Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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cultman1 on November 20, 2017 at 11:14 am

a staff member at the OLS advised the cinema will bet closing after the run of The Last Jedi. So assume the renovation will commence thereafter

Zappomatic on November 16, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Such bulbs are still very much available from Ryness!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on November 16, 2017 at 8:27 am

CF100 The coloured reflector lamps were tungsten and widely available in a number of colours and wattages. They were mostly Edison Screw and “widened out” to a flatter crown. The glass from base to the lamp’s widest point was internally silvered to provide the reflection while the crown appeared to have been dipped in a clear, coloured paint. Branches of Ryness and many electrical shops used to sell them. The lamps were far less expensive than the simplest stage lantern so were ideal for installations where a large number of lighting units were required. Many cinemas, built or modernised in the ‘sixties, used them where, like Marble Arch, curtain fabric was used for the upper parts of side walls as well as for screen curtains. Odeon Haymarket lit their two festoon curtains well, emphasising the 3D element of the cable-operated, rising curtains. Conventional footlights shone upwards while reflector lamps shone down the curtains providing some very eye-catching effects as the top and bottom of every fold in the festoon reflected contrasting colours. Think of a mackerel sky where a sunset’s afterglow lights the clouds orange or pink with the sky a deep blue beyond. There was no room above the screen between the two festoons to use batten lighting (effectively inverted footlights).

The drawbacks of using reflector lamps were that they were available in a limited range of colours – typically red, green, blue and amber whereas stage lighting units can be filtered almost any colour/tint imaginable. With prolonged use, the colour coating reflector lamps could crack and leak white light which would impair the flood of colour.

OLS foyer and circle lounge pre. 1998 to follow.

Lionel on November 12, 2017 at 12:51 am

@CF100 The photo I linked is on a comprehensive site dedicated to 70mm. Here is a link to the page presenting the West End 70mm cinemas as of 1990: http://www.in70mm.com/news/2015/london/index.htm

At the bottom of that page is another link to the photo gallery of auditoria and projection booths, but I’ll post it here directly as well: http://www.in70mm.com/news/2015/london/gallery/index.htm

CF100 on November 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm


love the OLS but when it comes to 70mm, I miss Marble Arch. I was lucky enough to see the Lawrence of Arabia ‘89 edition there, among others. Look at this great picture from Thomas Hauerslev here: http://www.in70mm.com/news/2015/london/gallery/pages/06_000002000017.htm#

Thanks for the link to the photo. Wow, I don’t remember that coloured lighting, maybe it was dropped by the mid-90s?

Lawrence in 70mm at Marble Arch has been one of my most thrilling cinematographic experiences ever. The goose bump megadose. The only thing that makes me sad is that we shall never have films like that, and theatres like that, anymore

You might appreciate this passage from Mark Kermode’s book “The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex” (2011):

“You’re sitting in the Empire, Leicester Square, arguably the best cinema auditorium in the country, watching a reissue of David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia…”

Direct link to page.

“Goose bump megadose?” I like that term, that’s exactly it!

But it hasn’t gone away… I had it watching “Blade Runner 2049,” at a certain IMAX with Laser projection. (Unfortunately, it seems that the box office wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of making and marketing the film.) Definitely a film with artistic merit, layers of depth and meaning, scale, and stunning visuals/sound…

It wasn’t long ago when shooting the majority of a feature film in 15/70 was inconceivable, yet it was done for “Dunkirk.” Also, the latest high-end professional digital cameras are incredible…

Operators are investing a lot these days to create luxury auditoria… Besides, the OLS is about to receive a very expensive overhaul!

The last film I saw at Marble Arch was Branagh’s Peter’s Friends in February 1993.

The last I saw was “Independence Day,” a brainless summer blockbuster but good fun! Alas, it wasn’t long after that it closed for the terrible subdivision… I remember calling the programme information phone line only to be hear an announcement that it was going to be converted into “5 new luxury auditoria.” :–(

CF100 on November 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm


red, green and amber reflector lamps

Is there a generic or specific model for these?

I could describe the foyer prior to 1998 in detail if you would be interested – could even cure insomnia for some on this site as well!!

I don’t think it will cure insomnia for me, but please do. :–)

Lionel on November 10, 2017 at 11:46 am

There was a second complete restoration made in the late eighties, intended to be shown in 35mm only. I remember reading an article in the American Cinematographer magazine back then. That’s the one shown at Marble Arch in ‘89.

Because they couldn’t get the source material perfectly aligned (the three layers of Technicolor), they couldn’t guarantee a perfectly stable 1.37 frame, so they even slightly panned some shots vertically to optimize it for 1.66 cropping (which was the minimum aperture one could expect in most theatres today anyway). The original mono sound was also re-recorded in Dolby A-type, which didn’t bring much in my opinion (after all, you can’t magically turn an Academy mono recording from 1939 into high fidelity).

cultman1 on November 10, 2017 at 11:31 am

The Restoration was made in the 60s and was put on in its new 70mm presentation at the Empire Leicester Square and broke box office records at that cinema in 1968 after Dr Zhivago finished its successful 70mm run.

Lionel on November 10, 2017 at 11:11 am


I was aware of the screen history at Marble Arch, but didn’t know about the added spotlights. Thanks a lot for the info. The curtains were beautifully glowing but I always thought it was done with concealed lighting all around the screen and never had noticed that the spotlights on the balcony front had something to do with the curtains illumination.

However, I don’t remember the screen at Marble Arch was much more curved before Lawrence. Before that, I had only seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 70mm there, in 1985, and the screen stronger curvature didn’t strike me particularly.

In the summer of 89, the restored version of Gone with the Wind indeed played at Marble Arch right after Lawrence. I saw it as well but it was only 35mm in 1.66 aspect ratio with Dolby-encoded optical mono sound (sound format #02 if I’m not mistaken). The restoration made in the seventies however, was in 70mm. Well, despite the exceptional conditions, I wasn’t able to watch it until the end and left during the interval. GWTW always was one of the most irritatingly boring films for me…

moviebuff82 on November 10, 2017 at 10:53 am

That’s the slogan for odeon.

cultman1 on November 10, 2017 at 12:22 am

fascinating stuff what is your site name exactly Fanatical?

FanaticalAboutOdeon on November 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm

CF100, Your mention of the YouTube items prompted me to watch them again, not having seen them for some time, and they’re fascinating – especially the creation of the double-height foyer spaces and additional glazing. Rather like watching a beloved friend undergoing a major operation!

In 1998 the Odeon closed from 13th April to 4th August for the works – nearly four months.

I could describe the foyer prior to 1998 in detail if you would be interested – could even cure insomnia for some on this site as well!!

Lionel, I’m flattered that my site name should be so bold and striking in your response! Perhaps ought to have been blue though!

I too miss the Odeon Marble Arch in its first configuration. I was at the premiere of “Hello Dolly!” in the late ‘60s and a sustained round of applause erupted at the end of the spectacular and colourful musical as the cast list rolled and the enormous curtains billowed to a close. Also saw the '89 restoration screening of “Lawrence” there after Rank had surprisingly replaced the D150 screen with one which was less deeply curved. As you may well know, David Lean watched the restored film first in 70mm at Odeon Leicester Square and soon saw it again at Marble Arch before it opened to the public. He thought it looked brilliant at OLS but, seeing it again so soon afterwards at M/Arch, felt the desert horizons to be unacceptedly distorted and wanted the theatres switched. OLS’s commitments precluded this so Rank’s investment, so late in the day for regular 70mm., was something of a very expensive compromise. I believe other, reissued 70mm. films (including the blown up “Gone With The Wind”) followed “Lawrence” in something of a big screen season which was, regrettably, not very widely advertised.

Minutiae – As the only “stage” lighting at the 1960s Odeon Marble Arch was a three colour circuit trough with red, green and amber reflector lamps immediately above the curtain line, only the upper folds were effectively lit with the bulk of the plain fawn curtains being left dark. Rank Leisure Services Chairman, John Davis, noticed the relative gloom and requested something be done to brighten things up. The result was six Rank Strand pattern 324 2k Fresnel spot lanterns being obtained from a “recently closed Odeon” with three being mounted on each of two ledges built onto the sides of the balcony front. These lanterns were filtered with colour gels matching the lamps around the edge of the ceiling and their operation coordinated with the result that the curtains glowed beautifully thereafter.

My own best 70mm. presentation ever was “Ryan’s Daughter” at the 1962 Empire Leicester Square.

Lionel on November 9, 2017 at 11:28 am

I love the OLS but when it comes to 70mm, I miss Marble Arch. I was lucky enough to see the Lawrence of Arabia ‘89 edition there, among others. Look at this great picture from Thomas Hauerslev here: http://www.in70mm.com/news/2015/london/gallery/pages/06_000002000017.htm

Lawrence in 70mm at Marble Arch has been one of my most thrilling cinematographic experiences ever. The goose bump megadose. The only thing that makes me sad is that we shall never have films like that, and theatres like that, anymore .

The last film I saw at Marble Arch was Branagh’s Peter’s Friends in February 1993. The 35mm 1.85 image looked a bit lost in the middle of that big screen. Yup, I’ve always loved Kenneth Branagh (even saw him on stage at the Garrick last year in The Entertainer) but how does he perform as Hercule Poirot ? To me, the best Poirot ever was Peter Ustinov, especially in Evil Under The Sun (1981). I watched again the DVD recently and they all looked so great: Ustinov, Diana Rigg, Maggie Smith.

CF100 on November 9, 2017 at 11:13 am

Lionel: I’ve noticed some “undocumented” features of the comment system before. The lack of any feature to edit existing posts is quite frustrating too! :–(

Still, this site is a fantastic resource.

I saw the IMDb “Dolby Atmos” listing. dts 70mm makes sense, and I see it was used for the “Dunkirk” 70mm prints, but I have no idea what equipment is still available (and working!) for 70mm engagements, and of course, 70mm prints carrying dts timecode don’t have 6-track analogue tracks. I assume the OLS is equipped for DTS 70mm, but considering the stories of old projectors being overhauled for various 70mm screenings…

In the long term, I imagine the digital sound formats on film will suffer from being obsolete proprietary systems—if film is still being projected in, say, 20 years!

Lionel on November 9, 2017 at 9:59 am

I must have mistyped something in my previous message because FanaticalAboutOdeon appears in big red letters instead of normal characters preceded with the “at” sign, as I wanted.

IMDB mentions Dolby Atmos for the sound technology, but I guess the 70mm engagement was with DTS.

CF100 on November 8, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Lionel: Oh! :–) I thought it was an obscure reference to Dolby Tone or similar (albeit Dolby Tone isn’t at 3756.5Hz!)

Talking of which, I assume the 70mm presentation uses a dts 70mm soundtrack?

Lionel on November 8, 2017 at 11:20 am

@CF100 I was just joking about that sound frequency, as we’re all maniacs expecting perfection on this site ;)


Thanks for the feedback. I’m not surprised, as everything I saw at the OLS always looked and sounded top notch.

CF100 on November 7, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Thanks FanaticalAboutOdeon, I hadn’t realised the entrances had been changed for the rear stalls with the wall added.

(Albeit my memory of the foyer before the 1998 refurbishment is non-existent.)

The 1998 refurbishment is the subject of a 3-part series (by Fred Fullerton) on YouTube:

Part 1

The “bare” (i.e. mostly steel structure!) upper foyer can be seen in in Part 3, the following link goes directly to that section of the video:

Part 3 – time starts at foyer

FanaticalAboutOdeon on November 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

CF100, Closure for the 1998 refurbishment/rebranding/reconstruction of façade was much shorter, somewhere in the region of two to three months if memory serves. Biggest job then was the creation of the double-height foyer with its additional glazing and raising of the circle lounge ceiling with its new fibre optic lighting coves. In the auditorium, changes were more superficial apart from further fibre optic installation in the existing coves and the halos around the replicated golden ladies. A wider, more central stalls entrance replaced the former sales kiosk and separate entrances to each side of it. The new stalls entrance necessitated the provision of a carpeted baffle wall to prevent light and sound penetrating the stalls from the foyer and Square.

I will shortly be able to more accurately define the 1998 closure period which was followed by the run of “Armageddon” in blow-up 70mm.

CF100 on November 6, 2017 at 8:20 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon: Thank you for the update. 9 months?! How many months of work were required for the late 90s refurbishment?

Wonder if the “Studios” will remain open during this period (albeit they may well have to be closed at some point to allow the foyers to be “joined together.”)

Last time I looked, the replacement building for the OWE had yet to make it above ground level and the hotel is not due to open until 2019.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on November 6, 2017 at 3:53 am

Lionel, A friend of mine saw “Murder on the Orient Express” in 70mm. at OLS last night and tells me it looked and sounded “…absolutely superb”.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on November 6, 2017 at 3:50 am

Odeon Leicester Square will close after Christmas for nine months to enable major works.

CF100 on November 6, 2017 at 1:16 am

Lionel: 3756.5Hz? Huh?

Lionel on November 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

I was planning to come to London in November to see Branagh’s Murder in 70mm at the OLS but am eventually not able to travel now. Any feedback of the experience is welcome here. Was the picture steady? Well lit? Screen masking correctly set up? Sound frequency of 3756 Hz and a half reproduced at perfect level?