Showing 1 - 25 of 202 comments
CF100 I am indeed looking forward to a little detective work during my visit.
Uniquely, OLLS does have a dedicated team of three responsible for the technical aspects of its operation – its Dolby Cinema Screen One is still clearly the most important cinema on the circuit.
The new house curtain motor is extremely slow and the tabs certainly
need to travel slightly faster.
Terry is spot on with regard to the dimming out of lights and operation of curtains. The correct, and most effective, way to do this – in cinemas great and small – was once second nature to all projectionists but so much experience was lost when the rush from film to digital destroyed much and discarded many in its path. House lights should be dimmed out first, followed by any decorative or intermediate lighting other than that on the tabs before finally the pageants or footlights on the tabs begin dimming as the tabs part. The dimming should be timed so that the last glimmer of light is extinguished seconds before the tabs end their journey. When the OLS had both screen and house tabs, they had the additional luxury of a further “step” using the three colour circuit profile spots on the circle front (colours: medium amber, primary red and bright blue) they would dim out the ambers first as the house (red velvet) tabs opened so that while the tabs were opening, the silver satin screen tabs were revealed and bathed in light changing from pink to magenta as the fading amber left them lit in red and blue. Just as the house tabs came to a stop, the screen tabs would open and during their opening the red would be dimmed out first followed by the blue as the screen itself was fully revealed. There were sometimes exceptions naturally but this was the routine for many years and with a total of eighteen 2K spots, it was like a firework display! The screen tabs always closed briefly immediately prior to the feature and be lit either blue or red. The programme end was no less spectacular when the screen tabs would begin to close. Once about ten feet of the screen tabs were visible, the house tabs would follow them in and the spots brought up in the order blue, red and amber. When the house tabs finally met and house lights came up, the blue spots were dimmed out leaving the red house tabs lit by red and amber and looking particularly warm and luxurious.
Terry’s bellowing is probably what I would call billowing and I sometimes thought this looked quite dramatic and spectacular. It did tend to apply to the flimsier, unlined tabs – including the OLS screen tabs (the velvet house tabs were lined and much more substantial). I vividly recall very eye-catching satin tabs billowing majestically open at ABC (Elite) Middlesbrough and Majestic Leeds as well as OLS. The “animation” of the tabs when this happened made the most of the fading glimmers of their lighting and led you straight into the screen image. The danger was that such activity could lead to the bottom of the tabs ending up where they shouldn’t, like in the masking trough below the screen wherein lay the lower track along which adjustable side masking travelled when screen ratios were changed. The chain suspended within the hem of the tabs could preclude the fabric of the tabs simply rolling out and hanging straight. Then you had problems and a projectionist would need to go on stage and extricate the errant tabs.
The most expensive tabs and sophisticated lighting control is no good unless the operator is trained how to use them to greatest effect.
Clearances for the new curtains ought not to be a problem as they are hung on the house tabs track, i.e. the more forward of the two tracks. The pale blue satin tabs which were used for many years were 1998’s screen tabs and used the rear track closer to the screen frame. 1998’s grey satin house tabs hung out of use for many years as their track was damaged by the separate 3D screen frame which was lowered and raised as necessary and was positioned between the two curtain tracks.
The main screen frame (and banks of speakers on separate, huge trolleys) have been able to be “wheeled” back and forth for many years and this was how, for example, the BAFTA Awards sets were accommodated on the relatively shallow stage. The screen frame’s mobility is no innovation.
Ian: Your pictures of today showing the new curtains installed at Odeon Leicester Square are magnificent and, six months after reopening, almost incredible. Clearly an afterthought after so long and – in the great scheme of things – neither an expensive nor a complicated feature to reintroduce. The difference they make to the presentation standard is invaluable.
I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if Odeon/AMC had taken heed of this site; in my day with Rank Theatres, managers were regularly reminded to send H.O. any press cuttings, magazine articles etc. which contained the words Odeon or Gaumont and feedback of all varieties was valued highly. Consumer feedback is, I imagine, at least as valued today given the number of platforms we have on which air our opinion. Although the majority of feedback will presumably be about general issues – films, cinema prices, confectionery prices, parking etc. rather than a particular venue, a scan down this site leaves no doubt about the depth of feeling OLS engenders.
I was to have made my final visit to OLS later this month but, “Hallelujah!” this will no longer be the case now that the Odeon looks more like the premiere theatre it always was. I will be interested to see where the source of the light so effectively illuminating the curtains is located as the original “pageant box” was destroyed early in 2018.
I have to agree that the playing of the organ is very “hit and miss” for an element of the programme often boasted about in OLS publicity. I think the organ should be played before every normal film performance. There must be competent organists out there who could do the honours when Donald is unavailable. He has done so much to promote and record the “Duchess” over many years we – and Odeon Cinemas – owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
Thank you Ian, for making my day with such amazing news and photo’s.
CF100, I agree entirely. A more objective and detailed article was what I was expecting from C.T. of all publications. It was, in effect, far more “promotional” than “analytical” and as if the information from Odeon Cinemas was simply being passed on to readers which ought not to be the case with such a valued industry magazine.
With my “lighting man” hat on, I had been trying to discover the source of the coloured lighting which appeared at the screen end in the photo’s which accompanied the article. One picture showed a deep violet glow on the stage, splay walls and front few rows of seating while the other showed a rich emerald green. What shadows were seen on the mountings awaiting the flying nymphs suggested the light was not coming from either above or further back away from the stage. The answer came when an Odeon contact told me that the coloured bulbs in the frosted glass panels of the Compton organ had been replaced with a high spec. LED installation. Bingo! The coloured glows only appear when the organ is in its highest position with its base level with the stage.
Lionel: Yes, today’s screen is smaller than its predecessor which was 47' wide in ‘Scope and 70mm. The present screen also sits higher above the stage which makes the front row of the stalls less attractive despite the reclining facility.
Technical details for Odeon Luxe Leicester Square, Screen One – Dolby Cinema.
Screen/Projection: Scope width – 13.35, Flat width – 11.60, Scope height – 5.59, Height – 6.28, Throw – 36.02, C/S Ratio – 2.39, F Ratio – 1.85, Screen surface – Perlux 2.2 gain with screen shakers, curved 668mm deep, 3D system – Dolby Vision, Laser Clr Sep, Projector – Dolby Vision Dual Laser/NC3240/Vic8 70mm.,
Server – IMB+NAS/Showvault.
Audio/Speakers: Stage Speakers – SLS 20 Stack linearray & 4 Stack CS215 x5, Stage subs. – CS218XL x16, Front four side + ceiling surround – SLS Line Arrays: Sides: 6x2 Module, Ceiling: 8 Modules, Other ceiling: MA480s, Rear circle filler – Proscella, Ceiling sub bass management – CS218XL-4x2, AD/HOH facility – Dolby Fidelio, Amps. – QSC, Sound processor – CP850/Qsys Core 510C x2/ CP650 x1.
Information source: Cinema Technology, vol 32 No 1 03/19.
The footlights concealed beneath the ramp which lifted the carpet termination just short of the tabs/screen at the 1962 Empire were simply a number of Strand Electric’s basic footlight/batten sections arranged in a gentle arc which followed the curvature of the screen/tabs. This was, of course, long before the Coda 4 series replaced the traditional footlight/batten fittings. Although nowadays footlights are extremely rare, up until the ‘sixties the vast majority of British theatres and cinemas had them and used them to great effect. In cinemas where the Holophane lighting control system was installed, Strand’s systems were almost invariably recommended and the lamps could be either 60, 75 or 100 watt pearl Edison screw bulbs (clear versions tended to result in “hot spots” or “patches” on the illuminated surface, despite Strand’s rippled mirror glass reflectors set as a collar around the lampholder in each compartment. I don’t think the Empire’s footlights were ever changed but I can see how the Coda 4 compartments resemble them – apart from being longitudinally convex whereas traditionally, footlights were flat-fronted.
The Empire’s cove lighting came all the way down to floor level and the tubes were set behind clear Perspex. If one stood facing into a cove, the four tubes were, of course, visible and even when one or more tubes were lit, the fourth completely colourless tube was clearly visible. I only ever saw one or more of the coloured tubes being used and wondered if a white alternative was perhaps intended for occasions when the Empire might have been used for conferences, meetings etc.
You’re right about my cinema’s LED units, the amber element is a tad too yellow for my liking but at a low level it does indeed add warmth when used with red especially or to make a lime green. The white is even more useful for producing countless degrees of pastel colours. I don’t use the UV with any of the other colours but, on its own, it works well when the tabs close briefly prior to opening on the main feature and is an effective alternative to primary blue at such times. Children, especially, nearer the screen love to see their white clothes/accessories glowing violet when the UV is up.
The higher of the two ODEON neon signs had a very short life, being removed in 1939/40 to obviate the danger of broken glass falling onto the ground below. Similarly, the York Odeon’s neon signs on either side of the tower top were dismantled around the same time and none of the three signs were ever reinstated/replicated. During the first decade of 20c. a new style ODEON sign – silver faced with white outline and blue halo – finally appeared where the higher of the old signs is shown here at Harrogate. At the same time, a larger version of the new style sign was erected on the canopy edge replacing the lower of the 1936 signs seen here.
The York Odeon building now has a sign atop its tower on the “country” side but it now reads EVERYMAN in white LED strips.
The gold design above the level of the 1964 – 2017 false ceiling is a very recent adornment which cleverly recalls a section of the wrought iron orchestra pit rail which was replaced by a wall during 1964’s modernisation. The original frieze at this level, which continued along the side walls too, was still there when Everyman’s contractors dismantled the false ceiling but was much disfigured by the girders installed in 1964 from which the false ceiling was suspended. It may well have become quite faded/dirty when it last saw the light of day after twenty seven years of heat and smoke so, bearing in mind the chips and craters left by the girders, the plasterwork was made new and after being plain for a few months the gold pattern was a lovely, welcome touch. Apart from in photographs, a short section of the decorative rail has survived ever since 1937 and that is between the two columns at the stairway end of the circle lounge, above the stairs from foyer to half landing.
Aesthetics aside, the little section of surviving rail was to prevent anyone falling from first floor to ground level!
“Forsooth Mr Lowther, the Philistines are upon us” – Jean Brodie exclaims in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, first heard during the film’s screening at the 1969 Royal Film Performance at Odeon Leicester Square.
My reaction on seeing the spoiled auditorium on 3rd Jan. was, in essence, not dissimilar!
I may well make one more visit to my beloved Odeon Theatre after some months just to see if anything has improved with time otherwise I’ll be content to remember happier days. I’m blessed with a photographic memory (at least of those things which interest or fascinate me) and I have so many memories of the Odeon since my first visit in 1970. I lived in London for over thirty years and treated OLS as more of a local cinema – so easy was it to see almost every film shown there. A measure of my affection is probably the fact that I could watch a film there which I considered mediocre, or even, though rarely, poor and still feel afterwards that I had had an enjoyable evening. I tended to go with several less cinema-orientated friends and it never failed to please when they would gasp on entry and remark on the size of the screen or quality of the sound. When first the house tabs parted followed by the screen tabs billowing apart as colours changed and faded there would not infrequently be heard “wows” here and there in the auditorium.
I do nevertheless feel sad at the current situation but glad that the Odeon Leicester Square entertained me so much during over half my lifetime. When I first visited the Odeon I was still a Rank Odeon Manager but never worked in the West End. Three Royal Film Performances were all especially memorable for me, none more so than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 70mm before the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and Lord Mountbatten. It was when a full orchestra occupied the pit and ticket holders were greeted on entry by the orchestra playing the theme music from films shown at earlier RFPs. James Mason then made a welcoming speech from the side of the stage before the red velvet house tabs parted to reveal the royal trumpeters who played a fanfare as the royal party walked to their seats at the front of the Royal Circle. Having played the National Anthem, the trumpeters then left the stage and we saw the little boy from the film standing spotlit centre stage as pageants faded down to the deepest blue. The silver screen tabs began to part, the little boy ran off as his spotlight iris narrowed down to a dot and was extinguished, the enormous screen began to glow and, well, the rest is history.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
CF100, now bereft of technical “contacts” at OLS, I’m unable to give any further information on the cove lighting source/s but I’m pretty certain the system does not rely on the primary RGB colours – the white we see is too pure a white whereas the illusory “white” a concentration of all primaries would have produced would have been a “dirty” white which, at close quarters, would have inevitably included sparks of red, green, blue, magenta, cyan and amber. More likely, to my mind, is cold cathode lighting strips perhaps best exemplified by its use in the coves of the 1962 Empire Leicester Square. Four strips were concealed within each of the Empire’s coves, all secondary colours – yellow, deep pink, pale/bright blue and white. The effect was truly spectacular especially when different colours were used in different coves and the contrasts could make the colours appear more intense. The deep pink could even appear true red in certain combinations. Interestingly, the tungsten footlights and dips used to illuminate the Empire’s curtains were filtered using colour gels which most closely matched the cove lighting so the overall effect tended to look satisfyingly coordinated.
The items on the “new” OLS (Odeon’s CEO speaking from within the unfinished auditorium) released to the news media, clearly show the coves above the balcony lit a pale shade of blue with, oops, small sections towards the rear showing pink! These were not graphics and show up the same on various photographs taken during the works and looking from the stage end towards the rear.
There is no harm in downlighters acting as both house lights when fully up and safety lighting when dimmed to something less than 25%, especially in much smaller cinemas. In the Odeon this has worked well for many years but, focussed as such lighting is on seats and carpets it only constituted one element of the “house” lighting. Concealed lighting added the more charming and atmospheric elements.
Over the Odeon’s eighty one years, the auditorium lighting has been achieved by tungsten, tungsten halogen, fibre-optic, suspected cold cathode and even neon sources.
The “lounge” cinema at my home has motorised, silver satin screen tabs, 11' diagonal screen, JVC projector using high pressure mercury lamp. Sound is Wharfedale Cube screen speakers supported by Yamaha sound distribution/subwoofer unit and lighting is provided by nine 75 watt profile spots on three colour circuits using Lea gels (primary red, pink and bright blue) supplemented by two, wide angle LED stage lighting units utilising red, green, blue, white, amber and UV elements. All lighting is controlled by slider dimmers and the combo’s are limitless. Effects projectors using steel or dichroic glass gobos are sometimes used to project various images onto the screen or tabs. I find it very ironic that so much of my “little Odeon” was inspired by what I saw at OLS yet today I
believe the theatrical presentation I offer could teach Oscar’s flagship a few things – ought it not to be the other way round?
Eureka! They’ve finally used the cove lighting but does it all have to be white? The system, as installed, is capable of being set on various points within its not unlimited spectrum and even a pastel shade of blue, mauve or coral would prevent the unconcealed speakers from being at least as eye-catching as the “ladies” from balcony level. On my early January visit, only the horizontal, forward curving lighting below the coves was operating plus SOME of the downlighters set into the ceiling (hardly any to audience left). These downlighters were simply the safety lighting which are lit during films but brought “fully up” to act as house lighting. I sat in the second row of the Royal Circle and the blue-upholstered panel along the inside of the balcony’s front wall wasn’t even visible.
Eleven months is a long spell of zero revenue and I can’t help thinking the board of AMC’s Odeon Cinemas must have been aggrieved that their “flagship” had to open as a work in progress.
It’s a shame that almost all observations about OLS auditorium on this site are peppered with the words “shame”, “pity”, “no longer” and other negatives while most positives are reserved for the foyer, extended circle lounge and façade – all impressive but nevertheless peripheral.
Not a patch on what it was…
The overspill of light onto the stage is regrettable, illuminated so brightly, the legs, screen masking and lower masking guide track shield all look very crude. Given the base colour of the auditorium – now a somewhat industrial dark navy blue – why is all the lighting cold white? Was no one with a rudimentary knowledge of stage/architectural lighting involved/consulted during such an expensive transformation to this important venue? Clearly not. Sad to think this gloomy old auditorium had, until just over a year ago, pale blue satin screen curtains operating and lit by fourteen 1k profile spots filtered by magenta gels and housed in the “pageant box” which was incorporated on the front of the balcony when the Odeon was built. The golden nymphs were tastefully lit by a further two spots at each end of the pageant box with the shutters of these lanterns arranged to prevent unsightly overspill so just the nymphs glowed. The walls and ceiling were then painted soft grey (which had replaced the previous pastel pink in 1998). I know which scheme I preferred and which still had the “glamour and charm” now so conspicuously absent.
The original pageant or lighting box was torn down last year and replaced by a somewhat temporary looking exposed bar on which are suspended ugly, semi spherical downward-facing Dolby speakers.
I wish I could say the present image and sound quality offered a sufficient improvement to justify making the auditorium into a large, black box with only the slightest nod to previous enrichments but I honestly can’t. Yes, picture and sound are extremely good but they were always pretty impressive here in the past so the average guest my well be hard-pressed to describe the improvements. The theatrical trappings of a traditional cinema may indeed be subliminal to the majority but their absence in this of all Odeons will be sufficient for me to look elsewhere for my ideal cinema.
Smaller, truly independent cinemas generally do not go in for the black box treatment and Keswick’s Alhambra, St. Albans' Odyssey, Stockport’s Plaza and Berkhamsted’s Rex are just a few of many cinemas which remain a pleasure to visit in themselves. They are now beacons which would once have tried to emulate the former grandeur of Leicester Square’s cinemas.
Thanks Ken, at least that’s a step in the right direction.
CF100, Just a thought… Could it be that the golden nymphs AKA flying ladies no longer have access to OLS? Taking them out in early 2018 would have been relatively easy not only would the huge scene dock door of the stage house on audience left (leading to the front stalls exit/dustbin storage alleyway to Charing Cross Road) have been available but, for a while, the auditorium was partly “open to the elements” between the removal of 1998’s first floor windows and the creation of the “glass box”.
Given the screen frame and “trolleys” of screen speakers can be moved to the rear of the stage (as it has been for many years)the scene dock door could still offer a way in for such large set pieces OR was it sealed off when the back stage area was additionally soundproofed to acoustically protect the hotel behind?
Hard to believe minor repairs to the replicas could take this long – more likely it’s an oversight, logistically.
Oh dear. “Restoring the charm and glamour…” now has a very hollow ring to it. I have to agree with davepring – no curtains and no lighting other than safety-necessary downlighters. Yes, a huge, black hole and no longer a cinema I’ll be making 400 mile return trips to enjoy. If this is the golden age of cinema returned, I’ll give it a miss and increase my footfall in more local cinemas – the majority of which know how to put on a good show.
CF100,I’m not aware of any suggestions that the proscenium arch had been widened, however, in Kers' observations from the stalls, he/she mentioned, “The proscenium arch, as was, appears to have gone…” and this is why I referred to its almost certain survival.
Kers did mention the dimness in the auditorium and I too found it hard to see much – other than the screen – from balcony level.
Yes, all coving forward of the cove immediately beyond the balcony was removed during the ‘67 modernisation. The walls and ceiling nearer the proscenium arch, above the leaping nymphs, were ribbed and three further, semi circular ceiling coves appeared above and within the width of the proscenium arch. The ceiling’s descent was maintained but was horizontally straightened once the “stepping” caused by the three abandoned coves was gone. The absence of the coves slightly increased the height of the new, plainer ceiling above the orchestra pit.
There is more than one report of Rank being disappointed by the blandness of the new scheme beyond the balcony front. The otherwise plain splay walls were at first illuminated by each having three pools of light projected from profile spots housed in the lighting box incorporated in the design of the balcony. The overlapping, spherical pools of light were filtered red, bright blue and medium amber (matching the colours used to illuminate the curtains when the lights were “up”). From the run of “Funny Lady”, a vertical design feature was painted on the splay walls above the front stalls exits. The colours of these were brown, cream and pink and the appearance was abstract resembling fountains reducing in width towards the top. Following these came the first serious attempt to compensate for the loss of the nymphs by three dimensional cloud/wave forms in red, grey and pink rolling towards the screen. These were superseded in 1987’s refurbishment by upwardly waving designs incorporating three strips of orange neon all of which faded slowly in and out like rising flames. The design matched that of the appliqued house curtains which came at the same time. In 1998 came replicas of the original sculpted figures and it is these replicas' return that is currently eagerly awaited.
Kers, I was interested to read of the, possibly black, curtains you noticed hanging at the sides of the arch. As the auditorium is now painted dark navy blue, it would be good if these were actual house curtains in the same colour or indeed black perhaps even bearing an appropriate design when closed. The suspense continues.
Considering the straight edged addition to the ceiling at the stage end, it occurs to me that this could even be regarded as corresponding to the cantilevered projection box which largely overhangs the back rows of the balcony and rear promenade and, similarly, makes no attempt to follow the contours of the coved ceiling and walls ahead of it.
Ian, The souvenir reopening booklet also contains a photograph of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret descending the stairs from the circle of the EMPIRE Leicester Square in 1952!
Given the new screen is very similar in size to the old one, there would have been no reason to remove the proscenium arch. Furthermore, the side columns of the arch (in this Odeon’s case, purely the termination of the splay walls) contain supporting girders which spring from the foundations. The top of the arch contains a horizontal girder so there would have to be a very good reason for meddling with the theatre’s skeleton in this area and I just don’t see one.
As part of the recent, thorough refurbishment of the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, that venue’s proscenium arch was widened slightly at the same time as the stage was deepened, thereby maintaining good sightlines. Although the height of the proscenium there was not increased, the former, deep house pelmet was dispensed with thus opening up the view from the Upper Circle. The works also included the building of a higher and deeper fly tower necessitating the installation of new vertical and horizontal girders in support. No such reasons existed to justify the Odeon having taken this extremely expensive route, of course, so I fully expect the 52' arch to have survived.
Ian Grundy has posted brilliant and breathtaking photographs of the works and stunning results at the Victoria Palace, including a close-up of the new and wider girder at the top of the proscenium arch, on Flickr.
CF100: The previous screen had an image area width of 47' when masked for ‘Scope and 70mm. The screen height in 70mm. mode was almost, if not exactly, the height of wide screen/wide angle. Regrettably, I do not have the vertical dimensions.
From my seat in the Royal Circle on 3rd January, the proscenium arch appeared to be intact judging by the elongated, triangular “glows” (coming to a point at the top). The most obvious cause of this would be the proscenium verticals reducing the light spillage from screen to side walls – the tapering of the “glow” could be due to the slight tilt of the screen which, while still tilted, is at a lesser angle than before.
From 1968 until January of last year, the plain ceiling section where the downward slope of the ceiling accelerated to meet the top of the arch, invariably glowed during brighter scenes rather like an elongated cloud. The lighter paint schemes would have intensified the reflection. Now, the ceiling from just above the arch to a point roughly midway between stage and balcony is both flat and lower and flat fronted. Presumably this addition contains some of the speakers and, were it to be open at the rear or stage end, might potentially contain some stage lighting. Both apron stage around the organ and the roundels from which the golden ladies are due to leap once more, were lit a deep purple in Odeon’s photgraph atop their website listing for the flagship.
Like you, the stygian gloom throughout the auditorium prevented me from seeing much other than the seats and carpet near my seat. I’m keeping my powder dry and will, perhaps in the Spring, occupy a seat in the stalls and take a powerful torch with me in case the gloom is permanent. Come to think of it, I could also take a colour gel and a frost filter to demonstrate what a difference a tiny element of light and warmth could facilitate before the performance! That’s just in case the auditorium still resembles a certain proverbial jail in Calcutta…
Fingers remain crossed here for at least a modicum of restored “glamour and charm” – as it is, I doubt either Mr Deutsch or his wife would recognise the interior as it currently appears. All true Odeons glittered and sparkled when new, time for this most significant of all of them to catch up.
Seems “Mary Poppins Returns” has done even better than expected at the Odeon and performances are indeed continuing, intermixed with some for “Stan and Ollie”. It was a late decision not to close from today apparently but whether the finishing work is going to be done overnight or whether there will still need to be a short closure later on remains to be seen. Given the numerous alternative venues for “MPR” in the West End and elsewhere, the sustained business at OLS suggests its facilities and the Dolby offer are scoring well despite the pricing regime.
Did anyone notice that on the 21st December for the main evening performance, the cost of a ticket to the Royal Box was £70.75 for one night only and all twenty two seats therein were sold?
I sampled the Royal Box today – the last day of “Mary Poppins Returns” – and was very impressed by the image definition and perfect sound. I have invariably sat in the second row of the Royal Circle in the past and it remains, for me, the definitively best possible position for viewing a film anywhere. Now enhanced with huge and fully adjustable armchairs and, excuse the pun, virtually limitless legroom, this position in the Odeon remains my preference.
There is clearly much work to do during the next seven days. The lift is still to become operational (workmen were in attendance as the audience left) while most unfinished work appears to be in the auditorium where not a single cove was illuminated – only the eight downward curving sections at the base of each cove was lit (white) and the only other house lighting was from the downlighters set into the ceiling (some of which on audience left were not working). There was just about enough light to safely reach one’s seat. Predictably, the gold and blue “ODEON LEICESTER SQUARE – LUXE CINEMA” was projected on the screen though, oddly, in a wide angle ratio leaving blank margins on either side of the screen which was masked for ‘Scope ready for the feature.
One thing which I think will be greatly appreciated by many was the absence of the Digital Cinema Media adverts although there was no shortage of trailers and a demo/ad. for Dolby Cinema. I hope this situation will continue as, surely, the new pricing regime will more than compensate for the loss of advertising revenue.
The new clock in the foyer was stuck on 11.52 as I both entered and left – hope it’s not an omen!
Auditorium aside, the public spaces were very impressive and the glazed extension to the Circle Lounge with its commanding view of the Square provides a really special environment to eat, drink or simply relax before and after the film. Despite Poppins being shown everywhere and no longer brand new, there were dozens of people taking photo’s of the glittering façade from the Square and many more people than I expected in the Foyer Café and Oscar’s Bar. Eavesdropping, I only heard good things being said, a boy in a family group admiring the videos on the half landing between escalators exclaimed, “Wow, what an amazing cinema” while the lady of a couple who were my neighbours in the Royal Box, said as they were preparing to leave, “I’d see every film here if I could, wouldn’t you?” to her companion.
Adding some light and colour to the auditorium and, as Terry says, some beautiful and nicely lit curtains within the proscenium arch really will mean the “Golden Age” has returned. The appropriately golden nymphs will definitely be flying back to the splay walls after their refurbishment and a repair to one’s broken toe. Curtains are by no means unlikely as I believe live performances – of one sort or another – are on the list of revenue streams for the Odeon Theatre.
LARGE_screen_format: The video wall at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square is sited on the landing halfway between the foyer and the circle lounge. Video screens are intermixed with identically sized reflective rectangles incorporating white LED stripes at approximately 45 degree angles.
joeswin: I’d like to echo CF100’s thanks for the link to such a comprehensive and absorbing review of the Odeon’s transformation.
With regards to the 1937 tabs being replicated, the word “curtains” being plural is encouraging as the safety curtain is, by its very nature, a solid piece of equipment which, surely, no one would refer to as “curtains”. Even “curtain” is something of a misnomer for what is actually a fireproof screen or panel – as in “curtain wall”.
During any redecoration/refurbishment of a cinema’s interior where the tabs (colloquial expression used in the industry and a contraction of “tableau curtain”) are being replaced, such stage draperies are usually among the last items to go in, being hung only once the paint is dry and the dust has settled. This would account for the artist’s renderings of the auditorium including an illustration of the Odeon’s safety curtain as a means of showing where the screen will go.
The Odeon’s main or house curtains immediately behind the painted safety curtain were in multi-layered silver satin and although side opening on a motorised track, had huge festooning panels of satin overlaying the basic curtains. The panels rose from either side of the proscenium to an apex in the centre. The whole made for a magnificent setting when lit by both footlights and pageant lights mounted on the balcony front. These would open to reveal another set of tabs, the screen tabs, which were in a similar fabric but with a simpler design near the bottom. When these parted, the screen itself was revealed. A third track was originally provided with velvet tabs but these were used only for stage presentations and concerts. When the CinemaScope screen frame was built in the early ‘fifties, the third set of tabs was removed as the deeper screen frame needed for the new screen’s curvature and masking panels/tracks would have fouled them. History was repeated when a second screen and frame was more recently installed for showing 3D product. When either in use or flown above the stage, this frame would have fouled the house tabs thus, in recent times, only the 1998 blue satin screen tabs have been in use albeit nicely lit and a pleasure to see.
Both sets of original tabs were replaced in 1968 during the cinema’s modernisation, house tabs by velvet tabs in alternate panels of orange and cherry red, screen tabs in plain silver satin. All change again in 1987 when the 1968 tabs were replaced by house tabs in grey velvet with a pink appliqued design echoing the curving neon displays on the splay walls. The screen tabs this time were in copper coloured plain satin. These lasted until 1998 when two new sets of tabs were hung – both in the same grey satin fabric. A few months later, the screen tabs were replaced with a pair in light blue satin and these closed for the final time last January.
A good replication of the original house tabs would be the “icing on the cake” for me and the “golden age” of cinemagoing really would have returned.
CF100: “Clearly the terms "stalls” and “circle” must be rather confusing to the average patron…“ suggests the average cinemagoer is unfamiliar with conventional live theatres which I find hard to believe. Traditional proscenium arch theatres have long used the terms stalls and circle to differentiate between, respectively, ground floor seating (sloping or echelonical, towards the stage) and first floor balcony seating. This obviously equates to downstairs or upstairs. Most such theatres have two or even three balconies so add Dress or Royal to the lowest and most expensive and Upper or Grand to the next one up. A third floor balcony will be known as the Gallery (or, colloquially, the Gods!).
London has the densest concentration of such live theatres in the world and every large British city and most towns have at least one such theatre. Because seating areas higher than first floor balcony level would provide a distorted view of the screen, cinemas, unlike theatres, rarely if ever had more than one balcony so simply calling the areas stalls and circle has always been sufficient to differentiate. When cinemas were designed on the stadium principle and had raised seating areas behind the usual stalls level rather than in an overhanging balcony, these additional areas were also referred to as “circle”, so well known were the terms. The 1962 Empire Leicester Square you mentioned was a stadium cinema and “upstairs” and “downstairs” was therefore the easiest way of describing the different levels as although you didn’t need to ascend a dedicated staircase to reach your so-called circle seat, you nevertheless needed to climb steps within the auditorium – usually two steps between every two rows of seats.
While the design of the average live theatre provided the architectural template for all but the smallest purpose-built cinemas right up until recent times when multiplexes introduced us to less theatrical “black boxes” reminiscent of the more utilitarian viewing room surroundings, when live theatres were converted to cinema use balconies above first floor level were often closed off. London’s Dominion, Tottenham Court Road was an example when Todd-AO films famously replaced stage shows at the venue.
I’m sure I’ll be “swimming against the tide” here (!) but I like the “intelligent ticketing” system employed at OLS. The same company, and others like it, also provide the ultra-flexible pricing/booking schemes for railway operators, airlines etc. where demand comes in many different forms. Re. OLS, I’ve seen a number of articles where outrage has been expressed at the maximum ticket price of £40.75 but not one which tells readers/listeners they can get into the same performance for £10.75. I think it’s ingenious that the price of any one seat can now be established by taking into account so many different factors including position in auditorium, time of day, anticipated success (or otherwise) of film, and stage of run. There is a very influential “…must see this NOW!” factor amongst especially younger film fans and the £40.75 price plainly capitalises on this – why not? In the past when ticket prices for the run of a film were pretty much the same for every showing during the run, it seemed a shame that on many a weekday afternoon the Odeon’s vast balcony could appear empty from the projection box while several hundred people could be sitting in the mid to front stalls.
There is virtually a price for everyone and, in life, you cut your coat according to your cloth. No one is going to be forced to pay the highest price and, generally, you get what you pay for. I have chosen to see “Mary Poppins Returns” (and the Odeon itself of course) during its second week and I’m quite happy to pay £30.75 to sit in the best seats AND make a 400 mile round trip to visit my favourite cinema. In fairness, let’s not forget AMC/Odeons' huge investment and decision to preserve, undivided, the large auditorium – not to mention losing eleven month’s revenue in the process.