert to 24fps, it could be used on HFR material, so that it looks more like “classical” 24fps.

That said, I don’t think HFR delivery of movies is going to replace 24fps yet… (or ever…?) But with the increased storage available today, shooting HFR is more likely.


You were wondering about audience leaving the movie-show (and even more leaving when the action-sequences were shown): Having some of them interviewed, the latter ones leaving told me, that even watching the ‘action-sequences’ was a boring, sterile (!) and emotionless thing to do. The first ones leaving shared exactly the same impression I was telling you about and were not complaining of any headaches while watching.

Funnily enough, I thought “Gemini Man” was somewhat “boring” and “sterile,” but thought this was due to the movie itself. Also, CGI “Young” Will Smith didn’t quite look real, so there was some disconnect there.

Have you experienced some of the audience leaving other shows?


Quite frankly I do not share this opinion: 24 fps might never be chosen on any optimal technical basis, but it’s been there for over 100 Years of cinematic presentation and one should think of the only reason being… because it has proven itself.

Getting the World to change standards is not easy! I don’t think 24fps is a “magic” number, after all 24fps movies have often been shown on 25fps TV simply by slightly speeding them up (which “no-one” even notices!)

When we think of 24fps movies, we are not really thinking of “24fps”—as the videos on the “American Cinematographer” page show, 24fps itself can look quite different depending on the shutter speed. Rather, we are thinking of how movies are stylised, and part of that is due to the limitations of 24fps—it has “proven itself,” but only because filmmakers (hopefully) don’t do things that don’t work at 24fps.


So, to my mind, it would be far more interesting to remove those limitations, and see how filmmakers adapt to HFR—just as in the last 20 years digital cameras have rapidly developed and creators adapted to get the results they want…

For example, an anamorphic “65mm” lens can be used with a new “65mm” 8K digital camera


The last thing we need is to throw away 100 years of cinematic heritage, ending up with (say) a nightmare of hyper-“Michael Bay” chaotic action films. Storytelling, characters and performance always come first, presented in a cinematic way…

Best regards.

LoveCinema
LoveCinema on October 28, 2019 at 8:15 am

Hello CF100

Thank you for responding in comprehensive details on the subject.

I see your point in the shown videos (American Cinematographer). From my opinion the scenes still appear too ‘realistic’ to me.

‘So, as a way of thinking about this, how about a whole movie at 24fps, with only the end credits at 120fps? There is no way this could “ruin” the experience; but it would stop the end credits “jumping” their way up the screen, scrolling smoothly instead.’

I wonder why this procedere should be done?

I had never experienced end credits ‘jumping’ up our Cinema-Screens, they appeared always running smoothly. Could be a bit ‘tricky’ applying this procedere for end credits combined with movie – post -scenes or stills, as most of them are likely provided with.

As I have never been an ‘action-movie’ fan all my ‘cinematic background years long’ I can’t share your opinion about ‘Gemini Man’ being ‘boring’ or ‘sterile’ even in the ‘action’ -sequences, as I had not seen the movie in full-length.

And yes, there were people leaving the movie on other shows, too – as they ‘had enough of the hyperrealistic images (!) on screen’. I’m able to share their opinion, even having not seen the said movie: If I want to see ‘realistic’ images I only have to step outside my front-door.

Funnily and interestingly enough when ‘HFR 3D’ presentations were cancelled showing it in ‘2D’, the movie was nicely frequented and nobody left before it’s ending.

(By the way – this reminds me to refer to Admission Prices at the OLS and I’d like to add that if I’d (accidently) attend the ‘Odeon Luxe’ Main Screen finding obvious reason for complaining I certainly would insist on Re-Admission and getting it — no doubt about that :–)!)

Having checked out the list of movies (long feature movies.. for the BIG SCREEN) being presented in ‘HFR’ or ‘HFR 3D’ finding not even half a dozen being produced in the last seven years.

This leads to the conclusion that Directors or/and Audiences seem most likely not prepared to adjust to the said presentation.

I do see profund possibilities and a future for the presentation being applied for thematically based documentary – films (nature, technics, science, medicine) as this basically be the optimal way for presenting these.

For the said reasons ‘HFR’ will never be estimated as `New Face of Cinema': The audience obviously is missing something very important within the presention – it’s simply called ‘Cinematic Experience’.

Best regards

joeswin
joeswin on October 31, 2019 at 9:27 am

I’m looking to visit either here or the Cineworld across the square to see Star Wars this December. Would a seat towards the rear of the circle of the OLS be best (row F for example). Or would a seat in the superscreen be better? They are a similar price – around £20 but there is a much wider choice of seats in the superscreen. Does the tech in the OLS amke it a better choice overall, or would better seats be a wiser choice?

CF100
CF100 on October 31, 2019 at 7:20 pm

joeswin:

Would a seat towards the rear of the circle of the OLS be best (row F for example).

IMO none of the seating further back than the Royal Circle is suitable—just too far from the screen. The rear of the auditorium is about 3x the screen width away from the screen (c.f. max. 1x for IMAX and typical 1.5x in multiplex screens.) You are also having to look down at the screen.

In my view, the stalls would be a much better option. You do have to look up at the screen—however, at least in terms of comfort this is mitigated by the recliners. Row D or E would be a good choice (remembering that the recliners mean that the rows are deeper, so this is further back than it sounds!)—any further forward and the surround sound won’t be ideal, too far back and you’ll end up under the balcony.

Or would a seat in the superscreen be better? They are a similar price – around £20 but there is a much wider choice of seats in the superscreen. Does the tech in the OLS amke it a better choice overall, or would better seats be a wiser choice?

I have not been to the LSQ Superscreen in a long time now. The Superscreen has a top-of-the-line sound system (inc. Dolby Atmos) and it might be said is actually better specified than the OLS.


However, I was not impressed by the projection (2xBarco DP4K-23B with Xenon light source) installed at the time of the conversion of the old Screen 1 (2014.) These projectors were moved over from the old Empire 1. My recollection from the article on the Screen 1 conversion in Cinema Technology Magazine is that the long-throw lenses (~120ft. from the projection to the screen) were simply kept even though the throw is much less in the Superscreen. Empire Cinemas were queried about this in that article, and they claimed that they worked perfectly, but my experience was serious barrel distortion (curved like a goldfish bowl to the left/right sides of the screen.)

In addition, the lack of masking on the “flat” ratio screen is, in my view, not really acceptable for letterboxed material, as the projection cannot achieve sufficiently deep black levels for the disused parts of the screen.


It is, however, possible that Cineworld have, or will, upgrade to laser projection—Christie laser projection has been installed in Screen 1 of Picturehouse Central, and in the Superscreen over at the O2.


Laser projection allows for a wider colour gamut (i.e. more saturated, vibrant colours,) where the content has been supplied that takes advantage of this, as one would hope for a release in the Dolby Cinema format. The LSQ Superscreen’s screen is much larger than the OLS, but overall, as far as “technology” goes, I would recommend the OLS over the LSQ Superscreen.


I notice that Cineworld LSQ’s IMAX screenings will be in 3D, whereas both the LSQ Superscreen and the OLS screenings are 2D only. I guess that you do not wish to see “The Rise of Skywalker” in 3D? Otherwise, I’d say that the IMAX would be the best option.


Of course, it goes without saying that, if it is the venue/auditorium itself that you want as part of the experience, then the OLS wins hands down over the LSQ Superscreen.

joeswin
joeswin on November 1, 2019 at 4:51 am

CF100:

Thank you for your reply, a wealth of knowledge and advice as always!

With regards to 2D/3D I don’t hate 3D but I just find it slightly annoying having to wear the glasses over my own glasses.

As much as I would enjoy the OLS, as a fairly recent graduate living in London I can’t quite stretch my budget to the £35 tickets in the stalls for the weekend i’m looking to go. I probably wrongly tend to compare ticket prices in cinemas to going to the theatre, and could probably get some alright seats to a West End show for that price.

I used to live in Greenwich up until last year and the o2 was our go to cinema, I however never liked the superscreen there. For every film we went to see the auditorium was almost empty, the sound was always too quiet, and I found it just generally not a nice place to sit for 2+ hours.

I’ll have to consult with the person I intend to go with and weigh up the pros and cons of our options using your great advice. Thanks again!

d8rren
d8rren on November 7, 2019 at 8:31 pm

R.I.P James used to love your in dept info from the good old days

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