Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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davepring on July 7, 2017 at 10:08 am

Dunkirk to be presented in 70mm here later this month

CF100 on June 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Correction to my previous post on the planning permission timeframe for the replacement roof: The respective building control entry on Westminster Council’s website notes that this has been completed. Having a look at Google Earth (i.e. the full-featured PC software rather than http://maps.google.com/) and comparing to “historical imagery,” the clearly “patched” appearance is no longer there, and so this would appear to be the case.

CF100 on June 18, 2017 at 5:16 pm

FanaticalAboutOdeon: A comprehensive conversion could of course not be justified in all cases, but at the same time, too many were clearly very inexpensive and were also ill-thought out.

For example, this one:

Odeon Harlow – “Urban Exploration” photo

I cannot see any purpose in the rear “corridor” seats, other than to frustrate those patrons with no other seating option given a full house, nor the two rear surround speakers on the “corridor” sidewalls.

(Maybe I am rather naive about the “purpose” of the rear seats, as this could be ideal for those wishing to engage in activities other than watching the feature?!)

This is perhaps an extreme example, but there were too many which ended up with odd seating arrangements, off-centre projection and screens angled away from the seating.

Combined with poor quality interiors the overall impression was of a “fleapit.”

More recently, many of those less than ideal conversions which still exist have, at least, been refurbished to at least provide reasonable interiors.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 10, 2017 at 6:07 am

CF100, The “drop wall” subdivision of most Odeons, and many other circuits' halls, was indeed poor. The “minis” thereby created in the rear stalls area were usually less than ideal and such conversions in the busier Odeons where the balcony was extended forward to maximise capacity seriously compromised the architectural integrity of what became Screen One. This and those situations where the roof of one or both minis protruded beyond the balcony front was disastrous for original schemes. York’s balcony extension caused the splay wall decorative grille work to be removed and replaced by ugly “functional” air conditioning units at a higher level and the additional barriers and exit signs forward, insisted on by the local council, meant the actual picture size had to be reduced in order to be seen from all seats. Barnet’s larger minis gave those upstairs in Screen One the impression they were watching the film over a cliff top. Sadly, many more examples of both and other conversion problems like the acoustic effect of leaving the front stalls as a void and creating a large emptiness between audience and image.

The very expensive twinning and tripling of both Odeon and ABC “key” city centre cinemas was, by contrast, very successful in creating two or three relatively spacious and very comfortable, totally separate modern cinemas which had ambience and atmosphere of their own. This costly standard of conversion work could not be carried out “across the board” due to both the enormous expense and, in many cases, spatial constraints.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and even including 70mm. facilities in the “key” location conversions was done at the same time as fewer and fewer films were being made in the format. Further subdivision of all Odeons where extra screens could be shoehorned in, made sense to accountants and, undeniably offered more choice to the cinemagoer while, unfortunately, spreading the impression that cinemas were getting smaller and “just not the same anymore”. It was all an uncomfortable transition towards building our own multiplexes as choice simply had to be offered when the number of cinema buildings had dwindled.

CF100 on June 7, 2017 at 5:25 am

rasLXR—Indeed white is not ideal but I’m not sure how this could be changed without seriously compromising the design? “Low reflectivity” specialist paint in a slightly off-white colour? Thinking about it, the splay walls should really all covered in white stretched fabric over acoustic absorption…

Regarding black, many “black box” auditoria with wall-to-wall screens fail in my view as one always feels as though one is in a cinema watching a screen hemmed in by the side walls and ceiling, instead of a “view into” another world.

CF100 on June 7, 2017 at 4:11 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon—I agree with your comments on the “streamline moderne” Odeons. That “house style” is, to this day, respected and iconic for good reason.

My personal opinion on “ornate” fibrous plaster modellings is a very negative one indeed!

I will add, though, that many of the Odeons were subject to very poor subdivisions, and particularly those later under the control of the likes Coronet were subject to very poor maintenance, with auditoriums badly repainted, etc.

CF100 on June 7, 2017 at 4:01 am

Mike Blakemore: As I’ve mentioned on this site before, my Father was an architect (Project Architect on numerous multi-million pound commercial buildings including in the entertainment/leisure sector) and, at a distance, just who in a practice was responsible for what is frequently unclear.

The RIBA published a book on a practice he had worked for—he had been involved with the design of one of the buildings therein but his name was misspelt (!) and his colleague with whom he had worked on the project was not mentioned. There were numerous other errors, too.

There are many other factors but suffice to say, whilst “house styles” of cinema chains and architectural practices are sometimes evident, I would be cautious over trying to assign credit. I suspect your complex history is in reality somewhat more involved!

CF100 on June 7, 2017 at 3:30 am

moviebuff82—Regarding increased security, I attended a preview screening at VUE Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush) yesterday and they were doing bag checks.

Of course this is “security theatre” not least since there is no such screening in the foyer nor for the mall’s very large atrium area adjacent… etc.

It seems that VUE Westfield London do have infra-red CCTV in the auditoria with live videos of such being fairly prominently displayed at the corridor entrance leading to the auditoria.

CF100 on June 7, 2017 at 3:18 am

The planning permission for the replacement roof over the OLS was granted on 1 October 2014 and work must commence within 3 years of this decision or Odeon will need to go through the applications process again.

Whilst this is a “rubber stamp” matter, no subsequent planning application is shown on Westminster’s planning applications database.

If the refurbishment is to be started this year, then it seems likely that it will happen before October.

Mike_Blakemore on June 5, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Hmm The First 7 Cinemas of what became The Odeon Circuit from Kingstanding onwards was really owned by Clifton of Birmingham . Sir Sidney Clift a Birmingham Solicitor appointed Deutch as Chair in Place of Leon Salberg of the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham who was dying. Clift being a practicing Solicitor it was not the done thing to do.. All Built Odeon had a large Clifton Syndicate presence, It must be remembered That Deutch and his wife Lillie had only 200 shares between them in each project.. Lillie ran a theatre furnishings company with Clift that supplied both Clifton’s and Odeons and that why they looked the same. J. Arthur Rank only purchased Deutch’s shares in the Management company in 1942.. 1947 Rank promoted shares in Odeon properties Ltd., During 1948 the complex process of buying out and share swapping took place. The share rights were offered to shareholders of the individual Odeon projects The Odeon Circuit history is very complex and not what it seems.. The Architects Clevering and Mather were also associates of Satchwell and Roberts Architects of Birmingham.. They created the Odeon Look. Not Weedon. Andrew Mather solely designed Odeon Leicester Square. Harry Weedon’s job was to manage the projects and produce the budget for the share holder prospectus’s

moviebuff82 on June 5, 2017 at 11:43 am

Can AMC Stubs members from the US use their cards at this theater?

Granadier on June 5, 2017 at 9:50 am

I would expect someone with a nom de plume such as yours, Fanatical to say what you do in support of the original Odeons.

I am the first person to agree that in days of yore, all the circuit houses as well as many independents were , with a few exceptions, fascinating pieces of architecture in their own right.

From the opulence of the Granadas and Gaumont Palaces (the finest of which, Manchester, being designed and built for Granada, of course) to the more elaborate of Glen’s houses for ABC and the rather more functional but comfortable Odeons, they were all a pleasure to visit.

The latter,when compared with today’s austere, bland and characterless venues, were indeed highly elaborate and I am cautiously optimistic that the last largely unspoilt example, namely the Odeon Leicester Square, will receive the sensitive treatment it deserves when its refurbishment does eventually come to fruition.

moviebuff82 on June 4, 2017 at 10:40 am

I think there is increased security at London theaters like this due to yesterday’s horrible terror attack near London Bridge. On a lighter note, Wonder Woman played here as well as other european theaters before the night showings in america and canada. Belgium got the movie first on the 31st of May.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Cjbx11, Agree with your every word. I’ve been familiar with several original Odeons since the early ‘fifties and personally found them superior internally to some of the more ornate Glen ABC auditoriums – most of which I liked but always felt they were in second place. The whole thing is subjective and there’s no right or wrong in our personal impressions. I came to Granadas relatively late and found Kingston, Bedford and Harrow very impressive while Tooting felt decidedly overdone. The more ornate the interior schemes, the more difficult to maintain they were and the sooner they appeared dusty and dowdy. Odeon’s sweeping, streamlined moderne interiors with, usually, wide rectangular prosceniums, spectacular curtains and much concealed lighting were my ideal cinemas and the house style was never better exemplified, in my opinion, than at Leicester Square, Scarborough and York.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 2, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Ian, As you say, the Studios are running now. I can’t imagine much work can have been carried out during the two days the miniplex disappeared from the Odeon website. Having said that, the five screens were fairly recently refurbished when the name changed from Mezzanine and Costa became involved. It’s also possible, but unlikely, that the Studios were removed from the website in error. The plot thickens…

thomastace on June 2, 2017 at 4:23 am

Watched ‘The Optimists’ (1973) last night with Peter sellers. There is a fantastic section where they walk through London and you see a great shot of the Odeon Leicester Square as well as glimpses of the Rialto and Odeon Marble Arch.

Ian on June 1, 2017 at 12:38 am

I went through Leicester Square yesterday and the Odeon Mezzanines were running – can’t explain the website, but the refurb does not appear to have started yet.

Mike_Blakemore on May 31, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Granadier…. As a point of interest each Granada was a separate project.. Both ABC and Rank had money in Granada. Now Those Granada’s that had ABC money was Ross-RCA Equipped. Rank money was GB Kalee Equipped. It also has to be remembered that the Bernstein’s had a management arrangement with J. Arthur Rank whilst Rank had money invested in Granada. (A name dropping moment) I met Sidney Bernstein when I was much younger when I worked with ABC as an Assistant Manager. Granada’s head office was diagonal to ABC’s in Golden Square. ABC had some of their offices in their building.. We have to give thanks that we once had so many individually magnificent Theatres – Cinemas whatever their ownership.. Unlike the bland boring bog standard modern ones we have today. Run by people that do not seem to have the same passion as our generation did.

Cjbx11 on May 31, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Granadier I’m not sure Your comment regarding purpose built Odeons is quite fair. It’s true that Odeon didn’t spend anywhere near the amount of money on building their cinemas compaired to Granada, but Odeon did build some of the most iconic cinemas of the era and although internally Odeon went for a more simplistic approach compared to some of their rivals, they did manage to create warm, comfortable and welcoming cinemas. There is no arguing that Granada built some of the most spectacular cinemas of the era and of course the Granada Tooting was probably the most spectacular cinema ever built in the UK, but personally I found their cinemas fairly drab on the outside and in particular I’ve always thought the Granada Harrow to be pretty poor building outwardly. I think it shows the difference in ideology of the two company’s with Granada choosing to go for very large gothic cathedral style, while Odeon choose a more modern warm and welcoming style to their cinemas. It’s just a shame that modern cinemas have no style at all and every cinema is just as bland and boring as the next.

Granadier on May 31, 2017 at 10:45 am

Good that the integrity of the Odeon is going to be preserved (hopefully).

As for the purpose built Odeons, this was the best constructed as the remainder were, in the main, jerry -built, plain and unexciting affairs.

We on the Granada circuit quite rightly regarded our buildings as far superior and we rated ABC’s as second best to Odeon’s mediocre third rate status. ABC could also (after us) rightly boast better company – management/staff relations and conditions than Odeon .

FanaticalAboutOdeon on May 30, 2017 at 1:25 pm

The Odeon Studios (former Mezzanine “miniplex”) alongside the Odeon Theatre, are currently absent from Odeon Cinemas website while the Odeon itself is listed and showing “Wonder Woman”.
This may indicate that the refurbishment of the five screen complex is already underway and, once complete and the screens open again, work on the Odeon could well follow.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on May 20, 2017 at 4:40 am

CF100, I know exactly what you mean – my own breath will be metaphorically held until I’m able to see the results of what, given the budget parameters, is clearly going to be very fundamental work. Unless a new screen frame is positioned level with the proscenium arch and the curtains and historical safety curtain dispensed with and unused respectively, there is little scope for a larger image and not just because of the “top corner”/low rear stalls ceiling restrictions. The image size at present is a large one and comfortably commensurate with the dimensions of the auditorium, to my mind. I watched “Nicholas and Alexandra” from the back row of the circle and the, admittedly blown up to 70mm, image looked great. The Odeon is a very large cinema but not a cathedralic Gaumont State, Green’s Playhouse Glasgow, Odeon Blackpool or New Victoria Bradford or London, all of which shrank the image considerably from distant seats. The current OLS arrangement of having two screens, facilitated by its stage and flying space, has made it something of the ultimate showcase when silver for 3D and white for 2D has precluded any risk of compromise when both industry and public see a film for the first time. If this dual screen arrangement is perpetrated, the proscenium arch is safe and AMC’s reported wish to retain the organ would be another “safeguard”. The stage itself is obviously the perfect platform when actors, directors, producers etc. are presented to the audience prior to premieres and special events. George Coles' Empire Leicester Square had to make do with a specially placed platform for such presentations as the cinema had no stage and this was always a bit “clunky” when celebrities could only walk away into the audience. The Odeon’s huge balcony would, in any case, preclude such a less satisfactory arrangement if the screen frame were to be proud of the arch whereas the Empire Cinema’s stadium configuration allowed the inevitability. My speculations are just that and many of us will be anticipating just what is to come until the work is completed.
Given the advances in the use of ultra-bright LED luminaires in stage, TV and architectural lighting since the Odeon’s most recent transformation in 1998, I’m personally keenly waiting to see how that technology may impact on the scheme.

The “hair’s breadth” shoehorning of two auditoria into the erstwhile Empire cinema hasn’t worked for me and I’ve left the complex with a headache and a stiff neck for the last time!

A cinema operating friend attended the opening of a multiplex near Sheffield earlier this week and was amazed to find he needed to “hold down” his reclining seat to be able to watch the film and avoid staring at the ceiling. Good cinema designers, a dying breed? Feeding required capacities, dimensions, sound systems, air conditioning etc. into a computer model is clearly no substitute for a dedicated designer and his/her team. The computer has a brain but no heart.

CF100 on May 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Come to think of it, what’s needed is more steeply raked seating in the front stalls.

BTW, here is a very high-resolution scan of the old OLS “cut-away” diagram:

CF100 on May 13, 2017 at 9:00 am

Great news, hopefully!

From the Variety article: ““It’s impossible to think anyone would object to what we have planned for Odeon Leicester Square,” Aron said, adding that the upgrades would improve the site while retaining its character.”

Hmm, “impossible to think anyone would object”—maybe I’m being paranoid, but that sounds slightly omninous!

The Empire conversion and VUE West End refurb came in at around the £5m mark, so £10-15m sounds very extensive.

The large IMAX screen was only possible in the Empire by a hair’s (or roof truss'!) breadth.

I imagine there is some scope for increasing the screen size within the existing proscenium provided the rear stalls are removed—possibly in part for the additional toilets mentioned in the Variety article?!

FantaticalAboutOdeon—Re. reclining seats at the Empire—the same type of seats are installed in the “IMPACT” screen and they do recline. I don’t think there’s enough space in the IMAX screen because it’s using the original 1928 circle steppings.

As for the “iSense” brand—the OLS already is “iSense”… if you sit towards the front!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on April 18, 2017 at 12:49 pm

AMC have said the Odeon’s refurbishment/restoration is part of a renovation programme for all their European sites which will begin later this year. Given the plans and budget for OLS and the desire for it to be “…our number one site in Europe” and their statement “We are moving quickly”, suggests sooner rather than later though, understandably, no starting date has been announced.