Odeon Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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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.

cultman1 on April 18, 2017 at 10:45 am

when is the work likely to start?

terry on April 18, 2017 at 10:43 am

Article in ‘Variety’ re proposed refurbishment:–


I have to laugh at the manifest errors in journalism which are as prevalent ‘across the pond’ as in the UK, it would seem. I refer in particular to “The site houses an original Compton Organ from the silent era, known as “The Duchess……”

As the Odeon opened 10 years after the advent of the ‘talkies’, this reference to the famous Compton is risible, to say the least………

That apart, it is heartening to learn that this iconic theatre is not, after all, to endure the ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’ inflicted on other surviving West End venues.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on April 17, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Ambak, The medication’s gone in the bin! Really good to have the accurate details now. Ten weeks in 70mm. in Victoria was indeed modest, even after twenty in the West End/Marble Arch – especially as “South Pacific” in Todd-AO was still packing out the huge Dominion (even without the Upper Circle) after over a year by the time “Oklahoma!” was seen in 70mm.

I do recall that, even as late as the early ‘seventies, Rank regarded OLS more as a showcase for their weekly release films (naturally most ran for more than a week but programmes changed pretty regularly) than a roadshow house. As detailed above, charity openings,special events and premieres always punctuated the Odeon’s calendar but continuous performances outnumbered roadshows – I saw “Diamonds are Forever” there twice one Sunday in the mid 'seventies during its typically continuous policy. Even after the success of “Lawrence”, John Davis, our chairman, had never liked committing OLS to a “special season”, preferring these to occupy other Rank West End venues. When continuous performances finally ceased virtually everywhere, the OLS’s policy was normally to have Harlands of Hull’s “theatre style” advance booking tickets for specific seats at every performance but these were costly for such a high capacity and were soon restricted to evenings and weekends with Automatickets and unreserved seating for earlier performances.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on April 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Since 1998, the foyer and circle lounge walls have been painted white. Along with the double-height glazing, various projected signs and raising of the circle lounge, the concept was apparently to create an impression of light and spaciousness but the result was chilly. The auditorium walls and ceiling were painted in soft grey in 1998 and this was to maximise the effect of the fibre optic lighting in the coving in splay walls, side walls and ceilings. Sadly the restored concealed lighting was never as effective as intended and the light sources were installed in the most inaccessible of nooks and crannies thus today very little of the scheme works. A great deal will change in the forthcoming refurbishment – hopefully for the better!

rasLXR on April 17, 2017 at 7:28 am

Hope they get shot of the awful white paint scheme. Years ago I had an orange edition of the BKTS manual white included advise on building new cinemas and said auditoriums should be painted with darker colour schemes I know black is an extreme but white?

Ambak on April 17, 2017 at 3:17 am

Sorry, Fanatical, you may need even more medication. When Oklahoma! was shown at the Odeon Leicester Square in the 35mm CinemaScope version, it was the European premiere on September 6th 1956 and the run was not a roadshow, it was continuous with four shows a day. After eight weeks (a long run at the time) it transferred to the Odeon Marble Arch for a further twelve weeks. The Todd-AO 30 fps version of Oklahoma! opened at the newly DP70 equipped Metropole on December 26th 1959, the first appearance in the UK of the 70mm version. This was a roadshow presentation (i.e. two shows a day, advance booking). It ran for a fairly modest ten weeks.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on April 16, 2017 at 7:01 am

AMC have announced plans for their £10 to £15 million “total refurbishment” of the Odeon Leicester Square. C.E.O. of the new parent company, Adam Aron, revealed a detailed awareness of both the theatre and its “global importance within the industry”. Despite AMC being a huge operator of multiplexes, he says the Odeon’s size and traditional configuration are now unique in the West End and will be preserved and enhanced. I understand the organ was mentioned specifically and that the Odeon will retain a large screen (not IMAX to avoid competition with the Cineworld Empire across the Square – possibly Odeon’s own isense)whilst having a new sound system installed. Greater leg room is also planned and reclining seats (remember Empire One?). He acknowledged the number of refurbishments the Odeon has had over the years and promises that this one really will recover the iconic venue’s former glory. It’s early days of course and we’ve yet to see the finished product but it has to be positive news, given so many of us feared at least a degree of sub-division.

It also makes sense when the neighbouring five Odeon Studios, two subterranean Odeons in the former Leicester Square Theatre’s footprint, the four screen Odeon Panton Street (which just might go, I suspect) and four screen Odeon Covent Garden will give the Company an unparalleled film offer in the West End.

The reason for the huge gap of £5 million in the initial budget parameters is mostly down to plans being at a very early stage – don’t know which companies will be tendering for the works but AMC will be making further announcements when decisions are made.

Must be good news and that of a kind Oscar himself would welcome for his flagship.

Oops! “Oliver!” in 70mm. was in 1968 not 1971. Now, where’s that medication?

FanaticalAboutOdeon on April 16, 2017 at 6:28 am

Absolutely correct. This tired old brain was thinking of “Oklahoma!’s” next day’s transfer to the Metroplole in 70mm. after opening in 35mm. at the Odeon.

Ambak on April 10, 2017 at 8:07 am

Following the Royal Film Performance on February 26th 1962, West Side Story began its public roadshow run the next day at the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, not the Metropole. The Odeon didn’t run 70mm again until Lawrence of Arabia which opened on December 10th 1962. After eight weeks Lawrence transferred to the Metropole for a 98 week run!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 12, 2017 at 6:51 am

Just to add to the fascinating list of films/events provided above by Steffan Laugherne and Ken Roe, “West Side Story” had its premiere/Royal Film Performance at the Odeon during 1962 and was the first presentation here in 70mm. 70mm. came surprisingly late to the Odeon (“South Pacific” was, by this time, over three years into its mammoth run of four years and twenty two weeks at the Dominion, Tottenham Court Road). “West Side Story” transferred the following day to the 70mm. equipped Metropole, Victoria and “Lawrence of Arabia” began its West End run in 70mm. at the Odeon. Many films made in 70mm. or “blown up” into the format have since been presented on the Odeon’s vast and handsome 70mm. screen and I feel lucky to have been around to enjoy many of them, beginning with the “blow up” of “Oliver!” in 1971.

SethLewis on October 9, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Great time yesterday morning 10:30 London Film Festival show La La Land with a Q&A with Damien Chazelle & Ryan Gosling

Scary the number of attendees that seemed never to have been there before and totally lost…the back rows are super hard to see in the dim light but that’s a churlish comment..the atmosphere of a full house…applause after the opening number and at the end was so so good…definitely in need of a refurb and probably a reduction in seats but there have to be enough tentpoles and interesting pictures to keep this busy

Next Saturday morning…Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

goodshow on June 19, 2016 at 5:09 am

Directly related to Ken Roe’s photo of the Charge of the Light Brigade premiere, added a colour advertisement especially connected to the event

davepring on March 23, 2016 at 4:24 am

Another 70mm film playing here now..Batman v Superman…I hope the lighting and curtain tracks have been fixed!!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 16, 2016 at 3:05 pm

CF100 I’m also amazed at how many people are unaware of their environment generally. To a greater or lesser extent, lighting, screen curtains and décor/design of cinemas will, I believe, be noticed subliminally i.e. all elements that contribute to a cinema being thought of as a nice one, and secondary to things like the comfort of seats, leg room, climate, toilet provision etc. Having said that, I’ve heard audience members at OLS commenting on the vastness and splendour of the place even before the screen has appeared and during the run of “The Hateful Eight”, many people applauded and/or whistled when the tabs first opened and that was only to reveal the Odeon “O” current logo which runs constantly in other Odeons in place of tabs and before the ads. begin! Undeniably, when curtains part, everybody knows something’s about to happen – it’s “theatre”, it’s potentially exciting, it’s probably best summed up by saying it all adds to the magic which is conspicuously absent when you’ve been faced with a blank, naked screen for ten minutes beforehand.

The re-stepping of the circle echelons some years back was a big job and was not confined to the Royal Circle, it was the entire balcony. The new steppings do not just sit above the original ones except for those in the front row, either side of the cross gangway and the back row. All seating became higher than before and this meant the wall at the front of the balcony had to be increased in height (and that those in the back row who put items on the floor often found them nicked as the floor is now at waist height of anyone walking along the rear promenade). The leg-room was increased by the new steppings being designed so that seat standards could be installed slightly further back than conventionally. The exercise was costly (new seats were fitted to the new steppings – and those seats have since been replaced themselves) and overall the balcony capacity was reduced by almost two hundred seats – mainly in the rear circle – and this was when the theatres’s capacity fell from 1,9XX seats to 1,7XX. A number of seats in the back row of the stalls was also lost in the 1998 restructering. The carpet in the rows of the Royal Circle was replaced by flooring last year and I believe the plan is to extend this to the rear circle. Bearing in mind the carpet being replaced was also new at the time of the re-stepping and the price of high-end cinema seats and we begin to see how costly it is to keep the Odeon up to scratch. The “major refurbishment” first mentioned well over a year ago, and with it the opportunity to replace tabs, repair the broken house tabs track and upgrade the decorative lighting – all non-essential of course and, with further seating replacement, foyer and lounge refurbishment etc., likely to cost £millions, looks increasingly likely not to happen until the Odeon circuit has a new parent. The rolling maintenance/replacement budget continues to be made available but every four week accounting period brings with it fiscal demands for things more essential (or likely to improve footfall) than the finer elements of presentation. It also appears that Odeon’s reluctance to install Dolby Atmos, when Dolby wanted it at the Odeon first, may well have been due to the pending sale of the circuit although I imagine Dolby would have borne much of the cost as has happened for many years when technical improvements, including new digital projectors, have taken place – it’s quite a cache when your industry advertising can include the words: “…as installed at the Odeon Leicester Square” and suppliers happily pay highly for such value.

CF100 on March 15, 2016 at 8:32 pm

FanaticalAboutOdeon: Of course any screen with gain is directional… despite the previously linked material, I have found the picture at the OLS in the front stalls to be excellent, and from that position, the 48ft. wide screen and excellent sound system make for a quality and “high impact” experience!

The large LED displays are particularly effective for premiere events where they can be used to show live video, and are a wonderful addition to the facade. (The planning permission only allows for static images outside of special events.)

Very frustrating indeed then that sorting out the auditorium lighting would be rather less costly! Is it the case that people “don’t notice”…? (Albeit I’m always amazed by people’s lack of awareness of their surrounding environment.) With more obvious features perhaps they do notice when it’s there… but don’t notice that it’s absent?

Example: If my “usual” cinema were the local multiplex, and I turned up to the OLS with beautifully lit tabs, then surely I’d notice it as a special feature—but I’d not notice the absence of tabs—since I wasn’t expecting them anyway?

On the subject of the Royal Circle restepping/reseating, further details on this would be most appreciated… Were the new steps simply built “on top” of the old steps?

davepring on February 21, 2016 at 3:03 am

It is indeed a shame this magnificent cinema does not get the care it deserves. I remember going to an early digital presentation of Toy Story. The painted fire curtain rising in synchronisation with the theatre organ, cove and pageant lighting all in full working order and two sets of tabs gloriously lit….

FanaticalAboutOdeon on February 18, 2016 at 4:22 am

davepring – sadly, yes I agree and it wouldn’t cost much to replace blown lamps in spots and renew faded gels. As for the fibre optic cove and golden ladies surround lighting, that must have cost a fortune in 1998 and has never really had the effect that was conceived. Now – part of it’s on sometimes and none at all at others. It’s very unsatisfactory and all it needs initially is an enthusiastic lighting man and a few quid – I have rolls of magenta gel and I’d happily donate them! When we look at photo’s of the beautifully lit auditorium just a few years ago, it’s a great shame that such a large theatre has to look so dingy. Let me get my hands on it for a couple of overnight sessions! The additional twelve spots installed in 1998 and, filtered indigo, shining down the folds of the blue screen tabs very effectively, were removed to enable the 3D screen frame to be flown clear. Now, some of the masking felt hangs off the bottom and is visible below the proscenium top. This doesn’t affect viewing the screen of course but looks unsightly. The frustrating thing is that the Company do spend money on the place – look at the enormous LED screen and two smaller ones on the façade, they’re both versatile and very effective and cost a fortune. Regular reseating given the capacity won’t come cheap either and the new Royal Circle flooring also. The celebrated auditorium needs to glow and sparkle once more and that wouldn’t be difficult – or that expensive – to achieve. I’m aware a lot of people don’t appear to notice these things but that’s no excuse for the “lowest common denominator” attitude. If only subliminally, these things do make a difference and all add to the experience of a visit to one of the world’s most famous cinemas.

davepring on February 18, 2016 at 3:55 am

I was sat in row k in the stalls so that might explain the smiley end credits and from the stalls the tabs do seem dimly lit but then the whole auditorium was dimly lit giving it a shabby beige appearance.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on February 17, 2016 at 12:49 pm

That’s very interesting – if a little bewildering! It should come as no surprise to many that reflected light appears brighter the nearer the viewer is to the angle of the light beam/beam angle. At OLS the screen tilt and beam angle clearly favour viewers in the circle as one is viewing the screen from an angle closer to that of the beam itself. This is not to say that viewing from the stalls is not good, it’s excellent in my experience, just that, technically, the circle has a slight optical advantage. Comparison by a guest at the Odeon would be almost impossible unless they were to be hoisted over the circle front and lowered into the stalls while keeping their eyes on the image! The same principle applies to all kinds of reflected light; my home cinema has silver satin screen tabs lit by “pageant” lights mounted 7' high some 15' away. If, when the lights are up, you were to sit on the floor near the stage and look up at the tabs, they would appear rather dimly lit. Standing at the rear wall where your eyes would be within 2' of the lights, the screen tabs appear very brilliant indeed. If you move around while keeping the tabs in view you can easily see the line and level of brightness moving/varying accordingly. The same effect is evident at the Odeon where the lights are housed on the circle front. Stand at the orchestra pit rail, look up and the tabs appear quite dark (they’re blue satin so not so reflective anyway), stand in the front row of the circle just above the lights and the reflection is several times stronger.

CF100 on February 17, 2016 at 10:42 am

I think this is the “paper” on the OLS projection/screen I referred to in my last post-—really a collection of a few E-mails rather than a paper.

(I probably should post to a different forum… but just in case someone is interested!)

The most relevant part is on the bottom half of page 6—essentially the picture is brighter in the circle than the stalls.

HowardBHaas on February 17, 2016 at 3:22 am

Spectre was the 3rd James Bond movie in a row I’ve seen here! Once a year, I like to be in London, and been fortunate enough to be able to plan timing of vacation to see the Bond films. As to surround sound, even the Rear Circle is great!