Empire Cinema

5-6 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

Unfavorite 33 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 346 comments

Empire_fan
Empire_fan on July 2, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Cinema signs (1976) Empire at start.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjO5DVvSh0M

Empire_fan
Empire_fan on July 2, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Empire opening.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/video/opening-empire-leicester-square-crowds-095953409.html

Empire_fan
Empire_fan on July 2, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Empire 1982

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y_21ypRu8w

CF100
CF100 on July 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm

The Picturehouse/Cineworld (née MGM) was perhaps first though built within the shell of the Trocadero. No idea how much reconfiguration was involved though the old Pepsi IMAX was a good example of what could be achieved within its cavernous space!

davepring
davepring on July 2, 2015 at 10:36 am

Vue was maybe the first new build multiplex in the West End..well looked after by Warner..in a dreadful state now

CF100
CF100 on July 2, 2015 at 6:40 am

SethLewis—“Vue West End was a couple of years before its time”—not quite sure what you mean by this? Thank you.

SethLewis
SethLewis on July 1, 2015 at 11:47 pm

With the probable loss of the Curzon West End, the Odeon Covent Garden is worth fighting for…decent screens and lobby…a block away from traffic…sadly the Vue West End was a couple of years before its time…only screens 5 and 7 are any good and the place is a tip

CF100
CF100 on July 1, 2015 at 11:33 pm

Cjbx11—I agree with you that there are too many small screens, and I suspect this is likely to be off-putting to potential repeat customers.

The small screens at the Empire are perhaps better than might be expected—bigger screens than you’d think, and decent sound. Also, back in the 90’s, the smaller screens (i.e. other than 5 and 7) at the Warner were certainly better than the average multiplex—the ones in the basement are a bit compromised (off-centre screens and too much sound leakage) but the rest were exemplars of the time and good presentation throughout.

On the other hand, the Odeon Mezzanine screens—haven’t visited since the refurbishment/rebrand to Studios—were just too small.

The Empire’s IMAX auditorium does offer something that no local multiplex offers—the widest screen in the UK—and, soon, IMAX’s laser projection system.

I think it’s difficult to reconfigure the VUE; as it was a total rebuild on the site of the 1930’s cinema, the footprint is already well utilized—i.e. there isn’t void space to use! So much so that, looking through the Westminster Planning Applications archives, the original proposal was for a 7 screen multiplex—and it seems that only later were two extra screens added at roof level. Still, that doesn’t excuse the seemingly poor upkeep… a “lick of paint” wouldn’t go amiss.

So, hopefully the Empire remodelling, and the Picturehouse, are votes of confidence into the future—still awaiting the OLS refurbishment…

davepring
davepring on June 30, 2015 at 3:28 am

Totally agree.The west end is very much over screened.With the opening of Picturehouse Central I think the likes of ODEON Panton St and Covent Garden will be casualties.The Vue Leicester Square is a shadow of its former self and only offers 2 decent sized screens.The Empire and Odeon Leicester Square are really the only event cinemas left.

Cjbx11
Cjbx11 on June 29, 2015 at 4:58 pm

For me the problem for all the cinemas in Leicester Square is that there is now to many screens chasing to few product. I think they would all do better had they stayed single screens and changed their films on a weekly or fortnightly basis rather then giving very long runs of often very mediocre films. Had they done this I also believe it might have also been possible for the cinema opperaters to persuade the film distributors to let them have exclusive preview shows before going on genral realise similar to the days of exclusive west end runs but maybe just for a weekend before going on genral release. For the cinemas in Leicester Square to servive and be successful I really believe they have to offer the customer something they can’t get at their local cinema, but sadly a lot of the screens are not very good and the customer can get much better experience at their local multiplex for half the price.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on June 28, 2015 at 7:34 am

goodshow: I took a look at the Imperial War Museum website, and as you say, there are several war-time photos of cinemas. Thanks for the information.

davepring
davepring on June 28, 2015 at 6:27 am

There is no way that the Empire could stay as a single screen auditorium.It had been losing money for years.Although I lament its passing I am amazed it lasted so long.The Warner and Plaza were twinned in the late 60s early 70s.The Carlton was butchered and The Rialto and London Pavilion closed as cinemas. Todays audiences want bigger screens and immersive sound and The Empire now satisfies that demand in a high quality conversion but like most other posters I miss the Empire of the 1960s.

goodshow
goodshow on June 25, 2015 at 11:32 am

Ken, the respective website is none other than the Imperial War Museum which has a huge collection of cinemas and impromptu cinema-going the world over during the First and Second World War years;the West End and the Home Counties especially kitted out with sandbags and featuring scores of servicemen and women.

If you can message me on here, I’ll direct you through the eccentric search facility so you can oversee any downloads in future-just in case we get accused of wanton theft and pillage by indiscriminate posting!

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on June 25, 2015 at 2:12 am

goodshow: What a great photograph of the left side stairs in the foyer of the original Empire Theatre. I have not seen this before. Great find!

terry
terry on June 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

If only, Empire_fan ! Nice thought anyway……..

Empire_fan
Empire_fan on June 24, 2015 at 2:46 pm

We should get someone to take over empire and get it put back the way it was EMPIRE 1 and throw out all those other rubbish small screens into a skip!

goodshow
goodshow on June 20, 2015 at 12:32 am

I am assuming this photo

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212693

is also of the Empire, Leicester Square. More subdued atmosphere due to wartime bombardment period.

davepring
davepring on June 19, 2015 at 2:03 am

the photo is similar but the festoons stage right and left were lower creating more of a horizontal line

CF100
CF100 on June 18, 2015 at 6:10 pm

davepring—I have a copy of the book to which you refer (the author is David High,) but not accessible to me at this time. I shall peruse it again when I have the chance!

Here’s a photo of the contour curtain in one position. Not sure I’ve seen any other photos from that era, is that one of the positions you recollect seeing?

davepring
davepring on June 18, 2015 at 5:36 am

The Leicester Street entrance originally led to the Pit Stalls of the Empire Theatre prior to the 1920s rebuild.

davepring
davepring on June 18, 2015 at 5:30 am

The first film I saw at the Empire was in 1970 which I think was Woodstock.The contour curtain was used at the beginning and end of each performance rising and falling in two different styles.I had a book many years ago detailing the history of the Empire from the 1880s to the 1980s which had a photo of plaster work remnants on the right hand side wall towards the projection booth..but my memory may be mistaken!

CF100
CF100 on June 17, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Hmm… looking at the various pictures I’m having quite a hard time identifying which parts of the ceiling could have survived the 1962 reconstruction; I’d guess the dome and associated structure would have been removed. According to this post, there was some remaining plasterwork behind the right side wall, and looking at plans, the most plausible location would be somewhere around the side exit near the stalls/circle gangway.

CF100
CF100 on June 16, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Dave Pring — Do you have any idea where fragments of the “Lamb” ceiling remained?

In the “laser show” era, my recollection is that the contour curtain was only ever dropped in an “inverse V” shaped pattern.

davepring
davepring on June 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

The interior of the Empire was indeed stripped back to the walls although some elements of the 1920s ceiling were still intact hidden behind George Coles design.In the 1970s the contour curtain would rise and fall in a combination of designs but this feature was abandoned by the 80s.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on June 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm

CF100 – The photographs do put several aspects of the 1962 conversion in context – I have all the pictures except the tea lounge but, where they are at the moment is another matter!

It was very common for large theatres built in the late 19th/early 20th centuries to have subterranean stalls and street level entrances situated roughly midway between stalls and first circle levels. The picture of the Empire’s dividing staircases do appear to suggest just such an arrangement and, given the enormous capacities on each level, this would make perfect sense. Unlike the smaller Odeon Theatre with a main foyer and circle lounge, the Empire appears to have had a stalls foyer and a circle foyer. As you say, the reconfiguration of these areas was extreme enough to make it almost impossible to imagine what went before.

The balcony side view shows the bulk of the seating to be behind the very forward cross-gangway with the most expensive seats in the house occupying a relatively shallow front section compared to the ratios in the majority of “conventional” cinemas and with Coles only using (presumably) the rearmost ten or eleven rows as his stadium’s circle, I’m led to believe the main girder would most likely have resided approximately beneath the original cross gangway immediately forward of the two vomitories. Quite a bit further forward beneath the new cinema’s “stalls” than I had previously thought. For the girder to have been behind the vomitories would have almost certainly compromised its value in maintaining the integrity of the cantilever’s longitudinal girders which were/are anchored in counterweights embedded in the Empire Theatre’s rear wall. This does suggest quite a void beneath the 1962 cinema and above the ballroom/casino but which may have been partly utilised to maximise the height of the ballroom – George Coles appears to have abhorred vacuums!
Like you, I think the old theatre must have been stripped back to its skeleton for such drastic changes to have been facilitated, leaving nothing whatsoever of its decorated inner shell.

Consideration was given to tripling the Odeon, Stockton towards the end of the ‘70s. It was apparently discussed alongside the planned disposal of the Majestic/Odeon, West Hartlepool and would, seemingly, have involved dividing the “circle” section in two, the two new cinemas being served by the original projection room while a new projection room would have been built on a small, new area above the centre part of the cross gangway. According to my former local assistant manager. who became the Odeon’s manager during its last years, this “new” box for the original screen would have stood on stilts and adjoined the front row of the “circle” which would have provided corridor access to the new box. It all sounded quite well worked out and optimistic but, once again, the surveyors decided the extra weight of the new box and dividing walls could not be safely tolerated. In the event, both West Hartlepool and Stockton cinemas closed on 24/10/81.

The loss of Empire One is symptomatic of cinema design shifting ever further away from its theatrical origins and towards little more than utilitarianism in which cinema fails to find a decent identity of its own. We don’t need proscenium arches, curtains or theatre lighting in order to show films but how conspicuous by their absence are such features when they take the atmosphere and sense of occasion with them, leaving sanitised and uninspiring black boxes with a naked screen at one end. Long live the, largely, independent cinemas where they still put on a decent show as well as showing a film.

I also remember the traditionally uniformed commisionaire who used to stand in the Empire’s entrance and, when necessary, was very efficient at controlling and directing queues.