Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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CF100 on September 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

According to Vue’s website, Vue Westfield London and Vue Westfield Stratford City are the 1st and 3rd highest grossing cinemas in the UK. I wonder what’s the 2nd—is there a list somewhere?

They are both a few miles from the edge of Central London and can easily be accessed by tube from there. Vue Westfield London is probably about as close to the West End as a 20 screen “megaplex” will ever be built!

They are both listed as flagship sites by Vue but IMO Vue Westfield London is very much a run of the mill multiplex.

Zappomatic on September 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm

moviebuff82: No. Not sure what the busiest in Europe is but in the UK the highest grossing cinema is Vue Westfield London.

moviebuff82 on September 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Is this theater the busiest in Europe as the AMC Empire 25 is the busiest in North America?

CF100 on September 8, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Oh dear, trying to decipher patents is enough to make one crazy!

At least this one is quite specific and straightforward and most of the key information is in the short abstract at the start. One thing missing is the front row distance:

“a seat in the centre of the front row would be located is spaced apart perpendicularly from the screen a distance not less than 0.3 times the width of the auditorium adjacent the front wall”

This is exactly what Fig. 3 shows.

I am interested in why you think a close front row and steep raking is not suitable in particular for a small auditorium?

BTW, a strange story loosely related to this: A couple of years ago, I had booked seats in Empire Leicester Square Screen 7 to attend a midday screening for myself and a friend. On entering the auditorium, I stopped at the front pondering where to sit, saying to my friend that the front row seats I’d booked seem to be too close to the screen.

Sitting in a middle row was an Irish gentlemen, formally dressed IIRC, who said, “No no no… don’t sit there… sit at the back. There will only be a few in…”

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I can’t help but wonder if the gentlemen wasn’t Thomas Anderson himself!

Lunch at Wong Kei, eating therapy for cinema obsessions (!), sounds good to me. ;–)

Lionel on September 8, 2017 at 12:46 am

Of course I was crazy enough to read the patent application by Thomas Anderson for small auditoria. Or at least view the drawings which make me think that it’s done wrong for two reasons: the stadium seating is too steep and there isn’t enough space before the front row and the screen. Looks like Anderson thinks the IMAX auditorium shape, as it was done before the digital age, is suitable for every theatre. I ignore the address of the hypnotherapy session, but if it’s all about entering into a trance to free our normal self and face or dysfunctioning side, then lunch at Wong Kei will do ;–).

CF100 on September 6, 2017 at 7:38 pm

Hello Lionel,

You are absolutely right, I felt guilty whilst doing it knowing that I had “more important” matters to attend to.

I couldn’t help myself, once I started thinking about it I felt compelled to figure it all out as far as I could! :–( On the face of it, it has almost no practical value whatsoever other than satisfying my own curiosity—and it is, I hope, of interest to anyone who bothers to read my ramblings—although they might equally well wish that I would shut up!

The best cinemas for me are a more “magical” environment than anywhere else. Very little can touch them in terms of the special feeling I get from them.

For better or worse, the engineering side of my brain wants to know “how and why it works,” so I always end up “pulling things apart” to find out.

Whether my “cinema obsession” actually makes any sense… hmm. I enjoy it, but I do drive myself nuts at times. Few people “get it” so, maybe I should find a “normal hobby” like following football! :-O However, I consider the intense interest in watching a ball being kicked around a field for 90 minutes, hoping that it will eventually make its way into the “right” net, and the tribe-like devotion to football teams, to be somewhat “insane”! (My apologies to football fans…)

As for these 60s/70s mini-cinemas like the Odeon Wardour St./Swiss Centre—I find the auditoriums very strange. Yes, there were lots of constraints but why should they result in odd shaped auditoria with such small screens? I think we can do better today with “boothless” digital projection. A small auditorium can be a comfortable and intimate environment; a good experience if the design, decor, seating layout, screen size/position and sound system are right.

BTW, (if anyone is “crazy” enough to want to read it!) you may be interested in a patent application (I’m not clear on whether the patent has been granted) by Thomas Anderson (Empire Cinemas etc.) relating to the design/geometry of small auditoria.

Now, where do I find the group hypnotherapy session to stop the “cinema obsession”…?

Lionel on September 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Dear CF100,

I should say that you are insane for the time you spent calculating how the OLS should be reconfigured to be perfect, or at least a premium venue according to the latest specs. I don’t blame you and I understand your passion, as I spent quite some time myself during work hours yesterday, figuring out how the 4-screen cinema in the former Swiss Centre should have been built to be satisfactory (including slope angle, row depth and required centimeters between screen and walls for tabs and curtains to open ideally) instead of being this horrible place everyone seems to describe.

There must be a psychiatrist in London taking care of theatrical disorders. Who knows, he may perhaps do rebates for groups, so next time I’m in London, I suggest those of us who are in that kind of addiction seek counselling.

Damn, I suddenly hate my dad (a former theatre manager) for transmitting his passion for cinema to me when I was a kid. It’s worse than alcohol and cocaine combined.

CF100 on September 6, 2017 at 12:30 am

I think I’ve now figured out a possible way this scheme could be implemented, based on available plans, publically stated project goals, presumed retention of the organ and stage, the structural constraints of keeping the existing circle structure, and the assumption that the proscenium cannot be significantly raised in height:

-Removal of front splay walls at least up to approx. location of the left/right front stalls fire hoses. According to the licencing plans, this would mainly affect stairs at stalls level on the right side that may require relocation, or possibly could simply be eliminated. Removal of splay walls to a position slightly beyond the front stalls side fire exit doors would be advantageous, to gain more screen width and aesthetic integration with the existing walls, but modification of other access and service areas etc. would then be required.

-Replacement splay walls in new location to accomodate new wider screen and sightlines therefore required.

-Replacement screen between 60-65ft. wide, where 65ft. by my estimates is the limit.

-Removal of approx. last 5 rows of existing stalls seating to accomodate sightlines to top of new screen; move stalls level rear wall forward (possibly with new toilets behind.)

-Acoustic absorption with suitable covering fitted to walls and ceilings at screen end, noting that Eomac’s catalogue includes “acoustic wood” and various design options for fabric covering-based systems.

This would still leave a compromised auditorium by current standards, but would essentially keep the original form, including retention of stage and organ, and should leave sufficient space for tabs also.

By my estimates, assuming a 65ft. wide screen, such a layout would put seats in the centre part of the front 4 rows in the Royal Circle more or less within IMAX standards (where the rearmost seats should be no further than ~1 screen width from the screen) for seating distance/position in relation to screen width, albeit located a little too high. The other 2 rows of the Royal Circle would still be OK.

Having a look at the layout of a new build iSense auditorium, the rearmost seats are 1.4x screen width away from the screen. By my estimation the scheme outlined above would put all but the last 8 rows of the circle within this distance, and in this respect it could be said that a majority of seats would meet current expectations of “immersiveness“ as found in auditoria marketed as “premium large format” cinemas, albeit not comparable to a textbook IMAX or the Cineworld/Empire LSQ IMAX (nor the IMPACT/Superscreen at the Empire, for that matter)—although some may consider this to be preferable!

So, as long as you are in the “right” seats, assuming laser projection and Atmos, it seems to me there is a good chance the pending refurbishment/alterations will make for an up-to-date “immersive” cinema experience with all the trappings of a super cinema to boot.

CF100 on September 3, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I agree that they ought to be one of the indispensable “finishing touches” to a good cinema.

Alas, it seems curtains/tabs are seen as a dated feature with no upside and plenty of scope for reliability and maintenance issues, whilst they are now uncommon so patrons may be bemused by them? :–(

OTOH, the stated basis of the OLS refurb is to keep it as a traditional single screen “super cinema” with existing features preserved and/or sympathetic treatment otherwise, so not including curtains/tabs would be to miss the point.

terry on September 3, 2017 at 8:41 am

Curtains/tabs provide the ‘finishing touch’ to a cinema and, sadly, about 90% of today’s venues lack that ‘finishing touch’.

Lets’s hope that OLS does not follow suit….

CF100 on September 3, 2017 at 7:45 am

HowardBHaas: Hear, hear!

Revisiting past posts, I guess this post by FanaticalAboutOdeon suggests the circle cannot be shortened at all. Hmm…

HowardBHaas on September 2, 2017 at 5:54 pm

I hope that a curtain (tab) will still be used with movie presentations in the main auditorium.

CF100 on September 2, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Looking at the the above referenced planning application…

-In the plans, the first few rows of the rear circle are shown. Aisles are reduced from 3 to 2 with no centre aisle, and the number of seats per row slightly decreased. The rows do not appear to be re-stepped, but I assume wider replacement seats will be installed.

-In addition to renders being included in the “Design & Access Statement,” there is a separate “Renders as Proposed” document, which contains slightly higher resolution copies of the renders. It can be seen that there is a concessions (“SNACKS”) bar opposite the main entrance doors; moreover, to the left of this are doors with a “SCREEN ONE” sign on the wall above. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the refurbished auditorium will still include stalls.

Revisiting the licensing plans for the OLS, and the classic “cross section” drawing, I have to wonder how this will work. The current rear stalls, presumably, will be unusable with the larger screen. However, if the screen is moved ahead of the existing proscenium, to get increased width within the existing auditorium footprint—and I would assume minimum 60ft. width for the new screen?—then this would probably make the front stalls also unusable.

Furthermore, ideally, to bring the cinema in line with today’s practices and expectations, the screen would also be positioned so that its vertical centre is positioned closer in line with, say, at least the middle rows of the circle—albeit this would not help the stalls either. I would also expect a flagship Dolby Cinema installation, if that is what this will be, would ideally have the projectors positioned to be aligned vertically with the screen centre.

All things considered, I can only imagine that very considerable alterations will be needed to the front of the auditorium, and possibly adjacent areas, involving reconfiguration of the ceiling, side walls, services and stairwells.

Maybe the first few rows of the circle could be removed to gain more space for reconfigured/restepped stalls? I am certain that FanaticalAboutOdeon can enlighten…

CF100 on September 2, 2017 at 7:56 am

Excerpts from the “Design & Access Statement”:

“Odeon are proposing to carry out a regeneration project which will preserve and enhance the character of the existing Art Deco Odeon, providing a much-needed upgrade to reflect the status it holds. It will accommodate the needs of the Cinema, be state-of-the-art in terms of technology to offer the best film experience. Its overall design will be brought together again to read as a whole rather than fragments of a past masterpiece. The history, heritage and the story of the building as well as the future of cinema enjoyment have all been major drivers in the development of the scheme. It will be the ultimate beacon of the ODEON brand as the best the brand can be, reinforcing the role of Odeon in its industry This is not a restoration project but where significant elements remain these will be preserved and the essence will be respected. It will still remain a ‘working cinema’, not just an icon or beacon.


“This building whilst having special architectural, cultural and historic interest is not currently listed.


“The cinema will offer a more open and inviting frontage with new glazing, canopy and glazed feature box, signage and advertising strategy.

“The glazed box would be an extension of the 1st floor Foyer Bar and wrap approximately 5m to the South of the existing opening. The feature element will be used as a seating area and help to present a more open and inviting space.


“The glazed box would be constructed as a structural glass solution made from structural glass units and supported with glass beams and fins.


“Gold coloured metal, linking outside to inside, would feature to the canopy soffit and edges, as well as featuring as a spandrel panel to mask close existing column locations. It is also proposed to have a white lit band to the edge of the canopy featuring a written historical reference – ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’. The Text will be provided by LED panels, and will be capable of change – e.g. for Premiere performances.


“We are also proposing that the current arrangement of advertising and signage would be refined. The digital billboard sizes would remain the same but the paper billboard will be removed. […] With just one digital billboard each side of the glazed element, the building will present a more legible and balanced façade.


“The details of the signage will be the subject of a separate Advertising Consent application.


“At the foyer level the separation between the main auditorium and the studio screens will be connected for the first time. Internally a Lift and Escalator will be introduced to the main foyer space easing movement around the building and allowing wheelchair access to the Circle level which was previously not possible.


“As an existing 1930s building the number of provisions such as WC numbers or Accessible WC numbers do not meet the current requirements. However with the capacity being reduced and the sanitary provisions being updated and increased, the building should better meet current standards of provision.”

Note the reference to capacity reduction and the connection between the “OLS” and “Studio” foyer areas.

EllisWilliams Architects are listed as the architect in the “Design & Access Statement.”

CF100 on September 2, 2017 at 6:01 am

A new planning application is now up, 17/07604/FULL – “Installation of new cinema canopy, refurbishment of the ground floor entrances, and replacement of first floor canopy balcony with glass extension to first floor lobby bar”, dated as validated 31 August 2017.

It is pending approval; therefore, presumably the refurbishment will not commence until the application is permitted.

Alas, Westminster Council’s IDOX site has just gone down (again!), but here’s what I’ve gleaned so far:

-The design for the updated facade can be seen under “FULL ELEVATIONS-PROPOSED” and “RENDERS AS PROPOSED.”

-There is large “DOLBY” sign on the right side of a new glazed balcony area. This suggets that a full Dolby Cinema installation is planned, with Dolby Vision (HDR laser projection) and Dolby Atmos.

-EllisWilliams Architects are responsible for drawings submitted with this application.

-3x large LED displays retained. All other external advertising to be tidied up and consolidated with new digital displays.

-Blue neon strips on the facade to be replaced with LED.

-The Odeon Studios sign is removed with “Screens 2-6” shown on the new canopy above the entrance to the “studio” screens.

–“Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation” (!) is shown on the canopy above the entrance to what I assume is now Screen 1.

-The “Design & Access Statement” makes considerable reference to the cinema’s heritage. It mentions that the building is not listed several times, but almost suggests that it ought to be, albeit noting that much of the original features have been lost through previous refurbishments. There appears to be considerable apprehension around this; certainly the importance of the building is fully recognised.

-No details on the auditorium works as they are not the subject of this application.

The proposed facade, in my opinion, looks very good indeed.

CF100 on September 1, 2017 at 4:58 pm

I note the CTA’s Casework Report (June 2017) comments on the pending refurbishment, saying that it will be kept as a single screen, and the organ retained, with a “large format screen of some genus” planned.

I don’t find “kept as a single screen” terribly reassuring if the form of that screen is unknown, albeit keeping the organ and the constraints of the building imply that certain options that one could imagine are off the table.

OTOH, one might hope that it will feature a Dolby Cinema installation with Dolby Vision (HDR laser projection) and Dolby Atmos.

I guess if the premiere for “Murder on the Orient Express” is at the OLS, then the refurb won’t happen until next year?

cultman1 on August 30, 2017 at 3:57 am

I thought the Odeon is shortly closing for major works?

FanaticalAboutOdeon on August 29, 2017 at 6:25 pm

“Dunkirk” looks and sounds terrific at Odeon Leicester Square. More 70mm presentations planned (though not necessarily at OLS apart from premiere) including “Murder On The Orient Express”

davepring on July 7, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Dunkirk to be presented in 70mm here later this month

CF100 on June 18, 2017 at 8:29 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 8:16 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 9:07 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 8:25 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 7:11 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 7:01 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!