Odeon Leicester Square


Odeon Leicester Square
Odeon Leicester Square during screening of Casino Royale in 2006.[1]

The Odeon Leicester Square is a cinema which occupies the centre of the eastern side of Leicester Square, London, dominating the square with its huge black polished granite facade and 120 feet (37 m) high tower displaying its name. Blue neon outlines the exterior of the building at night. It was built to be the flagship[2] of Oscar Deutsch's Odeon Cinema Circuit and still holds that position today. It hosts numerous European and World film premieres[3][4][5][6] including the annual Royal Film Performance.[7]

Contents

Technical specifications

The Odeon is the largest single-screen cinema in the United Kingdom and one of the few with its circle and stalls remaining intact. The cinema is fully equipped to show films in 35mm, 70mm and digital on a large screen, as well as extensive stage facilities for the occasional live show.

The cinema still has an operating Compton organ, its console lit from within by coloured lighting, and a safety curtain detailed in 1930s art-deco motifs.

Two sets of tabs (curtains) are also installed and used for most performances. The cinema houses all major digital sound systems: SDDS, Dolby Digital and DTS. It had the UK's first wide-screen installed in 1953, and more recently, was the first to have a digital projector installed in 1999.

There are 1683 seats – reduced from nearly 2000 to make way for greater leg-room – with a large circle bar and even 'Royal Retiring Room' for visiting monarchs. Seating is divided between the Royal Circle, Rear Circle and Stalls.

In March 2011, all the cinema's screens converted to Digital Projection equipment with 3D capability. Up until 2009 the cinema and film distributors did not have faith in the reliability of digital presentations, so the cinema would run a 35mm print along side. If the digital show failed the projectionist would switch to film. If the show were to fail now the performance will be abandoned. One 35mm /70mm projector has been retained, but is very rarely used. A silver screen is used for 3D presentations which is placed in front of the white screen used for 2d presentations. The silver screen is a fraction smaller and screen tabs are not used during 3D performances. Most of the trained projectionists at the Odeon retired or made redundant in 2011. Presentations are now mostly automated.

History

The Odeon cinema in daylight, during screening of War of the Worlds in 2005.

The Odeon was built in 1937 to the design of Harry Weedon and Andrew Mather[8] on the site of the Turkish Baths and the adjoining Alhambra Theatre a large music hall dating from the 1850s. The site cost £550,000,[9] the cinema took seven months to build at a cost of £232,755[10] with 2116 seats.[11] The opening night was Tuesday 2 November 1937,[12] the film shown that night was The Prisoner of Zenda.[13]

Until 1967, the interior was a magnificent art-deco auditorium, with a ribbed ceiling, concealing stripped lighting. Two bas relief sculptures of naked nymphs were positioned on the side walls, as if leaping towards the screen. All the seats were covered in a faux-leopard skin material. A rather misguided modernisation in 1967 destroyed most of this grandeur, although since the 1980s, restoration programmes have restored much of the detail, including the figures, seating pattern and much of the ribbed effect on the ceiling.

The first wide-screen (screen ratio 1.66:1) ever installed in Great Britain was premiered on 14 May 1953,[14] the film shown was Tonight We Sing. The British debut of Cinemascope (screen ratio 2.55:1) following soon after on the 19th November 1953[15] with the quasi-biblical epic, The Robe.

The theatre's Chief Engineer, Nigel Wolland, was awarded an MBE for services to the film industry in 2007.[16] The theatre's General Manager, Chris Hilton, was awarded an MBE for services to the film industry in 2010.[17]

After Nigel Wolland's retirement in 2006, Mark Nice was appointed the Cinemas Chief Engineer.

Odeon mezzanine

Tucked next door is the Odeon mezzanine, containing five much smaller screens, each seating between 50 and 60 patrons. The site of this 'mini-plex' was once an alleyway running alongside the main house, until development in 1988 turned it into one of London's first 'mini-plex' cinemas.

See also

References

  1. ^ Stars out for Bond royal premiere BBC News (14 November 2006) Retrieved 24 March 2011
  2. ^ page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  3. ^ "Cinema Treasures - Odeon Leicester Square". Cinema Treasures. http://cinematreasures.org/theater/841/. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  4. ^ Odeon Leicester Square: World Premiere of 'Harry Potter' And The Deathly Hallows Pt 1 MTV Retrieved 24 March 2011
  5. ^ The world premiere of Avatar at Odeon Leicester Square The Telegraph Retrieved 24 March 2011
  6. ^ Alice in Wonderland premiere in Leicester Square, London The Telegraph Retrieved 24 March 2011
  7. ^ Casino Royale is 60th royal film BBC News Retrieved 24 March 2011
  8. ^ page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  9. ^ page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  10. ^ page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  11. ^ page 247, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  12. ^ page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  13. ^ page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  14. ^ page 40, Odeon Cinemas 2: From J. Arthur Rank to the Multiplex, Allen Eyles, 2005, British Film Institute Publishing
  15. ^ page 41, Odeon Cinemas 2: From J. Arthur Rank to the Multiplex, Allen Eyles, 2005, British Film Institute Publishing
  16. ^ "New Year Honours: full list". The Times, London, December 29, 2007.
  17. ^ Ex-Leicester Square Odeon cinema boss Chris Hilton awarded MBE in Honours List West End Extra Retrieved 24 March 2011

Sources

  • Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 128 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3

Coordinates: 51°30′38″N 0°7′45″W / 51.51056°N 0.12917°W / 51.51056; -0.12917

External links


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