Odeon Leicester Square

The ODEON Luxe Leicester Square is a prominent cinema building in London's West End. Built in the Art Deco style and completed in 1937, the building has been continually altered in response to developments in cinema technology, and was the first Dolby Cinema in the United Kingdom. The cinema is often used for film premieres.

Odeon Luxe Leicester Square
ODEON Leicester Square in 2006
Odeon Luxe Leicester Square
Location within Central London
Odeon Luxe Leicester Square
Odeon Luxe Leicester Square (the United Kingdom)
Full nameOdeon Luxe Leicester Square
AddressLeicester Square
LocationLondon, WC2
Coordinates51.510556°N 0.129167°W / 51.510556; -0.129167
Public transit Leicester Square
Charing Cross
OwnerODEON Cinemas Ltd.
Seating typeDolby Cinema Screen

800 Seats
Screen 2
35 Seats
Screen 3
42 Seats
Screen 4

41 Seats
Capacity950 total
Opened2 November 1937 (1937-11-02)
Renovated21 January – 21 December 2018 (2018-01-21 2018-12-21)
Construction cost£232,755

The cinema occupies the centre of the eastern side of Leicester Square in London, featuring a 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[1] of Oscar Deutsch's Odeon Cinema circuit and still holds that position today. It hosts numerous world and European film premieres,[2][3][4][5] including the annual Royal Film Performance.[6]


The Odeon cinema building was completed by Sir Robert McAlpine in 1937[7] to the design of Harry Weedon and Andrew Mather 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, the cinema took seven months to build at a cost of £232,755[1] with 2116 seats.[8] The opening night was Tuesday 2 November 1937; the film shown that night was The Prisoner of Zenda.[1]

The interior was an art-deco auditorium, with a ribbed ceiling and sidewalls, featuring concealed strip lighting in coves, and two bas relief sculptures of naked nymphs were positioned on the front splay walls, as if leaping towards the screen. All the seats were covered in a faux-leopard skin material. A modernisation in 1967 removed many of the original features, with all of the ribbed plasterwork from the balcony to the proscenium replaced by smooth finishes. A refurbishment in 1998 included new versions of some lost details, including the figures, and seating upholstery pattern.

The first widescreen (screen ratio 1.66:1) installed in Great Britain was premiered on 14 May 1953; the film shown was Tonight We Sing.[9] The British debut of CinemaScope (screen ratio 2.55:1) following soon after on 19 November 1953 with the quasi-biblical epic, The Robe.[10] The first cinema to show CinemaScope in London was the Odeon Tottenham Court Road (on 9 June 1953), which was also the venue for the first screening of Cinerama.[11]

The theatre's chief engineer, Nigel Wolland, was awarded an MBE for services to the film industry in 2007.[12] The theatre's general manager, Chris Hilton, was awarded an MBE for services to the film industry in 2010.[13]

After Nigel Wolland's retirement in 2006, Mark Nice was appointed the cinema's chief engineer. Mark Nice was later promoted to the position of Odeon company engineer with Toni Purvis and Michael Mannix assuming the role of Operations Manager Digital.

Technical specifications

The first Dolby Cinema system to be installed in the UK is at Odeon Leicester Square.[14] This introduced a combination of Dolby Vision dual-laser projection system and a Dolby Atmos 'moving audio' system.

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 equipped to show films in 35mm, 70mm and digital on a 48 ft. widescreen and includes stage facilities for live performances.

The cinema 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: Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, 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 800 seats – including 22 full-recliner seats in the Royal Box – and a "Royal Retiring Room" for visiting monarchs. Oscar's Bar (named after Odeon's founder Oscar Deutsch) features views across Leicester Square from a glass enclosed balcony.

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 alongside. If the digital show failed the projectionist would switch to film. If that projector then failed, the performance would be abandoned. One 35mm/70mm projector has been retained, and has been used for recent 70mm releases including Interstellar, The Hateful Eight, and Dunkirk. A silver screen is used for 3D presentations, 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 were made redundant in 2011. Presentations are now mostly automated.

Screens 2 – 5

Inserted into what was once an alleyway running alongside the main house, is Odeon Studios, a "mini-plex" containing five much smaller auditorium, each seating between fifty and sixty patrons. It was originally named Odeon Mezzanine, but was rebranded following a refurbishment in 2012. Following the latest refurbishment in 2018, screens 2 to 5 offer an intimate experience with luxury seating and state of the art technology throughout.

Recent developments

Odeon undertook a full refurbishment at a projected cost of £10–15m, which saw the building retained as a single screen cinema with stalls and circle levels, with the stated intention to maintain its character.[15] The cinema closed on 10 January 2018 to facilitate the refurbishment, with an anticipated reopening in time for the BFI London Film Festival in October—which it failed to meet. The cinema reopened on 21 December 2018, with a greatly reduced seating capacity, an enhanced concession offering, and the very first commercial Dolby Cinema screen to open in the UK.[16]

See also


  1. page 131, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  2. Steffan Laugharne, Ken Roe. "Cinema Treasures – Odeon Leicester Square". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  3. Odeon Leicester Square: World Premiere of 'Harry Potter' And The Deathly Hallows Pt 1 MTV Retrieved 24 March 2011
  4. The world premiere of Avatar at Odeon Leicester Square The Telegraph Retrieved 24 March 2011
  5. Alice in Wonderland premiere in Leicester Square, London The Telegraph Retrieved 24 March 2011
  6. Casino Royale is 60th royal film BBC News Retrieved 24 March 2011
  7. "A portrait of achievement" (PDF). Sir Robert McAlpine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  8. page 247, Odeon Cinemas 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation, Allen Eyles, 2002, British Film Institute Publishing
  9. Allen Eyles. Odeon Cinemas 2: From J. Arthur Rank to the Multiplex. 2005: British Film Institute Publishing. page 40
  10. Eyles, page 41.
  11. "Odeon Tottenham Court Road". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  12. "New Year Honours: full list". The Times, London, 29 December 2007.
  13. Ex-Leicester Square Odeon cinema boss Chris Hilton awarded MBE in Honours List West End Extra Retrieved 24 March 2011
  14. "Dolby Cinema". www.odeon.co.uk.
  15. Robert Mitchell (11 April 2017). "AMC to Undertake Major Refurbishment of London's Iconic Odeon Leicester Square". Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  16. Archer, John. "7 Dolby Cinema Sites To Open in the UK". Forbes.


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