Empire Cinema

5-6 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

Unfavorite 31 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 250 comments

CF100 on September 2, 2014 at 11:28 pm

There’s a number of newsreel footage (British Pathé) clips on YouTube which feature the foyer/lobby areas of the 1928 Empire. These two, though, are a bit different:

Views of the 1928 auditorium (skip to 2:50 on…) and stage and…

Foyer/lobby areas of the 1962 Empire, in 1964…

Very familiar, but some of the decor, fit-out and fixtures have changed considerably!

OdeonNotFanatical on August 7, 2014 at 6:47 pm


CF100 on August 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Sadly, we can’t pull out a magic genie from nowhere to grant our wishes, can we? It’s not that I (or presumably anyone else) don’t share your disappointment and sadness over this, but it’s happened… Love or loathe it, to say the least it’s a heck of a lot better than, for example, my old local inexpensively twinned Odeon, long closed now… looks very nice in photos taken back in 1930… but in my time an absolute flea-pit!

OdeonNotFanatical on August 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I’d prefer it wasn’t touched at all and left as it was.

Imax with its “liemax” is only given itself a bad name. “liemax” I’d never pay to see a film at this cinema ever again. Imax will soon become “liemax.”

Empire have only shot themselves in both feet with “liemax.”

CF100 on August 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Of course it will never be the same and I would far preferred Empire 1 to have been kept, albeit with a bit of a makeover (new acoustic absorption on walls/ceiling, seating reupholstered, etc.)

I’m heartbroken but I also try to maintain a balanced perspective. So, what were the alternative options? Keeping Empire 1 wasn’t one of them as it’s a commercial operation. Strip out and conversion to another Casino floor? Another hotel? I can think of many worse outcomes than what’s happened and I’ve been expecting something to happen to Empire 1 for years.

Believe me and everyone else who are big fans of Empire 1, and were horrified when it was closed for subdivision, the IMAX auditorium is very impressive and comfortable, it is a great place to see a film, obviously not greater than the “cathedral” that was Empire 1 but still excellent, the online photos and videos don’t really do it justice.

OdeonNotFanatical on August 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

On occasions I’ve been along to the empire.

What ever you like to say cf100. This place will never be what it once used to be. Imax branding of digital is bad idea. Looking at these “Lie-max” pictures is just god awful.

cf100 you sound like your enjoying this? Your not a fan of the cinema. Guess you like “liemax” so much you can’t get enough of it.

CF100 on August 7, 2014 at 3:17 am

The cinema has hardly come down to a low level, Empire 1 was long overdue for an overhaul with sagging seats, tired looking tiles and serious problems with dialogue intelligibility due to the excessive reverb time/slap echo. The subdivision is regrettable indeed and it would have be nice to keep the THX baffle wall/JBL sound system, but by sheer chance, the old rear circle dating back to 1928 has made for an excellent IMAX auditorium. For the most part, it seems that Empire Cinemas have gone out of their way to preserve what they could of Screen 1 and have waited for a suitably grand scheme. There could have been really horrendous outcomes, such as the circle being subdivided down the middle!

IMHO it’s one of the best screens in the country. The IMAX projectors and DMR’d picture is an upgrade, the laser projector is on the horizon, and, yes, no Dolby Atmos but it does sound very good, we’ll just have to wait for IMAX to introduce their new sound system.

A quick look at Empire’s IMAX booking page shows that an evening screening of “Guardians of the Galaxy” has a high percentage of seats reserved in advance.

CF100 on August 7, 2014 at 2:51 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon, thanks for the structural information, very interesting. Another other option I can think of is to use the rear circle as one auditorium, and the Royal Circle as the balcony along with the front stalls to form another, perhaps increasing the rake of the front stalls. As with the Empire IMAX this might yield difficult viewing angles from the side seats, but presumably e.g. columns could be used to support the dividing wall if required.

One would hope that if a completely new auditorium block was on the cards then the recent refurbishment of the Mezzanine/Studios would not have occurred, as it would have been better to concurrently replace it with less compromised auditoria!

davepring on August 6, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Have you visited the Empire???…the IMAX screen is huge and the projection first rate as is the quality of the conversion.

OdeonNotFanatical on August 5, 2014 at 3:42 am

I wonder how many LIEMAX tickets seats they sell for each of the days shows? I’d doubt its lot since its a fake imax marketing called “liemax”.

Bet that imperfect screen is a bigger flop than the liemax.

That cinema really has come down to low level. I seen dog shelters more worthwhile to watch a film, than liemax.

OdeonNotFanatical on August 4, 2014 at 3:31 am

Its a petty this cinema has fallen victim to the “liemax” marketing of fake digital imax.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on August 3, 2014 at 7:35 pm

In fairness to the Empire conversion, I should add that my friend attended an “invitation” Impact screening either just before or just after the cinema went public so things may well have been tweaked by now. The substance within the double wall at Harrogate was indeed foam but it also contained an added ingredient which was, I believe, something of an innovation at the time. Your thoughts on a two-auditorium O.L.S. make perfect sense but, alas, your reservations about the steelwork are spot on! The main balcony girder, which is anchored within the side walls of the building, sits immediately below the wall at the front of the balcony. The wall describes an arc whereas the girder has a straight centre span and, roughly where the two aisles separate the centre and side seating blocks, changes direction at either side very slightly to enter the walls nearer the stage. This “front” girder is something of a linchpin to which several sloping girders emanating from a second, slightly shorter and straight primary girder below the rear circle promenade, are riveted. There are several sets of bracing girders running side to side in threes between front and back and a third, huge girder beneath the central cross gangway (not strong enough to act as main girder at the front of a foreshortened circle). Any interference with the Odeon’s brilliant skeleton would be unthinkable in engineering terms short of a re-building amounting to demolition and starting again. Given what happened eventually to the old Warner (and what it’s replacement is like now) I mention rebuilding in extremely hushed tones! Other than the obvious insertion of a second screen somehow, below the balcony or, heaven forbid, on the stage as happened with the Paramount/Odeon Glasgow’s expensive tripling or Odeon Swiss Cottage more recently, it’s hard to think of any other palatable options.

CF100 on August 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

If Odeon want to keep the stage, then one option I can think of is to eliminate the Royal Circle, so the front stalls would be extended back with a dividing wall at the front of the rear circle… although existing steelwork may well mean this is not be feasible!

CF100 on August 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

FanaticalAboutOdeon, thanks for the long and fascinating post! Acceptance of sound leakage may be a generational thing, although I too would prefer zero, but also accept that even with good soundproofing, it can be inevitable. VUE West End Screen 4, for example, suffers from unacceptable sound leakage; having seen the original plans it seems that the basement cinemas (1-4) were designed as be two auditoria but were centrally divided.

It would be interesting to know what the “dense substance” was, I can only think of expanding foam.

The long-term viability of West End cinemas showing “blockbuster” product must surely be questionable. It is disappointing that your friend thought the picture/sound in the Impact screen was not up to par, as I had hoped that it would have improved by now (e.g. audio calibration/tuning.) That being the case, other than Dolby Atmos, it is hard to see how it is provides a different experience to the average so-called “large format” suburban multiplex, and tickets remain at West End prices. It is quite possible to visit the Impact screen without entering the long “Grand Foyer” which does provide that extra bit of class and expectation.

The Empire LS IMAX is of a high standard, but I do fear that the Odeon LS will end up with two medicore screens which just happen to keep some existing interior features.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on August 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I too think the last remaining really big West End cinema would lend itself to creating an extra special experience on the lines you mention. The Odeon itself is already a celebrity cinema in its own right and with the option of fine dining and perhaps more use made of the circle lounge with its panoramic views of the Square and more regular use of the organ, the cinema could offer something no other London cinema now can. It appears the reason Odeon want to keep the stage end intact is mainly the ability to retain both 2D and 3D screens with the one not in use stored at the rear of the stage or flown respectively. Distributors prefer their 2D product on a white screen and 3D on silver. It makes very good sense and I personally wouldn’t want to loose the proscenium arch or orchestra pit/organ.

davepring on August 2, 2014 at 11:55 am

If I were Odeon I would think about offering a more unique experience without twinning such as replacing the stalls seating with tables and inserting a bar /restaurant under the circle overhang.This works well at The Rex Berkhamsted and The Regal in Evesham and of course has been tried successfully at Odeon Whiteleys. The West End is overscreened and Empire took the initiative in twinning the main Empire with two still sizeable auditoriums with massive sceens. Everyman Cinemas are expanding rapidly which shows that customers will pay for a premium experience and although Odeon clearly have a multiplex mindset they should think carefully about their Leicester Square flagship.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on August 2, 2014 at 11:03 am

Like you, my friend was none too impressed with the projection or sound in the Impact cinema. Tolerance of sound leakage, like so many other things, is partly a generational thing and my own personal requirement is zero, but then when almost every cinema was a stand-alone and sound systems far less dynamic, the problem only reared its head when a railway line ran near the cinema (having been the manager of the single screen Havana/Odeon in Romford I can certainly vouch for this!). When the balcony of Harrogate Odeon was divided to provide two of the current five screens, I understand two steel partitions were built and coated on the outside before the narrow void between them was pumped full of a very dense substance (?) to absorb sound and sound vibration. This was demonstrated for me when I stood in a dark screen one while a “thumping blockbuster” boomed away next door and only when both side-by-side entrance doors were simultaneously open could anything remotely be heard. I was amazed that even the original circle floor steppings didn’t carry the least vibration either and was told the steel partitions were anchored deep within the balcony void. This was without any structural reinforcement which says a lot for the transverse main balcony girder positioned in 1936! I’m given to understand that Odeon are, at present, keen to retain Leicester Square’s stage house and orchestra pit/organ housing which begs the question of where a second auditorium would fit as, more than once in the past, the theatre was only saved from twinning/tripling by the fact that clearance in the rear stalls area was less than that in the average original Odeon. One scheme which came close to fruition in the mid-‘seventies proposed a second screen, sideways on in the rear stalls with front stalls seating retained for the main screen. Apparently, the complexities of lowering the floor (no excavation needed as there are usable spaces below) and creating a lateral rake were great enough to confine that plan to history. The presence of the “new” Odeon, St. Martin’s Lane with 700+ seats and a release pattern which still allowed O.L.S. very lucrative exclusive opening runs, all combined to ward off any meddling with the near 2,000 seater. The capacity made O.L.S. the obvious choice for the biggest charity screenings including the annual Royal Film Performance but, of course, that has now decamped to a concert hall in Kensington and an arena in SE10 – how things change! We can only watch and wait…

CF100 on August 2, 2014 at 2:24 am

That’s dissappointing to hear that there’s some sound leakage but not surprising. It would be interesting to know what kind of sound (low frequency?), and it I don’t think it’s a dealbreaker if it’s audible a small percentage of the time. After all, THX cinemas are allowed a certain amount of leakage from adjacent auditoria, and I’ve heard distant rumbles when in VUE West End Screen 7 (presumably from Screen 5 below.)

As I mentioned in a previous post here, I was told that the extra weight carried was 9 tonnes and structural reinforcements were required. Even if that’s not the case, the dividing walls, screens, etc. must weigh a fair bit! That said, I’d assume double wall construction has been used—I’d imagine IMAX have similar requirements as THX for sound leakage.

The lack of distance between the two screens could be another issue—unavoidable since the IMPACT auditorium extends back into what was the screen void of Empire 1, right up to the wall. I think the Odeon LS has more leeway in that respect (assuming the circle is converted into one auditorium and the front stalls into the screen void another.)

I would be interested to know if Empire have managed to improve the projection and sound in the IMPACT screen, which (unlike the IMAX screen) certainly wasn’t up to par on my visit.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on August 2, 2014 at 1:09 am

A friend of mine was among an invited group to be shown a demonstration film in the Impact cinema and found that when someone stood up in the back row, their upper silhouette appeared at the bottom of the screen. Alas, during quieter moments in the film, he could detect sound penetration from the back-to-back IMAX cinema. Whilst Empire One used to suffer sound penetration from the erstwhile Mecca Ballroom below, this was, I believe, only really noticeable from the front section of the stadium. On account of George Cole’s lovely Empire being itself built on the first floor of the complex, optimum sound-proofing between the two new cinemas would probably involve the kind of weight the Empire’s ‘60s floor was never designed to support.

Should Odeon decide to incorporate an isense auditorium within their flagship, I expect it would be less of a problem to deal more successfully with the consequent acoustics as they would have the original, intact theatre to work with rather than a conversion.

CF100 on August 1, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Empire have finally posted some snapshots of both screens on their Facebook page.

CF100 on July 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

IMAX have finally uploaded Part 2 of their Empire Leicester Square featurette—shows the projectors/screen speakers/screen being installed, and lots of views of the auditorium.

michaelbrent on July 12, 2014 at 12:21 am

I’ve uploaded some more pictures of the IMAX auditorium, but haven’t yet been able to take any of the IMPACT Screen, has anybody managed to take any pictures of that screen?

CF100 on June 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Plans for the conversion are to be found within a Licensing Application to Westminster Council

Looks like it’s possible that some of the tiled walls on the left side wall could be hidden away…

CF100 on June 3, 2014 at 12:01 am

Photos of the 1928 Empire Leicester Square…

Foyer areas: Foyer 1 Foyer 2 Foyer 3 Foyer 4

Auditorium: Auditorium

I prefer the 1962 interior but no doubt it was very ostentatious.