Empire Cinema

5-6 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7NA

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Showing 1 - 25 of 205 comments

davepring
davepring on March 12, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I hate those blue led frames . I guess they are low maintenance but have no place in the West End where very few cinemas still use tabs with the exception of The Prince Charles, Curzon Mayfair and Odeon Leicester Square.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 12, 2014 at 8:35 am

True. Whilst the Paramount & Plaza, as the twins were first called, understandably bore no architectural relationship with the former Plaza, they were reasonably spacious and comfortable – it was a bold subdivision which yielded two acceptable cinemas, to my mind. The Warner West End and Rendezvous always had a cold feel internally – more modern, yes, but a bare screen lit white in one and rattly steel shapes shuddering in front of the screen instead of curtains in the other? Warmth and atmosphere had been banished but, as the number of screens increased over the years at least curtains were re-introduced which was a step in the right direction. I fondly remember the unconverted Carlton Theatre which, under Fox, had a huge CinemaScope screen and the Gaumont, Haymarket which was quite splendid internally if a little narrow. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Rank (and others) just wanted to maintain their cinemas' appeal to youngsters who would be attracted by bright, modern interiors and not be as aware as we are now of the heritage cost involved. In the West End, the rush to subdivide and ruin fabulous cinemas is hard to justify in the broader view when they all share much the same handful of films; why not present each film in one or two big, impressive cinemas as used to be the case. With suburban and provincial halls the case for conversion is, of course, much stronger. What a great shame we couldn’t simply have looked after what we had and cherished the “dream palaces” in the way that most theatres are. Industry politics have a bearing of course. I’m hopeful the twinning of Empire One will result in two cinemas that will work better than either the Plaza or Warner twinnings of their day. The twinning of Odeon West End worked well at first but replacing their curtains and spotlights with blue LEDs framing the screens renders them lacklustre and suburban in feel.

davepring
davepring on March 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm

The Empire dating from 1962 until its subdivision lasted in its original form longer than the majority of West End Cinemas.The Plaza was twinned in the late 60s and The Warner in the early 70s.I think Ranks zing treatment was unnecessary but at least recent renovations improved the look of the Odeon.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 11, 2014 at 7:21 am

That’s cheering to hear and, yes, the computer images of the conceptual twins do appear to show coves with concealed lighting similar to those in Coles' “original” ‘60s auditorium which produced such memorable spectacles for so many of us. Maybe all isn’t lost – fingers crossed!

davepring
davepring on March 11, 2014 at 6:59 am

Some of the viewing rooms at the Empire are not that bad…I was in screen six recently..only 26 seats but a large digital screen much bigger than those at Odeon Studios Leicester Square.Empire One has now been closed for seven months so I hope the work is sympathetic to George Coles design and having seen the computer renderings this seems to be the case.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I was a Rank Theatres Ltd. manager in 1967 and was able to witness the changes as they took place at Leicester Square prior to the “unveiling” of the new look at the premiere of “Smashing Time”. I think most of us would concur that many cinemas lost a great deal in the then fashionable “zing” treatment where much of buildings' character was sacrificed for plain surfaces and blandness. With Leicester Square, the etched glass front doors, foyer and circle lounge wall panelling and recessed ceilings were, to my mind, very sad losses, nevertheless, it remained, and remains for me, a handsome and striking cinema worthy of listing. Does anyone know where the kitchens were situated for the restaurant? Empire One, as we latterly knew it, having been lost, what remains of George Coles' fabulous swan song in the tawdry hotch-potch of largely unsuitable viewing rooms in the pretend multiplex that the Empire has become?

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

That “Tea Room” was a full service restaurant and serious and damaging alterations were made in 1967.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

And by the way… Where was the Odeon’s restaurant? Afternoon teas were served for many years in the circle lounge (as far as I’m aware, stalls patrons could also ascend to enjoy the same refreshment just as nowadays stalls guests may go up to enjoy a drink in the first floor bar) but “full service restaurant”? All patrons have always been admitted through the same set of entrance doors irrespective of the tickets they were buying; the only separation of entering patrons was a physical necessity for stalls patrons to continue forward on the same level and circle patrons to mount the staircase to attain first floor level.

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

Compared to sub-division, the alterations made to the Odeon, Leicester Square over the years, whilst many, have been relatively superficial. There has been much said, since 1968, about how all the ceiling/wall coves were destroyed and the “golden ladies” on the splay walls were buried under plaster in that year’s modernisation. Neither is true. Only the coves between the circle and the proscenium arch were removed and the “ladies” were actually removed to create a plainer, more modern interior. Personally, I liked the plainer appearance and, having the “ladies” recreated in 1998 gives me the best of both worlds. The remaining coves regained a degree of concealed lighting from 1987, one pink lamp produced a warm glow at the base of each cove and, since 1998, optic-fibres have produced a more fully reinstated concealed lighting scheme – albeit not as effectively as the designers conceived and most striking when viewed from the very front stalls or the stage! Externally, the 1998 re-branding/reconstruction resulted in the most drastic changes of all when a double height foyer area was created with much additional glazing. To put everything in perspective, the Odeon retains one huge screen with stalls and circle intact and as built, a working stage with safety curtain and dressing rooms, as built and the original orchestra pit with working Compton organ on its rising/lowering lift, as built. Externally, the tower and overall façade and entrance remain albeit with newer signage as befits the flagship. of a thriving, state-of-the-art circuit. I think therefore that the Odeon justifies listing as, structurally, and beyond the cosmetic, there is much of the 1937 super cinema still to cherish. My only quibbles about the landmark Odeon are that the separate 3D screen which is lowered from the fly tower as the conventional screen and frame are moved to the back of the stage, precludes the use of tabs when in use for 3D and when out of use still prevents the house tabs being operated. Much of the lighting incorporated into the reconfigured foyer, glass staircase and circle lounge is no longer working and this leaves unattractive, dark areas and unlit glazed friezes unexplained. These are somewhat esoteric regrets on my part but I bet I’m not the only one to wish the flagship could glitter and sparkle again as it did in 1998. The restored neon outlining (albeit it “fanatical” blue instead of Oscar’s red) and brilliant new, remote-controlled and dazzling film announcement panels do make the theatre stand out after dark as it was meant to do.

By contrast, the Empire has looked like a scrap heap of styles externally for many years – even copying the Odeon’s glass balcony now but on an entirely unsuitable façade. As for the interior, shoe-horning extra screens into former stockrooms and lavatories and now sub-dividing the once glorious and spacious screen one, well it’s now an even messier mess than ever!

List the Odeon! Mourn the Empire!

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 10, 2014 at 10:25 am

The Odeon Leicester Square interior and exterior have been altered several times and used to include a full service restaurant for pre-theatre meals and snob appeal separate seating and entrances.

ReviewofCinemas
ReviewofCinemas on March 10, 2014 at 10:07 am

Perhaps the Odeon, Leicester Square?

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on March 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

Since the original design of all the Leicester Square cinemas had been altered several times over the years, what would you list? Behind the facade of the VUE West End is an all new building and the Empire was already a messy three-plex by 1985.

ReviewofCinemas
ReviewofCinemas on March 2, 2014 at 4:39 am

I was astounded to discover this week that NONE of the cinemas in Leicester Square have listed status. This accounts for the ease with which Empire were able to do away with the legendary screen 1.

Whilst Leicester Square is a preservation area, that doesn’t protect the interiors of any of the cinemas and – as we have seen with the Odeon West End – does very little to protect the exteriors as well.

So I fear there is very little protecting the Odeon Leicester Square in the future from some horrible IMAX-related rate. I ranted about the Empire at length here:

http://fleapits.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/the-brutal-death-of-a-london-legend/

davepring
davepring on February 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

The Empire Imax screen is now scheduled to open late March/early April and the Impact screen in May.

CF100
CF100 on February 4, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Robocop isn’t shown as bookable on the Empire Cinema website, either… IMAX had a picture of the projector packed up for shipping a month ago on their Facebook page, so the redevelopment must be at an advanced stage. I can only imagine Empire Cinemas are “embargo’d” from releasing information until the formal press release; the lack of engagement, in view of the interest shown by the many admirers of the cinema on their Facebook page, is perplexing. Surely, there’s some “insider” information or photos posted by someone?

d8rren
d8rren on February 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

looks like the Robocop opening not gonna make it with the premier in the bfi imax

CF100
CF100 on January 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Still scant information and no updates on the ‘IMPACT’ screen though…!

d8rren
d8rren on January 4, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Imax screen opens 7/2/14 with RoboCop reboot

CF100
CF100 on November 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Empire Cinemas haven’t released any information on the ‘IMPACT’ screen, other than its seat count and confirming that Dolby Atmos will be installed. This is a pretty good indication of a high-end installation, as Dolby Atmos uptake has been very limited in the UK, with only a few screens equipped. Also, all of the other screens in the Empire have, IIRC, JBL screen speaker systems; however, without THX certification, the baffle wall will be no more.

As for masking, Empire 1 had a 60ft. screen and had the ‘IMPACT’ brand back existed at that time (2006 upgrade,) they may as well have branded Empire 1 an ‘IMPACT’ screen.

Considering that Empire 1 was host to many premieres, and the development of Leicester Square as an attractive location with the right infrastructure for them, presumably the IMAX auditorium now will be used to host most UK IMAX premieres.

The question is whether the ‘IMPACT’ screen will be used for non-IMAX or smaller premieres, or if these will go to the Odeon LS or (for the time being) the Odeon West End? In any case it seems set to be a venue for major events including the ‘FrightFest’ festival and therefore ought to be run as a premiere screen capable of handling all aspect ratios in the proper manor.

I’d hope that there’s more chance of full masking and tabs in the ‘IMPACT’ screen at the Empire LS than the average local cinema!

thebrat
thebrat on November 4, 2013 at 8:51 am

I’m starting to hate IMAX right now. I’ve always wanted to see a film in Empire 1 for its Dolby Atmos THX 56kw sound system, during a trip to the UK, and now I’ll never get the chance to do so. The IMPACT screen should resemble no more than an ETX or RPX screen here in the US, big screen without masking. :(

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on September 15, 2013 at 6:39 am

The 70mm. film presentations I have seen at both the Empire and Odeon cinemas in Leicester Square during the last half-century have always been superb. The finest 70mm. experience I have ever enjoyed was “Ryan’s Daughter” during its premiere run at the Empire in 1971. Of course, David Lean’s craft, cinematographer and top-notch crew were no less responsible than the Empire’s vast screen, great sound kit and gently reclining armchairs but the glittering sweep of those amazing seascapes, the stunning capture of some of Ireland’s best scenery and what must be the ultimate filming of a severe storm which threatened to become part of some cast and crew members' epitaphs, all created something in a cinema which I don’t expect to ever see bettered or even equalled. It was a technical combination which went beyond dimensions; we felt the ocean breeze on our faces and were we not splashed during the storm? “Virtual” just wouldn’t have done the sensations justice; it was literally stunning, so much was presented to eye and ear that one’s brain had little to do to complete the experience of being there and we were transported. If ever cinema was immersive, it was then!

The twinning of Empire One’s auditorium now renders the Odeon even more special although, as CF100 rightly says, technical upgrades in multiplex screens and distribution patterns/early transfer to DVD and Blu-ray have long-since put an end to exclusive West End runs that were also technically superior to most subsequent general release locations. The Odeon’s owners continue to invest in what they rightly call Europe’s Premiere Cinema and I hope the theatre’s own celebrity and popularity with studios and distributors will ensure this showcase, with its original, undivided stalls/circle layout, huge rectangular proscenium, stage house, dressing rooms, orchestra pit and Compton organ, will survive and prosper.

Does anyone else think it strange that the Royal Film Performance now takes place in a concert hall, the BAFTA awards in an opera house and, come to that, the Royal Variety Performance having forsaken the world’s most famous variety theatre for a concert hall? No doubt number of seats and potential revenue for the respective charities is behind what can only be bad news for the very venues which were designed to present these media at their best.

CF100
CF100 on September 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

The ‘IMAX’ auditorium’s screen size appears to be roughly within the original IMAX guidelines for minimum/maximum screen width viewing angle for the rear/front rows.

Unfortunately, the large Leicester Square cinemas are now in competition with many ‘upsized’ multiplex screens, including so-called ‘Lie'MAX screens, and the BFI IMAX itself. I hope the Odeon Leicester Square will survive.

CF100
CF100 on September 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm

The interior fittings (acoustic wall coverings, seats, etc.) of the ‘IMAX’ auditorium shown in the computer rendered images look to me to be the same as those in the ‘IMPACT’ auditorium at Empire Cinemas Basildon. (Of course, the overall design follows that part of the former ‘Screen 1,’ particularly the walls/ceilings with concealed coloured lighting.)

Empire Cinemas Basildon ‘IMPACT’ Auditorium Photo

If this is correct then presumably the ‘IMPACT’ auditorium will also use the same fittings. If the ‘IMAX’ auditorium will be the flagship then perhaps the ‘IMPACT’ auditorium will have a more standard design and I can see the ceiling being lowered (it would be very high for a 400 seat auditorium?)

FanaticalAboutOdeon
FanaticalAboutOdeon on September 13, 2013 at 5:41 am

Hope the Impact auditorium, in the front section of Empire One’s stadium layout, will not feel too shallow for the large screen. Odeon Marble Arch may have retained its own giant screen but, with just the front section of the former stalls seating available, it doesn’t have its former “feel”. Putting the largest screen possible into any auditorium isn’t always the wisest course – screen, auditorium size and shape and characteristics should all inter-relate for the best experience. Haymarket’s Carlton, Shaftesbury Avenue’s Columbia and Marble Arch’s Odeon are certainly not the cinemas they were, sub-division has made them run-of-the-mill complexes with no longer anything to make them stand out. Tampering with well-designed cinemas seldom improves the audiences' experience despite appearing to make economic sense. The theory of a wider choice of films does not hold good in central London where there were sufficient cinemas of all sizes offering different films to begin with. Those that survive are mostly carved up and sharing the same selection of films – selected release and art house product excepted. My prediction is that the Empire will end up with one very good Imax auditorium and one that not everyone will take to. Tabs will probably be confined to history to squeeze in as big an image as possible and the Empire “experience” will be diluted. In terms of size, facilities, technology and atmosphere, this twinning will leave the Odeon Leicester Square as London’s only remaining super cinema – long may it thrive!

CF100
CF100 on September 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Looking at the renderings, I think the IMAX auditorium will occupy the current “circle” up to a few rows into the rear “stalls” (e.g. notice the existing two entrances from the foyer and the same row layout…)

Other known details:

  • The IMAX “laser” projector will be installed in 2014, whereupon the screen will be enlarged to 26mx15m. (The same width as the BFI London IMAX.)

  • Dolby Atmos will be installed in the IMPACT auditorium.

The loss of “Screen 1” is unfortunate but I think that all the signs are that the new auditoriums will be of a high standard. The IMAX auditorium renderings show the new walls/ceilings will be “staggered” with concealed lighting, and I hope they will be colour sequenced.