Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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CF100
CF100 on December 15, 2018 at 6:53 pm

Update from a trip to Leicester Square yesterday:

  • Remainder of the blue LED linear strips to façade now on, “halo” lighting to right Odeon sign also (above former “Studios” entrance.)

  • Gold coloured cladding fitted to canopy, numerous LED “pip” (?! — as the planning application refers to them?) installed to the soffit and working.

  • “Band” of LED display modules to canopy fascia installed and operating, very bright, the centre section currently permanently reads “ODEON LUXE LEICESTER SQUARE HOME OF PREMIERS.” The two setback sections to the left and right of this alternate between left reading “NOW OPEN” (sic) and something else (can’t remember,) and the right, “SCREENS 2-5” and something to do with Costa coffee. Looks very good, with a nice choice of typeface being used.

  • Site is buzzing away with activity, with central sections of the hoarding removed, workmen spilling out into the square for breaks and materials simply left in front. Numerous containers for a Flowcrete 2-part resin flooring system could be seen (presumably for back-of-house areas, e.g. the “food prep” area in the former rear stalls.)

  • Portakabin in front of former “Studios” entrance moved from first floor level, “door” opening in hoarding for access.

  • I overheard a worker saying that the seats weren’t in yet, albeit I am not sure if by this he meant the main auditorium or the former “Studios.”

  • Difficult to see inside; however, the ground floor foyer appears to be unfinished; wire bundles still hanging from the ceiling. The circle foyer appears now to have its ceiling in with general lighting working.

  • The service yard/access from Charing Cross Road was also active, the Portakabin and hoarding having been removed. At the time of my visit, at least 9 workers in or just outside the service yard, disposing of site waste, and a grinder (or similar?—sparks flying!) was being used in the yard. Visible through an open door at above ground level were yet more bundles of wires could be seen hanging from the ceiling.

  • Hopefully, I will be able to do add more report to CT just before opening day.

  • Photo uploaded.

CF100
CF100 on December 12, 2018 at 9:10 pm

A further article on the refurbishment has been published on Pocket-lint; it appears that they had a tour of the site on the same day as other members of the press.

Key points:

  • Large amounts of asbestos were removed; “an architect hinted [that this] had delayed the project.”
  • Repeats the claim that 70 tonnes of steelwork has been added, stating that this was “to strengthen the buildings and ceilings”[?]—also to carry the load of the numerous speakers for Dolby Atmos.
  • The 10 miles of cabling noted in another article are here stated to be “super-thick speaker cable.”
  • “Full height” scaffolding in the auditorium had only been taken down the day before the author visited the site (3 weeks before opening.)
  • Oscar’s Bar floor raised [meaning parts of the circle foyer?] to accommodate a 6ft. high steel girder which blocked a new sloped ramp into the auditorium.
  • Dolby was involved with the project from the start, planning for the Atmos installation being particularly challenging due to the balcony and auditorium shape.
  • To isolate the auditorium acoustically from Alhambra House, which has been converted to a hotel, a “steel box was constructed behind the screen that’s a room within a room.” [?]
  • Dual modified Christie laser projectors, “completely bespoke.“[Whatever that means?]
  • Porthole glass “specific to Dolby Cinema.”
  • New food and beverage ordering via phone, “at-seat service” for some patrons. [Sigh!]
  • Work in December continues around the clock, with “200 workers on site.”

The article page includes a number of photos.

70mmbobbyj
70mmbobbyj on December 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Just uploaded a picture that shows a cut away of the Odeon.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on December 11, 2018 at 10:57 am

CF100: The main plenum plant machinery in original Odeons tended to be situated between the auditorium splay walls and the external walls of the building (intake and washing one side, extracting on the opposite). The huge fans, plumbing etc. required a void of considerable height and I believe the equipment below the front stalls at OLS was ancillary kit to boost the circulation of air around so much ducting in such a large building (the same auxiliary equipment would have also been necessary in both equally large and larger Odeons elsewhere in the UK). In the early days when big cinemas were often pretty full and the majority of the audience smoked, it would have been obvious that a fairly “industrial” system was required to make the atmosphere bearable. Even in the mid ‘sixties and with the plenum systems still operating in many original Odeons (I worked in Harrogate, Scarborough and Yorks’ examples) the air would be thick enough with smoke for the projection beam to be brightly visible. By the time post war Odeons were being built, technology had moved on and the massive plenum plants had been superseded by more modern systems. Over the years, as new products have come on the market, in Odeon terms, OLS has almost invariably been the recipient of the latest kit. As the first UK Dolby Cinema, the trend clearly continues. The huge, square grilles visible, with difficulty, on either side of the Odeon’s exterior were the intake/extract points for fresh and stale/smoky air respectively and roughly mark the position of the mountings for golden ladies. The ducting from plenum days, as with all the pipework for the original centralised vacuum system and pipework from the boiler room to the numerous radiators, would simply remain in place until such time as the space was required for something else.

I’m not really qualified to comment on the former Empire as it is no longer a cinema I visit.

CF100
CF100 on December 10, 2018 at 1:46 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon:

My first visit to OLS was during 1971 and air conditioning had already replaced the theatre’s incorporated plenum system (whose main intake/outtake grilles were behind the mountings for the golden ladies). I was a member of the audience then and sat towards the front of the stalls.

Just looking at the old “Wonders of the Super-Cinema” diagram—it makes reference to “washing and heating plant for air conditioning,” just under the front rows of the stalls. I’m assuming, then, that at the time of an opening an old “air washer” system was used for cooling (which, of course, doesn’t help with humidity!) rather than a “condensing” system.

The diagram also shows return ducts under the seating; at least at stalls level, I suspect that is no longer there or disused?

Any information that you have to offer on the changes made to the air conditioning over the years would be most appreciated.

The air con. has always seemed extremely “soft” and never struck me as intrusive even when the theatre has been dark during mornings.

My recollection is that the HVAC system/air conditioning noise wasn’t “intrusive,” but was audible as a slight “hiss”/“rumble.” I have visited auditoria in which the air conditioning seemed to be inaudible—at least going back to the original THX standard, it was part of the requirements for certification.

The rationale was to ensure that it didn’t “mask” low-level sounds in quiet scenes; alas, IME, this actually does not work with an audience; instead, in quiet scenes, every slight sound made by the audience can be heard, even someone many rows away taking a sip of a drink or adjusting body position in their seat!

Aside from this, I find a slight air conditioning sound quite relaxing, and so it doesn’t concern me. However, I suspect that, in keeping with the improved acoustic control and isolation that’s been added to the OLS, as a “flagship” Dolby Cinema site, HVAC background levels may be brought further down to “inaudible” levels. (I’m not sure what the requirements are for a “Dolby Cinema,” but certainly high standards were specified in older guidelines from Dolby as well as SMPTE recommendations.)

I remember seeing “Ryan’s Daughter” on the ELS’s vast 70mm screen and being taken aback by the “thumpity thump” coming up through the floor while Sarah Miles wandered over the breathtaking sands of the Dingle peninsular and the music on the soundtrack was relatively soft. I wondered at the time what David Lean might have thought!

One can only imagine that he would have been, at best, most unimpressed!

Improved sound insulation could well have been incorporated in the twinning of ELS’s 1962 auditorium as well as new floor surfaces and the casino below likely has background music and, usually, much chatter and general activity on its side. The odd distant explosions or roars of space craft are probably just taken to be part of the overall noise.

I don’t think any isolation was added to the concrete slab between the cinema and casino during the IMAX conversion, unless one counts the addition of the new stadium seating structure in the IMPACT/Superscreen. With the dividing wall between the two auditoria “floating” off the floor and supported by the roof girders, presumably all the screen frame supporting the front speakers behind is isolated from the floor, stopping direct mechanical transmission of vibrations.

The former rear stalls down to the screen were definitely screeded—presumably some minor relevelling occurred as, behind the floor “cove” (?), on the left/right side, down to the screen bottom, three shallow steps can be seen—photo.

Overlaying the licensing plans post-IMAX conversion with the previous licensing plans for Empire 1 suggests these three steps are in the exact same location as the fourth to second to last rows of the former stalls. (The screen centre being more than 8 rows back into the former stalls.)

A problem post-IMAX conversion has been that, as the screen speakers/subwoofers were moved closer to the stadia/former circle, every “explosion” could be heard in the foyer underneath, IIRC to the point of the structure shaking! I’m not sure if an attempt to tame this was made in Cineworld’s foyer refurbishment.

CF100
CF100 on December 9, 2018 at 12:07 am

Trip to Leicester Square today—OLS refurbishment update—externally visible changes:

  • Replacement blue strip accent lighting added to façade tower—very bright and consistent linear look. Hard to believe LEDs are used—perhaps the best LED “imitation” of “neon” I’ve seen to date—and it looks far better than my recollection of the previous (even when it was fully intact and working.)

  • High level Odeon signage now lit.

  • 2x lower level “large format” LED module displays reinstated.

  • “Glass box” now fully glazed, Odeon sign added.

  • View inside not possible due to glazing and temporary sheeting behind.

  • Photo uploaded.

Good to see the building almost “back on the road!”

CF100
CF100 on December 8, 2018 at 12:38 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon:

The Cineworld ads. do nothing to create either anticipation or sense of occasion – they are crass commercialism.

Couldn’t agree more! My apologies for suggesting that OLS might be lumbered with a similar “slide show”—with the OLS and OWE out of action, my visits to Odeons have been infrequent of late. However, as I mentioned previously, I did recently visit the “iSense” screen at Odeon Orpington, and was quite impressed—whilst it is a “black box” auditorium berefit of tabs, it does feature moveable masking on a “scope” screen, and the whole operation from start to finish felt like a “real cinema” with what appeared to be a thoughtful progression from a bright street level lobby, “open” with much glazing and height, up escalators to the main foyer, gradually getting darker and more intimate towards the auditoria.

As a sidenote, IMO Cineworld completely messed up the refurbishment of the Empire Leicester Square foyer/lobbies in this respect. (Notwithstanding the cack-handed “territorial marking,” stripping out—or at least not reinstating [e.g. the red flocked ceiling/domes] in some form—everything remaining from 1962 that made it unique.)

Odeon’s most recent on-screen content as one entered the auditorium prior to the programme starting was a huge capital ‘O’ in the 1998 style of ODEON characters. Behind the letter is a multi-coloured cloud […]

Now this I do remember—along with the rest of Odeon’s current on-screen branding, very good and perfect to set the “relax and escape to the cinema” mood.

I felt that Odeon’s idents in the period following the redesigned logo/“Fanatical About Film” rebrand were poor and wished for the 80s set to return, panning around a miniature in the style of a classic “streamline moderne” Odeon building. Obviously, they would now be quite dated—and, I guess, many would consider the accompanying “jingles” altogether too brash!

LARGE_screen_format
LARGE_screen_format on December 7, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Don’t forget those wonderful Dolby Cinema intros!

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on December 7, 2018 at 9:21 pm

The Cineworld ads. do nothing to create either anticipation or sense of occasion – they are crass commercialism. Once you’ve parted with your hard-earned cash you shouldn’t have to sit facing what amounts to a 48 sheet advertising poster like the hoardings on roadsides.

Odeon’s most recent on-screen content as one entered the auditorium prior to the programme starting was a huge capital ‘O’ in the 1998 style of ODEON characters. Behind the letter is a multi-coloured cloud which, from time to time, shoots towards the audience as a myriad flakes of the colours making up the background and a deep rumble is heard. An Odeon friend of mine refers to the effect as “…an explosion in a paint factory”! Eventually the capital letter becomes three dimensional and tumbles forward at which point “Welcome to ODEON Anytown” appears, to be followed by requests to end conversations, switch off mobiles and relax and free your imagination. This intro' was also shown at OLS but here the screen curtains parted and pageants dimmed out as it began. I fully expect a new intro' to appear soon, possibly with a version or mention of the Luxe branding and the comfort, food and drinks it implies.

CF100
CF100 on December 7, 2018 at 4:38 pm

I suspect there’s about as much chance of the “digital” Safety Curtain being shown as the “OSCAR DEUTSCH ENTERTAINS OUR NATION” inverse backronym (?) being the permanent text on the front edge canopy LED display, as was shown in some renderings of the facade. More likely it’s there to fill “blank space” with heritage overtones, and perhaps the screen will be instead be filled with pre-show slide(s), being an opportunity to promote “Dolby Cinema,” “Limitless” cards, and so on.

Should an image of the safety curtain ever be projected onto the screen, then presumably it will be a “better version” than the photo used in the renderings!

All speculative, though, until the finished proscenium is revealed! There is the possibilty of tabs being installed but left open save for “special events” using the stage, or a slide show being projected with the tabs closed, etc… The renderings of the IMAX auditorium across the square, released just after the Empire 1 conversion works started, were a poor representation of the screen end, including simply having a “flat” rectangular image “pasted in,” rather than the curved screen that was installed.


N.B. Can’t remember what Odeons have on-screen before the feature, Cineworlds have a slide-show for branding and promotional purposes (Unlimited card, etc.):

Example 1. Example 2.

joeswin
joeswin on December 7, 2018 at 4:13 pm

In my opinion the ‘digital’ recreation of the safety curtain is actually a good thing. As an aspect of the OLS I’ve never actually seen myself, it will bring the history (albeit false)of the OLS to a much wider audience (even if they don’t know what it is, and assuming its shown before every presentation)

However looking at the rendering it seems as though they’ve recreated it with the wear and tear of 80+ years. Surely this would’ve been the perfect opportunity to digitally restore it ‘slightly’, and make it look less like its fading away before your eyes.

If it is supposed to be a genuine replacement of tabs (Which I think is unlikely) then the designers have completely missed the mark. But surely if it is to retain its theatre function, as they have made clear with the retention of the orchestra pit, movable speakers etc. Then correct me if I’m wrong but a set of curtains would be necessary for this aspect if nothing else?

CF100
CF100 on December 7, 2018 at 3:48 pm

PhilipWW: You assume correctly.

PhilipWW
PhilipWW on December 7, 2018 at 3:29 pm

With regard to the seating types, am I correct in assuming that: — the front circle and all the stalls are ‘Luxe Recliner’ seats. — the rear circle is all ‘Luxe Classic’ seats.

CF100
CF100 on December 7, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Looking at a couple of performances of “Mary Poppins Returns” on the 3rd January 2019, the price of a recliner seat in the centre section of the “Royal Circle” is at 7:45pm is £30.75, and at 10am, £20.75.

Logging in to “My ODEON” account (free signup,) for the 10am performance, a “promo code” reduces the ticket price by £2, although there is an additional 75p/ticket online booking fee, so the effective price is £19.50.

For the 7.45pm performance, the effective price is £28.50.

Pricing, therefore, seems to vary from the reasonable (given the venue and location) to absurd! It should be remembered that these are for the best seats in the house—using the “My ODEON” discount, a mid-stalls recliner (10am 03/01/2018,) for instance, is effectively priced at £15.

With “sticker shock” out of the way, onwards to the opening day…

LoveCinema
LoveCinema on December 7, 2018 at 1:02 pm

So….Cinema-Audiences will be greated by a Digital Image of the (former classic) SAFETY-CURTAIN (?), and having to pay redicolous high entrance-fees????? This is exactly the way to keep Cinema-Audiences away from the Cinema considering the offers of latest “home-viewing-behaviour”(“streaming” Movies for almost “free”) as a fact where Cinema-Owners or Companys should think about how to attract Cinemagoers back to the Entrance-Doors.

My friends refurbishment – costs of their Cinemas lately is of course not in the least to compare to the costs of the one of the OLS… but they still managed it without having to increase entrance-fees and still have Cinema-Curtains actually fitted and in operation day and night….to create a bit of “occasion” for their customers. I think I’m going there tonight and enjoy some “Movie-feeling”. Good Luck OLS London

Greetings from Germany

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on December 6, 2018 at 11:23 am

My first visit to OLS was during 1971 and air conditioning had already replaced the theatre’s incorporated plenum system (whose main intake/outtake grilles were behind the mountings for the golden ladies). I was a member of the audience then and sat towards the front of the stalls. Even before successive refinements and when my hearing was much younger (!) I was never aware of any extraneous noise. Having said that, it was the last of the day’s then continuous performances and I remained in the auditorium for quite some time and was surprised to hear and feel the Tube once the non-sync music ceased. The air con. has always seemed extremely “soft” and never struck me as intrusive even when the theatre has been dark during mornings. The Odeon is cleaned overnight and often used during mornings for press shows, rehearsals of films prior to premieres/special presentations plus, of course, early performances of Bonds, Star Wars films etc. during the first week or so of their runs and, as far as I’m aware, the air conditioning has always been operating. Doubtless the vibration and deep rumbling sets the train noise apart but I’ve just never been aware of it during a performance. I remember seeing “Ryan’s Daughter” on the ELS’s vast 70mm screen and being taken aback by the “thumpity thump” coming up through the floor while Sarah Miles wandered over the breathtaking sands of the Dingle peninsular and the music on the soundtrack was relatively soft. I wondered at the time what David Lean might have thought! Improved sound insulation could well have been incorporated in the twinning of ELS’s 1962 auditorium as well as new floor surfaces and the casino below likely has background music and, usually, much chatter and general activity on its side. The odd distant explosions or roars of space craft are probably just taken to be part of the overall noise.

CF100
CF100 on December 6, 2018 at 2:21 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon:

Not certain exactly of the proximity of Leicester Square underground station to the Odeon but I have often been in the front stalls/orchestra pit area when the cinema has been “dark”, devoid of members of the public and otherwise completely quiet […]

The Piccadilly Line, according to Google Maps, passes within ~130ft. (ground position, ignoring elevation) of the OLS' outside walls. Of course, the Westbound line would be nearest; given your account, whatever its exact position, it seems more than plausible that ground-borne vibrations could indeed be audible in the auditorium. Was the air conditioning in operation during these “dark” and empty times?


The entire base of the BFI IMAX building is supported by numerous columns which have springs mounted on top.

Clearly, the OLS' refurbishment could not have gone that far without rebuilding from the ground up (!); however, IME the air conditioning was on the noisy side, and bringing its level down—as has almost certainly be an objective of the refurbishment—might just make “leaked” background noise levels that much more obvious. As the stalls have been restepped for the recliner seating, this may have afforded the opportunity to “float” a supporting structure off the existing concrete base floor; for instance, using neoprene pads, as is common in new builds.


It might be wondered does wonder how the Empire Casino copes with potential leakage from upstairs—perhaps background levels in there are simply for anyone to notice the odd distant rumble?! Certainly, were the 1962 conversion undertaken today (if only!) the cinema and dance hall wouldn’t have been separated by “just” a thick concrete floor.

CF100
CF100 on December 5, 2018 at 8:33 pm

West End cinema ticket prices are already too high, but I’ve often paid them to view films in the best available auditoria. £40+ for a cinema ticket, with no extras (food, beverages, etc.) packaged in, however, is nothing short of intolerable—and whilst Odeon say that the pricing will vary depending on product and demand, I’m inclined to say that they have already insulted their customers.

Indeed, Terry, by the time a non-advance long distance return rail fare is added in—and thank goodness I don’t have to suffer those prices to get to the West End—it makes for one absurdly expensive excursion.

Any absence of tabs only adds salt to the wound.

terry
terry on December 5, 2018 at 7:05 pm

I have just received the following from a Cinema Veteran (and friend of many years):–

Subject: FW: Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices

Hi Terry:

Just picked this up from Michael. Unbelievable, then not so really the crazy way this industry is run now!

Perhaps the 3 of us should book up for a night at the “Odeon Leicester Square” Terry! That will be £120 please; (whoops.. forgot the booking fee!) plus of course “standard return” to London £335 each that will be £1005 plus £120 £1125 to see “Mary Poppins Returns”! Bring your own goodies please. Shall I book up for the 3 of us? We can always sleep at the “Salvation Army” if we miss the last train to Newcastle can’t we!!

You simply “couldn’t make it up”.

Bill

Subject: Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46438241

Hi Bill

Yes – and they can’t even afford a set of screen curtains…..

Terry

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 5, 2018 at 2:04 am

I do know not what is more outrageous, London’s flagship, premiere movie theater not using any tabs/curtains or anyone thinking moviegoers will pay what CF100 reports above, per seats.

CF100
CF100 on December 4, 2018 at 8:57 pm

joeswin: Many thanks for the links!

For the sake of prosterity, the first post to which you linked includes the following information:

  • Building strengthened with over 70 tonnes of steel.
  • 10 miles of cables installed.

It repeats the claim of “400 speakers” which without qualification is not helpful.

CF100
CF100 on December 4, 2018 at 8:48 pm

I’m seeing £40.75 for the “Royal Circle” centre section. (“Mary Poppins Returns,” 21st December, 4:30pm.) Seats in the last two rows of the circle are £10.75! The cost of any suitable seat for this performance, in my view, is more than £30.

I wonder what the “uplift” charges are for “Limitless” card holders?

joeswin
joeswin on December 4, 2018 at 3:05 pm

https://uk.movies.yahoo.com/refurbished-odeon-leicester-square-criticised-ticket-prices-123109593.html?guccounter=1

joeswin
joeswin on December 4, 2018 at 2:21 pm

They’ve also now released the tickets for Mary Poppins with different pricing