Odeon Luxe London Leicester Square

26 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7LQ

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Lionel on March 19, 2019 at 11:29 am

I just posted my first film on YouTube. This is a Super 8mm film I shot in 1986 and 1988 showing fronts of West end cinemas (including this one) and theatres :


My description on YouTube : Old silent 8mm film showing fronts of West End cinemas and theatres, made with two different cameras and film stocks in 1986 and 1988. Bad quality due to age. The close-up of 70mm advertisement for “a winning double bill” was at the Prince Charles cinema for a re-run of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The close-up of THX Sound System advertisement was at the Warner cinema. The close-up of the “West End” words was the Odeon West End cinema sign.

CF100 on March 9, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Revisiting the OLS this week, this time positioned in row “D” of the stalls instead of the front row of the Royal Circle.

I will focus less on the decorative aspects of the refurbishment, important as they are, and more on the seating position and audio/visual quality aspects of the presentation.

Incidentally, as of about a week ago, there was no sign of building work (e.g. the service yard to Charing Cross Road) and so it seems reasonable to assume that all work is now complete.

The proscenium end of the auditorium, that is to say the new walls and particularly reprofiled/lowered ceiling, actually looks fine from the front stalls, not being juxtaposed against the 1930s plasterwork above the circle balcony.

It seemed to me that the recliners were not identical to those in the Royal Circle—being narrower, not reclining as far back, and with less generous row spacing; looking at the licensing plans, they appear to confirm this. These seats are, of course, still very comfortable indeed.

From the stalls, the uniformity on screen was not as good as in the Royal Circle, with hotspotting in the centre and some falloff to the edges. However, thanks to the reclining seats, the raised screen position was no problem* and from this location, it appeared to be a reasonable size—although having more frequently sat in the front stalls than the circle, it was more obvious to me that it had clearly “shrunk.”

(*“ideally” one should be positioned somewhat above the bottom of the screen; although, personally, I quite like having the screen “towering” above as if “larger than life.”)

From the rear stalls, as the screen has been moved up, it is still the case that the top of the screen can only be seen from the last row; As previously mentioned, the bottom of the new screen location is only just visibile from the front row of the Royal Circle. Additionally, the raised screen position means that it is not notably tilted up, as it was; and it also obviates, at stalls level, the problem of the bottom of the screen being blocked by a person seated in the next row, particularly if the seat in which one is situated is reclined, and the one in front is not. Although the stalls rake has been improved, it is certainly not as steep as “stadium”-style seating.

It thus seems reasonable to assume that the reduced screen size was chosen for sightlines; in fact, from the stalls, I would guess these are better than the IMAX across Leicester Square, where, despite its stadia being reasonably steep, a tall person in front can block the bottom of the screen. (IMAX’s 1983 SMPTE Journal paper, incidentally, says that this could occur with their auditorium geometry but suggests that it is not overly problematic since nothing important should appear towards the bottom of the screen.)

See previous post on the wood veneer finished wall panelling; briefly, there are lots of small holes or slots in it and acoustic absorption behind.

The audio in this seating location was very good; if I had to be picky, it wasn’t quite as bright as I’d have liked, and there seemed to be some peakiness in the upper midrange, as well as some metallic colouration to the high frequencies. Playback seemed to be at around reference level and, although I had previously considered it to be slightly stressed under peak levels, it seemed effortless on this occasion. Subbass is very extended, albeit a bit “one note” in character, but it could certainly shake seats and pound the chest.

The Dolby Cinema trailer really showed off what the system could do, and, based on this, not only is this a first rate Atmos installation which benefits immeasurably from the auditorium’s size, giving a massive sense of scale and space, but pans around the auditorium showed very effective “pinpoint” rear/overhead imaging. Having previously discussed the IMAX 12 channel system, with its additional two sides and four overheads, it would certainly seem to be the case that Atmos is superior in respect of both diffuse surround and precise imaging. In particular, the IMAX system over in the Cineworld Leicester Square (Empire Theatre) struggles to place sounds directly behind the listener.

Additionally, despite altogether different speakers being used for the rears compared to the fronts, with yet another product being used to “fill” the back of the stalls, the whole system was remarkably seamless in terms of timbre matching.

It would seem that the work that went into designing and tuning the system has paid off.

The added capabilities of Atmos become somewhat by-the-by, however, as the sound mixes of movies just do not seem to take full advantage of the system’s capabilities and so outside of “whizz-bang” system promotion trailers, the difference is marginal. I should also add that, in my view, “multi-dimension” surround is somewhat overboard; the screen is where the action is, and the rears really need mostly to provide a sense of almost subconscious envelopment rather than sounds panning all over the auditorium. Our hearing system evolved to be most sensitive to the direction of sounds in front of us; we would simply turn our head around in case of being approached (potentially by a threat!)

It seemed that the HVAC system was slightly audible during the feature, although much quieter it was pre-refurbishment.

Comments otherwise on projection as before, although, as the performance was 2D rather than 3D, Dolby’s claims of achieving extremely low black levels became more obviously questionable. In the Dolby Cinema “Universe” trailer that was played, there is a section in which the voiceover says “THIS IS BLACK.”

I’m sorry to say that it was very dark grey, and not comparable to the “extreme” black levels achieved by high quality consumer OLED displays on the market. Based on the OLS installation, whether Dolby Cinema subjectively beats IMAX with Laser in terms of black level is difficult for me to say, and it could be that the inverse is true; however, I am confident that it is definitely not dramatically better.

As mentioned in a previous post, IMO, IMAX with Laser GT dual projection, alongside IMAX’s DMR processing, remains the best cinema digital projection system. It looks smoother and more “film-like,” in a positive way, whilst being absolutely steady and detailed, than any other.

I should also add, the slight barrel distortion to the bottom of the screen (“smiley face”) was noticeable, but in addition, I also noticed that overall there was some slight off-centre distortion to the screen—but none of this was objectionable during the main feature (only graphics within adverts or titles in the main feature to notice it.)

One issue is that the “scale” of the sound is disproportionate to the picture, in terms of space, dynamic range and low frequency impact—but—then again—would an underspecified system be an improvement?

JBL ceiling speakers are installed in the men’s toilets in the former rear stalls. Incidentally, they (same decor as the circle toilets) are a great deal better than the cramped toilets previously situated behind the right splay wall.

Not sure if the “white” decorative lighting in the coves/around the “flying ladies” was set to a warmer colour temperature. It seemed less cold than my recollection, but not as per the orange “flame white” shown in the Twitter photo previously linked to by joeswin. But, no matter what the colour temperature, the decorative lighting is not what it could be.

The front stalls thus make for a very attractive place to see a film. They are in an excellent sweet spot for the audio. It’s too bad that the screen is smaller than it was—albeit the move forward compensates—and that the screen is raised up a bit (personally, I don’t mind this) and the illumination uniformity achieved in this location is less impressive. But otherwise, first class picture and sound is on offer, comfortable seating, and the feeling of being surrounded by the auditorium of a spacious super-cinema. Added to which, the seat pricing in this location, by West End standards, is often quite competitive—and the OLS seems to be very much busier than it was pre-refurbishment.

CF100 on March 9, 2019 at 7:24 am

Eomac’s OLS page has now been updated to include the products used.

Rear stalls ceiling: Grill – cherry veneer.

Walls: Topline TLS – cherry veneer;

Lawapan – cherry veneer;

Mini Micro – cherry veneer.

Having now revisited the OLS, this time seated in the front stalls (write-up to follow,) I had a close look at the panels fitted to the lower front splay walls, which revealed a pattern of small slots.

These can be seen in the product’s specification sheet, which states that an up to 50mm “acoustic core” (absorption) can be fitted behind, which, combined with the highest “perforation rate” version of the product, affords a very high level of sound absorption at mid/high frequencies.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 9, 2019 at 4:37 am

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.

CF100 on March 8, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Cinema Technology March 2019 issue is now available online, including an article on the refurbished OLS.

Alas, the article is, ahem, rather “lightweight,” and the only “new” information is the equipment list as FanaticalAboutOdeon has previously posted. It also includes basic equipment lists for the former Studios screens.

Disappointing in the extreme that the custom sound installation in particular was not covered in further detail, not to mention many other aspects.

CF100 on March 4, 2019 at 5:43 am

Joeswin: Thank you for the link, that looks like exactly the colour I had previously suggested—“Flame White.” As the white on the screen is clearly a much cooler temperature, it’s quite plausible that the photo does show that the colour or colour temperature can be changed. (Could be RGBWW with two different colour temperature white LEDs.)

Example of “Flame White” LED strip.

joeswin on March 4, 2019 at 4:20 am

From the pictures in this link:


it looks like the lighting was set to a warmer more red/orange colour for an event held there recently, which I think looks a bit nicer.

CF100 on March 3, 2019 at 8:09 am

Eomac (fit-out systems including stretched fabric and wood) now have a page with photos of the refurbished OLS.

Included are two photos of a former “Studios” auditorium. It can be seen that there is not enough space for the new seats to recline, and, the rake is rather shallow. In the latter case, the poor slightlines have been noted on online customer review sites.

With the confirmation of Eomac’s involvement with the OLS refurbishment, this means that all three of the currently operating main Leicester Square cinemas have their products installed.

CF100 on March 3, 2019 at 7:52 am

Lionel: The smaller screen might relate to sightlines? Before the refurbishment, the front row of the circle had restricted views, and today, the bottom of the screen is only just visible over the top edge of the balcony—and that’s despite the screen being raised up.

I have uploaded a (poor quality!) photo which shows the screen taken from the front row of the Royal Circle during the end credits (out of focus!) of “Alita: Battle Angel.”

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 2, 2019 at 3:31 pm

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.

Lionel on March 2, 2019 at 2:01 pm

@CF100 “Before today’s upsized “PLF” screens, it was a reasonable size; but it has long been unquestionably small in relation to the depth of the auditorium.”

I know and I agree, but I’ve now read a few comments back on this thread and somebody pointed out a previous screen width of almost 4 feet more than today’s screen, so this one is actually smaller. Tsss… what did they have in mind ?

CF100 on March 2, 2019 at 1:52 pm

Many thanks FanaticalAboutOdeon.

Alas, this issue does not yet appear to be available on their website! :–(

I’m surprised that they have kept the NEC NC3240 digital projector.

Lionel: Before today’s upsized “PLF” screens, it was a reasonable size; but it has long been unquestionably small in relation to the depth of the auditorium.

I am amazed that it has been “shrunk” to ~44ft. wide (whether measured by chord or arc.) Odeon have announced the second UK Dolby Cinema location in Leeds—19m wide (~62ft.)

Still, in selecting the première auditorium among those in Leicester Square, there can be no doubt in my mind that the Cineworld (argh… Empire!) LSQ IMAX provides a bigger, “correctly” positioned screen with (somewhat) superior picture quality, whilst a good seat in the Royal Circle is a far better option for comfort and is in a full “super cinema”—not to mention the substantially more cogenial ancillary facilities.

Now, if only there wasn’t the need to choose…

Lionel on March 2, 2019 at 7:36 am

@FanaticalAboutOdeon Thanks for sharing. Is the screen smaller than before ? It seems so small to me, but the last time I was at the OLS was in 1995, so maybe I just got used quickly to these big wall-to-wall screens with no tabs in modern multiplexes…

FanaticalAboutOdeon on March 2, 2019 at 7:15 am

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.

joeswin on February 18, 2019 at 5:48 am

As always that’s a great and very detailed analysis CF100!

I think all this theatre needs is a set of tabs and some more inventive lighting, and it would be spectacular. I personally can’t fault anything else that has been done, I even think the dark colour of the auditorium makes it look a lot more dramatic.

Perhaps when they hold a live stage event they might see that these things are needed? and someone with knowledge of live theatre/stage/lighting will be employed to cast their opinion on what looks good and creates a proper show!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on February 18, 2019 at 3:06 am

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.

CF100 on February 17, 2019 at 10:45 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon: The lighting certainly looks very smooth, but I’m not sure it’s cold cathode. With LED having taken over the world of lighting these days, and, given that Odeon wanted to be rid of the neon on the facade (i.e. the blue strips were replaced by LEDs), plus the fact that a high quality LED system will reliably last for 10,000s of hours of use, I can see them equally preferring a “fit and forget” system that won’t require maintenance in the main auditorium.

The “tell tale” signs of LEDs may not be obvious—LEDs do range in quality, and the best white LEDs are quite close to ideal light sources (smooth spectrum as with daylight or incandescent bulbs), plus more expensive product gets selected LEDs that perform best and are within tighter tolerances (so in a linear application consisting of a long row of LEDs, there is no visible variation in colour temperature—at least, when new!)

(Strictly “white” LEDs do not exist; phosphors in front of, typically, a blue LED are used to convert the light produced to the other parts of the spectrum—thus the characteristic blue “spike” in the spectrum.)

An advantage of adding a white LED to the three primaries is with the creation of subtle “pastel” hues.

I remember seeing the odd sections of blue LEDs in those pictures of the unfinished auditorium—I’m not sure that I saw pink? That seemed to be the case in multiple photos, but it looked very patchy and I doubt every last LED can be individually addressed, so I’m not sure if it’s not a photographic oddity.

Come to think of it, the CG renderings did show some sections set to blue.

Comparing the auditorium as it is today to one of the CG rendered shots, it is clear that changes have been made to the front splay walls as designed.

The “Flying Ladies” have been significantly lowered, being placed on top of the wooden panelling, the design of which has changed also.

The design shown in the CG renderings would have reduced the sense of the proscenium end now being berefit of decoration.

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.

Those on the ends of the (audience) left sidewall can be seen in a video (direct link to time in video) shot just literally just before the strip-out work began.

The match between the cold cathode lighting and these was impressive indeed—pretty much seamless!

Any further information on the sort of luminares used would be greatly appreciated. IIRC, those on the floor looked something like the Strand Coda 4 floodlights.

Four strips were concealed within each of the Empire’s coves, all secondary colours – yellow, deep pink, pale/bright blue and white

Surprised that white was included given that TheatreOfVarieties has stated that there were three colours (those secondary colours that you listed?) Perhaps this was prior to the 1989 refurbishment; the colours always looked very saturated to me.

The details of your home setup are most interesting and, I wonder, if you find the amber LEDs help with producing “warm” tones, and, I’m not sure what application you’d find for UV?

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?

Absolutely—but at least there is the opportunity to store information on the best examples from the past somewhere!

FanaticalAboutOdeon on February 17, 2019 at 6:16 am

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?

CF100 on February 17, 2019 at 4:28 am

FanaticalAboutOdeon: Thank you for your comment on the photo page showing the coving lit by the now-working concealed lighting.

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.

Have you any further detail on the cove lighting (or other lighting?)

If its colour can be set—it doesn’t really look like just red, green and blue LEDs combined to create white light, although hard to say.

(Of course, this does not actually yield white light suitable for general use, because although it might look white when directly viewed, the result is not a continuous spectrum of light—producing off-colour results from lit surfaces—but it could be used for appropriate architectural applications.)

Just wondering if there are actually white LEDs as well as red, green and blue.

I concur with your suggested colour settings rather than white.

Also, I am confused as to why different fittings would need to be used for “house” and “safety” lighting?

Regarding the dark blue upholstered top edge of the balcony, photo to follow… (which unfortunately also shows the mess of rear speakers to balcony front that have necessiated the removal of the “pageant box!”)

CF100 on February 16, 2019 at 3:47 pm

LARGE_screen_format: Thank you very much, I have tried my very best to document as many aspects as I can. :–)

One year in the making and you weren’t blown away. Hmmm…

In relation to the visual aspects of Dolby Cinema, indeed—for all of Dolby’s horn tooting, and glowing “press” coverage—on this occasion it was hard to see how it is particularly, if at all, superior to a top quality “generic” PLF installation. Certainly the picture did not seem to benefit from enhanced features that IMAX offer (the “DMR” processing, the “image enhancer,” and so on) as well as some of IMAX’s other proprietary or exclusively licensed technologies and R&D development.

AFAIK IMAX still have exclusivity for theatrical presentations in taller 1.90:1 or 1.43:1 formats (where relevant) over being restricted to “scope” versions, whether vanilla DCPs or Dolby Cinema versions?

So, IMAX have not been comprehensively overtaken. Regardless of whether “Alita: Battle Angel” took full advantage of the capabilities of Dolby Vision, there are just too many fixed aspects of the system for that to be the case.

The IMAX with Laser dual-projection “GT” system would appear, for now, to continue to be the absolute “Rolls Royce” of theatrical digital projection systems.

moviebuff82 on February 16, 2019 at 9:46 am

AMC is running this theatre into the ground ever since they bought the Odeon circuit years ago…

davepring on February 16, 2019 at 9:00 am

Terry you are spot on. AMC have sucked the glamour out of the auditorium.The lighting is abysmal and it is devoid of much character. I was not impressed!

terry on February 16, 2019 at 5:38 am

All the impressive technical stats are negated by the dreadful aesthetics of the auditorium. Other contributors have alluded, perhaps rather generously, to “ a huge black hole”.

When I look at the stage/proscenium area it brings to mind images back in the 1970’s of those large Odeons and ABC’s which were not included in the conversion programmes of those circuits and were served with notice of closure.

During the run up to closure (usually 3 months) there would be a total lack of expenditure and matters such as curtain motors malfunctioning and tab cables breaking were not addressed and thus the places would limp on, looking stark and austere, until the final day.

This is NOT the look, however, that one expects after a multi million pound refurbishment taking the best part of a year but it IS how this theatre appears now.

Should there be a new production of ‘Bleak House’ in the not too distant future, OLS will be the perfect venue for its premiere.

LARGE_screen_format on February 16, 2019 at 4:21 am

@CF100 – Thanks for sharing that very detailed account of your Dolby Cinema experience at Odeon LUXE, Leicester Square.

One year in the making and you weren’t blown away. Hmmm…

CF100 on February 15, 2019 at 4:42 am

I visited the OLS this to week to attend a mid-afternoon performance of “Alita: Battle Angel.”

Ongoing building work:

  • I asked a member of staff whether the building works had been completed, to which they informed me that they were still ongoing—“behind the scenes” aspects.

Asked about the addition of curtains, the same as previously reported answer was given, saying that they “did not know,” and they mentioned the “safety curtain” animated sequence.

  • Incidentally, all the staff were excellent during my visit, including being accompanied by the usher in the circle foyer to my seat in the front row of the Royal Circle.

Update to fit-out of foyers:

  • The floor of the ground floor foyer, opening with a concrete screeded sub-floor, has now been finished. As previously mentioned, containers for a 2-part Flowcrete epoxy resin could be seen outside towards the end of the fit-out works in December 2018. The new floor is white and appears to incorporate reflective decorative “flakes;” a likely product used is Flowcrete Mondéco Crystal Ice, the “blurb” for which describes it as “[A] highly decorative epoxy resin terrazzo floor finish containing a mix of mirrored and clear glass aggregates” that is “suitable for [locations] where design aesthetics and durability are of paramount concern.”

Very nice—except that it looks as though it is impossible to keep it looking clean, with the merest amount of walked in soil being visible.

  • Text is “inset” (?) into the floor from the Leicester Square entrance doors, reading:


  • The clock in the ground floor foyer is working—it is positioned on the right wall just past the entrance from Leicester Square to the former Studios. Contrary to my previous supposition, it does not appear to consist of LED displays, but rather, backlit opal frosted perspex, with the lettering and clock hands “projected” onto it by obscuring the backlighting.

  • The wall behind the “glass box” has now been finished in black marble, with a new larger backlit “Double-D” logo/“DOLBY CINEMA” sign.

  • Brass (?) edging has been added to the ceiling lighting features in the ground floor foyer, with a very wide band around the central dome.

  • Black marble and brass strips added to the front of the ground floor foyer concessions counter.

  • Various missing bits and “snags” have been attended to, too numerous to list and impossible to recollect them all. For example, the liquid soap dispenser fittings in the circle level men’s toilets now have retaining rings so that the dispenser bottles do not fall off.

  • The overall result is outstanding, and clearly highly specified; however, the fit and finish isn’t quite to the standard that might have been expected—probably due to the headlong rush to get the project completed. For example, some tiles are slightly off position, some of the cutting-in of paint has visible brush marks, etc

  • Some “leakage” of low frequency sounds from the auditorium were audible in the circle foyer, presumably due to the overhead subwoofers (equipped with 16 x 18" drivers!) hanging from the ceiling.

Auditorium update:

  • As Ken Roe noted, the “flying ladies” have indeed been flown in.

  • This being my first visit, it is harder to indicate any other minor tweaks; however, it appears that the underside of the proscenium has now been properly covered.

  • Ceiling supply grilles in some of the “coves” were visible—not sure if they are the same as previous?—and looked as if they could use some tidying up.

  • The new dark finish to the 1930s “ribbed” plasterwork seemed to have some marks and one or two small chips.

Auditorium comments:

  • The new lighting could certainly have gone further, particularly at the screen end; however, the white concealed lighting is quite bright; I think it is more like 4000K in colour temperature than a cool white (5000K), which yields a fresh feel, whilst not being overly cold.

The “guideway” aisle lighting, including blue fibre optic strips, remains on during the main feature.

  • I did not think to look whilst in the auditorium, but it seems that the flying ladies must have some further “spot” lighting on them.

  • The animated “digital” safety curtain sequence shown before the main performance is quite tacky.

  • The auditorium is certainly dark once the decorative lighting is off and the house lights lowered, but not to the point of invisibility. The guideway lighting enabled a trip out of the auditorium during the main feature to the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines (at ground floor level!) for a refill. (I had asked the member of staff who served me at the concessions counter whether this was allowed—the answer was “Yes… well, I won’t tell… it should be OK.” And, indeed, it was—I refilled again on the way out!

  • The flipside to this, from the perspective of “Dolby Cinema,” is that the “flying ladies” and wooden features to the front splay walls certainly are quite visible.

  • I am having a hard time figuring out the colour of the sidewalls/ceiling. They looked near-black in person; however, they seem to have a navy tone in various photos, and my own photos suggested that the stretched fabric ceiling/wall coverings to the stage end are dark navy. However, this may be due to factors including the chromatic aberrations etc. in the lens, or misregistration caused by the colour spectrum of the lighting.

  • Non-sync music played just after the feature ended. Light sequencing all looked fine with smooth fades.

  • Ceiling lighting was not distracting during the feature.

  • The “H” in “HVAC” has been put back, with the auditorium warm throughout. The HVAC was never audible, and a consistent temperature was maintained.

  • The recliners are extremely comfortable and very well-padded. Separate controls are provided to adjust the amount of “recline” and the footrest angle. At least in the front row of the Royal Circle, they do not recline as far back as those in the Vue West End; in the “down” position, the bottom edge of the screen is just visible over the balcony edge.

My recollection of the old American Seating Company “rocker” seating in the old Empire 1, in the reupholstered state that they were in when closing, is that I still consider them to be the most comfortable cinema seats ever—but these are certainly among the best.

  • Overall, the auditorium still feels like the “Cathedral.” In photos, it does not look like the new front ceiling/sidewalls blend with the 1930s “ribbed” plasterwork, but in person, it works quite well.

The picture is framed by proscenium and, contrary to my expectations, it does not feel like the whole front end of the auditorium might just as well be filled with a “giant” screen. In the front row of the Royal Circle, the screen is slightly too low; it is adequately sized, but it certainly could use benefit from being somewhat bigger. However, these aspects, or moving the screen ahead of the existing proscenium, would seem to be restricted by sightlines. (See above regarding the sightlines to the bottom edge of the screen.)

  • The new wide central vomitorium to the Royal Circle means that, for those centrally seated, the nearest regular “Luxe Classic” seating is some distance away, and partially screened off. The downside is that, in my view, all of the centre section of the rear circle is too far away from the screen; however, the upside is clear—this section has a degree of “isolation” from the rear circle—more so since the propensity of patrons is to choose seats towards the back.

Only one other person was seated in the centre section of the Royal Circle, and whilst I am very well behaved, shifting position in my seat lead to a perceived look of agitation on their part. I imagine that the pricing policy screens out the “popcorn munching, mobile phone checking” brigade.

  • Thus, by choosing a suitable performance time and a seat in the centre section of the Royal Circle, it feels as though one has the whole auditorium to one’s self. I hesitate to say that this justifies the typical very high pricing, but… if you want “the omega of luxury and of comfort” for a special occasion…


  • Masking was in use, and opened out to scope for the main feature, leaving the usual “letterboxing” of scope trailers.

  • Alignment and geometry was good, although seemed slightly off in terms of alignment, and an overall consistent “smile” distortion applied across the screen—but this was only noticeable with titles on screen. Centre-to-edge brightness uniformity was exceptional. I can’t be sure, but it seemed like there was a slight visible loss of focus from centre to edge.

  • Unlike IMAX’s dual-projection system, both projectors were in use for all content, not being restricted to the specially formatted main feature. This could be seen by wearing the glasses—which revealed a discrepancy between the left and right eye colours, presumably the colour shift caused by the wavelength multiplexing not being corrected for this material.

  • Dolby have claimed extremely high brightness levels and contrast ratios for Dolby Vision. Alas, the black levels were somewhat higher than I expected, with some crushing or clipping of low levels. In 3D, the brightness level was certainly very adequate, and quite bright with glasses off, but not amazingly so. This might have been due to matching the output levels required for the content—but, particularly compared to the IMAX across the square, it is not a big screen to fill.

  • Whilst IMAX’s system includes their “image enhancer” and special processing to get the most out of their dual-projection systems, the same super-smooth but pin-sharp quality was not apparent.

  • I suspect IMAX are using motion interpolation to add synthetic frames to create “virtual” high frame rate—however, this certainly was not the case with Dolby Cinema, as there was visible motion judder. Conversely, the picture was free of some of the odd artifacts that are sometimes visible with IMAX Digital systems.

  • Colour rendition was very good, with well saturated colours achieved.

  • Overall, unless one is to really nitpick, there isn’t much to choose between Dolby’s dual-laser system and the dual (or even single) IMAX with Laser system—in fact, you may not even notice the difference!

  • IME, the IMAX Digital systems have near-perfect geometry, and focus, but tend to have not quite so good centre-to-edge brightness uniformity.

  • For the above reasons, overall, the IMAX with Laser system is, IMO, superior. I would include the new “Commerical Laser” single-projector system as well as the original “Grand Theatre” dual-projector system.


  • Seat shaking low frequencies, and pin-point rear/overhead imaging, as the Dolby Cinema trailer well demonstrates.

  • Reverberation time and room colouration in the OLS has been very significantly improved; but it is still somewhat “echoic,” though not enough to ruin dialogue intelligibility.

  • Very high output levels from the system, which I assume was set to be at or near reference levels.

  • Presumably, the visible arrays forward from the screen are slightly time delayed to align with the screen speakers. Certainly, there was a good sense of frontal imaging. I can’t be sure, but, it did sometimes sound like it didn’t all quite gel—to be sure, it does work mostly well.

  • Very good clarity and balance; however, there appeared to be something of an upper-bass dip, and the high frequencies were at times somewhat metallic. At the highest levels, it sounded—I hesitate to say strained, but it was certainly clear that the system was being pushed.

  • I am not convinced that the Dolby SLS speakers, as installed, are superior to the outstanding cinema series of products offered by JBL; but it is certainly a very good, and well aligned, top-end system.

A tightrope has been walked between the compromises and constraints involved in keeping the OLS intact as an iconic super-cinema whilst modernising and making improvements.

In some respects, such as failing to reinstate the tabs and not having a fully realised lighting design, it might be said that the tightrope has, at times, been fallen off. On the other hand, many the improvements, particularly to the foyers and overall stardust “Rolls Royce” luxury feel, are successful.

Personally, I found the experience to be perfectly relaxing and one in which I became completely unaware of all worries—personal, as well as the disasterous saga that—regardless of your political standpoint—“Brexit” has become!

In my view, that’s as good as it gets to say that an “escape to the cinema” has been successful from start to finish.

A photo of the reinstated “flying ladies” has been uploaded. More to follow.