Empire Cinema

5-6 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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CF100
CF100 on January 27, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I have now paid a visit to the Empire LS to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

A few comments on the “IMAX with Laser” system.

As promised, it is capable of resolving excellent levels of details, freedom from pixellation (end credits, for example), and the colour rendition is outstanding—light sabres, for instance, look very “fluorescent” and “neon-like.”

Black levels are good, though not zero level as IMAX implies.

The caveat is that it feels very much like a “1st generation” system—if not quite out of the prototype stage. It must be stressed that most of these are minor issues, but they are enough to be distracting and signal to the brain “this is not a window onto a fictional reality… it is digital projection.”

There appear to be some minor digital image processing artefacts. Furthermore, a slight dithering was visible, manifesting as very fine grain; and I am not sure if the laser speckling issue has been completely resolved.

The “IMAX with Laser” system uses Dolby 3D (!) glasses (due to patent issues.) Before the main feature, sometimes only one projector was in use and putting on the glasses revealed as such as the image appeared to be visible in only one eye. Unfortunately, closing that eye revealed a surprising level of crosstalk in the other eye.

With the 3D glasses on, at times the extremities of the screen exhibited noticeable colour shift with a distinct purple (IIRC) tint; and the image brightness was insufficient.

In a brief discussion with a member of staff after the film, he expressed the view that the glasses aren’t big enough, and this needs to be fixed. Thus, this lends weight to my contention that the system is still a work in progress.

The laser projection system is punishing in revealing the limitations of the source material—and “Star Trek: The Force Awakens” was largely shot on 35mm.

(I did not like the movie.)

“IMAX with Laser” is, in my view, almost there and if/when niggling points are ironed out it will be excellent. I reiterate that I am being ultra-picky (in view of the grandoise promises made by IMAX)—as it stands this is a spectacular moviegoing experience.

Finally, as the full screen width is now filled, not only is the image even more immersive—but a surprising benefit is, when seated in the middle of the auditorium, the design of the IMAX conversion of Screen 1 looks better proportioned and harmonious.

CF100
CF100 on January 26, 2016 at 3:14 pm

An article on the IMAX with Laser install; some technical information.

Article with photos.

In particular, this one of the auditorium.

The additional new IMAX speakers can be seen, and the seats are bear the marque “Pepsi MAX – IMAX.” (Sigh.)

Also, the new laser projectors are visible.

And What Hi-Fi also has a write up with photos and positive comments on the picture quality.

CF100
CF100 on January 26, 2016 at 11:50 am

Piet_Morant: The sound system you refer to was the THX-certified one from 1989 with the main stage speakers being JBL 4675, and by the mid-1990s, support for all 35mm digital sound formats.

I, too, recall the sound was first rate (excepting the acoustic problems of Screen 1.)

(I also visited the Empire for “Forrest Gump”—but not “Speed,” for which I visited the Odeon West End…)

By the end of UCI’s operation, the THX certification had been dropped and the screen speakers changed to Martin Audio, which did not seem to be an improvement.

In the mid-2000s, Empire Cinemas completely replaced the sound system in Screen 1 with JBL ScreenArrays and no less than 16x JBL 4645C subwoofers.

An incredible system, but it didn’t seem to be as well tuned as the original THX installation (too much HF.) Dolby Atmos was more recently added. The system was moved to the IMPACT screen (with upgraded surrounds and no THX certification.) Alas, on my trip, the performance was not in the league of the Screen 1 install—perhaps it’s been better tuned since then.

The sound installation in the IMAX screen is also excellent and the acoustics much improved over Screen 1.

After a busy few months, I finally have a chance to see Star Wars with the new laser projector system and additional overhead/side IMAX speakers. Report to follow…

goodshow
goodshow on December 21, 2015 at 4:35 am

Monday December 21, 2015. BBC Radio interview at length with the CEO of IMAX UK at the Empire telling us all about its technicalities. Comes in at around 20 minutes as part of a Business Britain update http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s8712

Wurlitzer420
Wurlitzer420 on December 6, 2015 at 11:39 am

Luckilly the organ was saved by Len Rawle who installed it in his special build home in chorleywood

davepring
davepring on October 5, 2015 at 7:14 am

Although I also regret the twinning of Empire 1 it was not sustainable in that form with over 1300 seats to fill.The screen is NOT tiny and the laser projection is superb. At least the cinema will not suffer the same fate as the Odeon West End with two cinemas in the basement!!!

Piet_Morant
Piet_Morant on September 13, 2015 at 4:02 pm

I haven’t been here since I was a teenager but remember it having an awesome sound system. Seeing ‘Speed’ at this theatre is one of my most memorable movie-going experiences.

Movies I saw here:

Forrest Gump, Speed, Mission Impossible

MovieGeek2013
MovieGeek2013 on September 6, 2015 at 4:46 pm

The first IMAX with laser film will actually be Everest 3D and it opens there on 18th September.

davepring
davepring on September 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

The laser system goes live October2 with The Walk. Spectre and the new Star Wars film will also be shown here in IMAX

CF100
CF100 on August 27, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Empire Cinemas is advertising the installation of the ‘IMAX with Laser’ projection system at the Empire Leicester Square, the first in Europe.

According to this article, it will be installed by ‘the end of summer.’

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……..