Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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davepring on February 8, 2016 at 4:12 am

CF100 That is great photo of the House tabs and its a shame they were not kept.Unfortunately the suits have no idea as to how to make the most of this iconic venue…its not a multiplex!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on February 7, 2016 at 4:39 am

davepring, I agree, the auditorium is too dimly lit. There used to be a good deal of diffused light from the beautifully lit tabs (both screen and house tabs) but since someone at HQ decided it would a good idea to have blue screen tabs (more corporate!), these have never lit well. The fact that some of the fourteen spots in the “pageant box” on the circle front need lamping up and the once “middle rose” colour gels in them have faded to a reddish brown doesn’t help. As you say, the lack of cove lighting adds to the gloom. Oddly perhaps, the cove lighting around the golden ladies was in use during the run of “Spectre”, set on indigo blue. The pictures of the auditorium in its 1987 guise are great to see, thank you CF100, it should be borne in mind that the very powerful cleaners' lights are blanching out the colourful effects. The spotlights then were on three colour circuits and red, amber and blue gels used for very effective changing/blending whereas, since 1998, all the spots have been on one circuit so the colour is invariably pink ish! By 1987 there was no cove lighting but Chief Engineer, Nigel Wolland, demonstrated just how effective a single, pink lamp in the lowest socket in every cove could be – just visible despite the cleaners' lights in the side view. I liked the appliqued house tabs and silver screen tabs very much although I was less impressed by the neon. Perhaps those curtains plus the replicated golden ladies would have been a really nice combination…

CF100 on February 7, 2016 at 2:24 am

Finally, I have found pictures of the 1987 house curtains and splay wall neon feature:

House curtains and neon splay wall feature

Neon splay wall feature

The cove lighting can also be seen.

davepring on February 5, 2016 at 8:49 am

Made my first visit in many years yesterday to see The Hateful Eight.The 70mm print was superb but unfortunately for the ads and trailers the massive screen was not masked down to standard widescreen format.The wonderful auditorium was dimly lit and none of the cove lighting was working.In such conditions people were struggling to find their seats in the stalls and of course there were no staff in the auditorium. Sad to see this place not getting the tlc and showmanship it deserves.

CF100 on January 30, 2016 at 12:45 pm


Under construction (incl. balcony structure) and early interior photos; videos of the ‘Dutchess’ being played, opening day ‘plaque’ reveal, lowering of the safety curtain, and building work; interviews.

Perhaps someone could identify the individuals featured?

FanaticalAboutOdeon on January 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Have a seat in the Royal Circle waiting for me next Thursday (14/01/16) and can’t wait! The advantages of the huge Odeon are such that I happily do a c.400 mile round trip to enjoy films there – as in all things, you get what you pay for. I hope Odeon Cinemas Holdings Ltd. continue to market and exploit the theatre’s special facilities and attributes, with the Empire effectively “gone”, this is the last citadel for those of us who enjoy their big screen entertainment in large, impressive auditoriums.

SethLewis on January 9, 2016 at 11:48 am

1045 show of H8teful Eight this morning with my fellow film geeks…great fun good crowd participation…the fun of seeing a couple of black countdown numbers after the overture…a programme And even walking concessionaires with hot dogs at the intermission A treat!

The film – just good Tarantino grand guignol…Jackie Brown remains his masterwork in terms of real characters with an assist to Elmore Leonard…but it works…the overture by Morriconne is lovely as is the opening them…love the retro credits at the beginning…great photography, colour, songs by Crystal Gayle and Roy Orbison opening and closing the second part

Lovely for a London audience to join in a round of applause and actually stay for the credits! The 245 show appeared to be close to a sell out

MikeJC on December 18, 2015 at 8:17 am

For me, this beautiful cinema was ruined in 1967 and I heap opprobrium on those responsible. OK, efforts have been made to restore some of the magic, but I’m afraid that the place no longer holds much attraction for me. Hooray! They kept the organ, which in its specification is closer to a concert instrument than a pure cinema one. Funnily enough, the Melotone never sounds quite right to me – perhaps because it speaks through BTH loudspeakers rather than the more usual Vitavox horns. A bit of nit-picking now, the first organist was James Bell (not George Bell), a classically trained Scottish gentleman whose playing, while not very exciting, was superbly musicianly, his having studied under Sir Walter Parratt at the Royal College of Music. He collapsed on completing a broadcast from the theatre in 1947 and died in hospital shortly afterwards. His place was taken by John Howlett who stayed until 1958, when Gerald Shaw took over until his untimely death in 1974.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on December 18, 2015 at 3:15 am

“The Hateful Eight” at Odeon Leicester Square in 70mm. will be preceded by an overture (play-in music) and there will be an intermission like most stage productions have. For those who remember the real cinema roadshows, and the sense of excitement and occasion their presentation created, this is going to feel very special. Just don’t expect “The Sound of Music”!

davepring on December 18, 2015 at 1:41 am

In January Odeon will be showing the super panavision 70mm roadshow version of Hateful Eight

FanaticalAboutOdeon on September 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm

“Toy Story 2” was the first “film” to be shown digitally to the public in the U.K. at Odeon Leicester Square in 1999. For several years thereafter, during the transition, the Odeon’s Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 35/70 projectors and the new digital projector stood shoulder to shoulder in the theatre’s projection room and presentations in both technologies were screened as, gradually, more and more titles were released in the new format. “Quantum of Solace” at OLH was digital and, some years ago, Odeon Cinemas donated one of the Odeon’s two film projectors to the Projected Picture Trust. OLH retains the ability to show 35mm and 70mm product as well as digital. “Interstellar” was screened there in 70mm.

HowardBHaas on September 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm

What year were most movies shown in digital in the main theater? In 2010, I saw Made in Dagenham in digital but what about 2009 Quantum of Solace? digital or 35mmm?

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 23, 2015 at 6:32 am

CF100 – I think the golden ladies were indeed probably considered the “jewel in the crown” of 1998’s revamp. I was told that, in the event, the £3.5 million budget turned out to be insufficient to include their creation and installation so some of Odeon Holloway’s “rebranding” budget was taken to ensure their presence. If the replicated figures have an Achilles' heel, it is the mountings against which they fly. The grain of the woodwork in the 1937 treatment looked superb and flowed beautifully whereas the recreated background, which contains the fibre-optic terminals nearest the proscenium, appears to be several sections of wood-effect formica or similar which is nowhere near as pleasing to the eye. The profile spots which pick out the new figures are, at present, unfiltered, open white and if they were to be filtered with a pastel gel (like, e.g. pale salmon)the inevitable dust would be much less obvious and the background panels would perhaps look warmer and nicer. Overall, the reinstated figures do work for me as a nod to the theatre’s more spectacular past. The present golden ladies are actually the third set to appear in the Odeon. During the late ‘80s/early '90s, the theatre played host to annual “tribute” events, each honouring a particular film star (Julie Andrews and Sean Connery were two so honoured). These shows, organised by BAFTA, were held in the presence of a member of the royal family who would be seated in the second row of the stalls (the first having been removed). At the evening’s conclusion, the star would descend a special, shallow staircase from apron to stalls floor, to be presented with a BAFTA award for their contribution to the industry. A spectacular show with dancers and on-stage orchestra (using the stage and pit floor in apron mode) would be followed by the celebrity concerned giving a talk about their career from a lectern to audience right. Excerpts from some of their films were screened on a square, suspended, central screen (the cinema screen and both sets of curtains having been flown out of sight for the event). Standing at either side of the stage, at a slight inward angle so, half inside and half outside the proscenium, were large set pieces which were replications of both the original “sunburst”, illuminated, curved glass splay wall sections and the golden ladies themselves. Although I only saw the shows on TV, the large features, including the ladies, looked the equal in scale to their inspirations. I, for one, would love to know where they ended up and presume they would belong to BAFTA.

The 1968 ceiling treatment of both foyer and circle lounge survived for thirty years. Both ceilings were unusual and I will attempt to describe them.

The foyer received a flat, suspended ceiling, itself having a shallow, metallic suspended rectangular feature which covered the new ceiling except for a narrow strip around all four sides. The feature was composed of randomly arranged, angular facets of shiny metal. Above the vestibule and the length of the entrance was a lighting box (almost a miniature version of the one on the balcony front) in which were housed numerous Strand Electric pattern 23 profile spots. The lanterns were filtered in various colours of Cinemoid gel and were controlled by an automatic system which would bring up and fade out different sets of lanterns at different times. The lanterns were suspended from an internal bar and tilted slightly upwards, focussed on the ceiling feature. The installation was pretty well concealed, the lenses “peeping” through a series of elongated apertures above the inner entrance doors. The effect of all this was that all the reflective facets in the ceiling would glow and fade in sequence, different ones picking up different colours and, in turn, sending out little shards of coloured light onto the plain, wood-pannelled walls (which at some stage were covered in red suede) of the foyer. From the 1987 revamp, some of the lanterns were tilted down slightly and made to constantly highlight the coat of arms feature above the, then, centrally sited sales kiosk.

The circle lounge also received a suspended, flat ceiling with an overall grey “flaked” plaster treatment. Set into the otherwise plain ceiling were three, large, square openings – one above the staircase, the other two being evenly spaced above the lounge itself. These openings were filled with suspended, narrow, metal strips in square formations which diminished but became longer (and therefore lower) towards the centre. Each of these features had lights above them illuminating both the strips and the carpet below them. The lights were coloured red, amber and open white and the hues would slowly glow and fade in sequence. Other lighting around the lounge was by a number of discreet, white downlighters set into the ceiling. From, I suspect, around 1987 the colour-changing was no longer used and these features remained lit a somewhat steely, open white.

CF100 on June 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm

FanaticalAboutOdeon—Based on photos, I too would probably have considered the original interior to be somewhat over-bearing. However, the abruptness of the transition to the “flat” wall section, having seen photos of the original, doesn’t quite look right; still, the auditorium is very attractive and has become the OLS interior that we all know and love.

For me, the recreated “golden ladies”—aside from (my apologies to those who very much like them) that sort of feature not being to my taste—look rather “tacked on” and I would prefer something to better match the “streamlined” part of the auditorium. I suspect they are considered the “jewel in the crown” of the 1998 refurbishment, though, so without drastic changes to the OLS one may not expect to see them replaced!

I cannot remember the colour-changing lights in the circle lounge—come to think of it, nor can I recollect what the foyer and circle lounge looked like prior to the 1998 refurbishment—albeit nothing like photos I have seen of the original interiors. Whilst, as you say, the circle foyer lighting makes for an attractive feature from the (now other side!) of the square, the replacement metal signs did not seem to me to be a step up from the previous neon scheme.

The recently installed LED displays, though, are a most useful feature during premiere events.

Thank you for your updates on the proposed refurbishment, I await any further news with bated breath!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 19, 2015 at 2:35 am

CF100 – Unfortunately, I cannot trace the picture/s I have seen, online at some point, of the “rolling wave” treatment of the Odeon’s splay walls. Of the four schemes between the original decor and the present, recreated, “golden ladies”, the “rolling waves” was the treatment I preferred. I narrowly missed seeing the Odeon’s 1937 interior (as I did the Empire Theatre) and suspect I would have found the original scheme slightly over-fussy. The plain ceiling and walls forward of the first complete cove just ahead of the balcony front always looked attractive to my eyes and seemed to emphasize the “high, wide and handsome” nature of the auditorium. There has been much unfounded criticism, over the years, in which it was claimed e.g. “The golden ladies have been lost beneath plain plasterwork” and “The wall and ceiling coves have been covered over”. All of which was incorrect and undermined the observers' genuine regret that a much plainer scheme had replaced the much-loved original. It is perhaps the case that when I first saw the Odeon, at the opening of “Oliver!”, when the new scheme was still very new, its appearance then became the “definitive” one for me.

The ten coves above the circle lounge (created in 1998) were supposed to flood the room with ever-changing rainbow colours. In practice, the colour wheels over the fibre-optic light sources soon began to stick and the situation was worsened when access to the light sources for the two coves nearest the glazed frontage was permanently blocked off, hence those coves are now dark as the lamps have long since failed. As with the auditorium coves, the fibre-optic terminals (now all on open white) look best and glitter most from the opposite side of Leicester Square!

I have not heard any more about the postponed refurbishment other than it was likely to be put back about twelve months i.e. into the following financial year. I hope to be seeing some of my “Odeon” friends later in the year and will report back if I glean anything more concrete.

CF100 on June 18, 2015 at 8:31 pm

FanaticalAboutOdeon — Thank you once again for the fascinating info! Strange that the splay walls went through several changes over the years—only for the “flying ladies” to be returned; I shall have to seek out photos.

I, too, find the fibre optic scheme to be “muted”—but it does look OK, as you say, from the front stalls.

On the topic of the shelved refurbishment planned for this year, I just ran a search on Westminster Council’s Building Control Records, and there is an application from February 2015 for a “Refurbishment of Cinema” proposed to start in March 2015. However, the application status is “Withdrawn.” I assume no further news is forthcoming on this?

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 17, 2015 at 12:35 am

CF100 – The “rolling wave” treatment was completely different to the neon installation. It covered a much larger area of the splay walls, beginning with a series of parallel, horizontal lines immediately forward of the balcony front. The maroon, grey and red “lines” grew in size towards the stage resembling “surfing” waves building and, finally, “toppling” into cloud-like shapes, the lowest and smallest of which reached the outer face of the proscenium arch’s corner. The waves were some three inches proud of the wall itself. Unlike the vertical, rising/fading neon features, the “rolling wave” scheme was static and incorporated no lighting, instead being spotlit from the three dedicated profile spots at both ends of the pageant box. The taller, much narrower, orange neon scheme was designed to echo the patterns appliqued onto the house curtains of the same period. At the same time, a single, pink light bulb was installed in the lowest socket of each cove on the side walls and the resultant warm glows, whilst not providing the stunning effect of the original scheme, produced a very pleasing and surprisingly art deco result and far more noticeable than the sophisticated fibre-optic 1998 scheme where the effect is barely visible except from the front rows of the stalls – looking back! There is at least one photo somewhere online of the rolling waves though I’ve never seen a picture of the short-lived “Funny Lady” designs which preceded them.

CF100 on June 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

FantaticalAboutOdeon—Thank you for the fascinating information on the post-“zing” interior. It would be most interesting to see photos!

The “rolling wave” design was not the same as the 1987 neon splay wall feature?

On the subject of its exterior, as I posted above, I recall a “patch up” job on part of the facade. This, I think, is visible in this photo; however, it now seems to be largely covered by the smaller LED displays positioned either side of the balcony.

Its impressive and imposing facade is, in peak season, invariably photographed by tourists.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 15, 2015 at 8:50 am

CF100 – Better late than never! Following the 1968 “zing” treatment, by Trevor and Mavis Stone, the splay walls were completely blank. Three profile spots, housed at either end of the pageant box on the balcony front, projected three spheres of light onto the opposite wall, they were filtered red, bright blue and medium amber, the three images overlapping in the centre. During the early ‘70s, an art deco, predominantly vertical, design was painted on the splay walls in maroon, red and pink. It looked like something between a high blancmange and a fountain and, if my memory serves me correctly, first appeared at the Royal Film Performance of “Funny Lady”. These flat designs were shortly replaced with abstract, rolling wave designs in maroon and grey. They were slightly raised from the walls and lit pink by the profile spots mentioned earlier. Given the two-toned red and pink panelled velvet house tabs from 1968, the wave-like shapes actually fitted in well and, like the flying ladies before them, directed the eye towards the screen. These were taken down in 1998 and replaced by the replica flying ladies.

Noodle 2510 – With regard to the Aberdeen granite black tiles on the facade and tower, these were both cleaned and polished during the 1998 reconstruction of the frontage although, for some reason, those at right angles to the theatre’s frontage were untouched. Black was chosen originally to emphasize the red neon outlining during hours of darkness. Now the theatre’s profile is once again outlined – in indigo blue – the effect of the upper building virtually disappearing within its neon halo impresses once more. Unfortunately, black granite does not weather well aesthetically, showing every spot of bird poo and city grime. I don’t think the overall covering of vinyl for the runs of “Mamma Mia!” (white) and “The Boat That Rocked” (red) helped with the appearance of the granite once the adhesive fabric was stripped off – perhaps leaving the surface more prone to staining.

CF100 on June 15, 2015 at 7:02 am

Can’t increase screen size without closing rear stalls due to sightlines… Reconfiguration to compete is urgent IMO…

IIRC the facade had a bit of a “patch up” job during the late 1990’s works.

Noodle2510 on June 14, 2015 at 5:03 pm

They must increase the screen size as the current size is inadequate vs the auditorium size…and keep the prices down as they are becoming vastly overpriced ..and do something with the external black facade as it looks an absolute state….

CF100 on May 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm

FanaticalAboutOdeon, thanks for the reply. A shame so few images of the house curtains are available, but the “replica” pair do add that special touch to your home cinema—very nice! What was on the splay walls after the 1960’s “zing” alterations?

Seems the Odeon LS has an uncertain future, perhaps? I noticed in Cinema Technology Magazine that the new “MK Dons” Odeon is said to be their “flagship” site. In the meantime, as you say, still a wonderful place to watch a film…

rasLXR on March 14, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Yes not much presence in the West End for Odeon when I started with them they had Odeon L Sq, Haymarket, St Martins Lane, Marble Arch, Kensington, Chelsea, Westbourne Grove, Swiss Cottage, Dominion Tott Crt Rd, the Astoria had just opened Elvis show, Metropole and New Victoria had gone.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 14, 2015 at 4:08 pm

CF100, Photographs of the 1987 house curtains with the three appliqued stripes terminating in vertical wavy lines towards the centre (and the orange neon stripes on the splay walls which replicated the pattern) are scarce as hens' teeth I’m afraid. I do have a faded copy of a photo' of those tabs taken during an organ concert and they can be seen opening and closing (as well as the neon installations rippling in and out) at the end of a DVD I have of numerous cinemas filmed by the late Tony Moss. I have a home cinema and when those tabs were in use, between 1987 and 1998, J. C. Joel, who produced them for Rank, also made a pair for me to the same specifications but for a 12' track. If you’d like to see mine, I’m on Flickr as “Fanatical about Odeon” and there is a shot of them in my photostream. I always liked the look of those tabs (hence having them in my Odeon) but thought the neon gimmicky. The design was typically art deco with a hint of arts and crafts which, to my mind, would have gone well with the restored flying ladies. Coincidentally, I’ve just spent most of today at the Odeon and I learned that the planned refurbishment has been postponed until early 2016. Things are quite fluid with the parent company (to float or sell?) at present and this may have had a bearing on the decision. With the Odeon West End finally gone and Marble Arch doomed, Odeon’s presence in the West End is now really a clutch of small complexes and the flagship. With “Spectre” and “Star Wars the Force Awakens” on the horizon, there is, at present, much for my favourite cinema to look forward to. They’re still putting on a good show and using screen masking and screen tabs (for 2D product)and when I watched “Marigold Hotel II” earlier, the ‘Scope image was stunning and the sound excellent.

CF100 on January 27, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Further thoughts on the (potential?) Atmos installation: the rear stalls don’t have enough height for the ceiling speakers. Also, might they be intending to become a “Dolby Cinema” location, which Dolby are promoting as an IMAX-competitor? (Laser projectors., HDR, etc…)

On a different topic, I recall before the 1998 refurbishment, when the “flying ladies” were recreated, there sections of red neon strips on the splay walls which mirrored the red pattern on the main tabs. I cannot find any photos or reference to this anywhere, although by then it looked terribly dated!