WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Leicester Square cinema ‘fit for the future of film’

As it reopens its doors after a nine-month, multimillion-pound refit, Odeon managing director insists 'people still want to go to the cinema'

09 January, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Odeon managing director Carol Welch

THE red carpet is ready to be unrolled, the box office staff uniforms are pressed, and the projectionists are in the gods ready to press play.

The Odeon Leicester Square, which has hosted more than 700 world premieres, is opening its doors after a nine-month, multi-million-pound refit.

The cinema was first opened in 1937 by Oscar Deutsch as the flagship of his Odeon Cinema chain – and current Odeon managing director Carol Welch says the restoration has drawn on the classic Art Deco look of the period when the cinema first welcomed guests through its doors.

“Oscar decided he would create the perfect cinema dedicated to his vision. He wanted a sense of glamour when people walked in,” she said.

“We decided when we were drawing up our plans to go for an Art Deco feel.

“We had a good look at the pictures of Oscar’s cinema. He wanted it to be the ultimate in style for the day. He wanted people to wear their glad rags and come and enjoy a night out. But he also wanted it to be accessible for all, while still feeling special. A place for film lovers, a place for royalty and film stars.”

The Odeon Leicester Square has become known for its glitzy premieres, and this has been celebrated by little touches inside: doors into the auditorium have the names of the first-night screenings they have shown inlaid into the wooden panelling.

In the foyer a clock mimicking an original found in the box office has been placed on the wall.

Ms Welch added: “Rebuilding the Odeon is about standing on the shoulders of cinema giants.

“It isn’t just any cinema, it is about an experience, a night out.”

And the threat of online streaming, the box set and other ways to watch film, does not worry the head of the UK’s best-known cinema chain.

She said: “People still want to go to the cinema. I have a 12-year-old and 15-year-old and they don’t actually watch YouTube.

“As we look to the future, we know people love going to the cinema. It is so different, it is so much more immersive.

“People are looking for experiences, people are looking for a sense of escape, for somewhere they can come and enjoy something different.

“Children love it… it is so different from other ways they have of consuming content.”

The Leicester Square project is just one of a number that are being rolled out.

Ms Welch said: “We have beautiful cinemas across the country, many of them in listed, historic buildings. It can be both a blessing and curse, we need to ensure they are looked after carefully and fit for a future of film.”

Odeon was bought out by theatre investment company AMC last year and it has kick-started investment in cinemas across the country.

Ms Welch added: “This place had to be the pinnacle. AMC promised they would invest and said they wanted it to be the biggest and best.”

The new cinema boasts a twin laser projector and a Dolby sound system which has 407 speakers.

It is sound-proofed too keep the noise in and has specially designed walls and ceilings that increase the sense of darkness – and help the eyes concentrate on the images on the screen.

Ms Welch said: “Because it is so dark, when the projection hits the screen you really see the definition, and with the speakers around you, it makes it feel so immersive. You really do feel like you are in the film.”

As a confirmed cinephile, she is excited to see the new cinema open its doors for the new year.

“I’d love to watch Bohemian Rhapsody here,” she says.“I love the music of Queen. I took my husband and children to see it and they couldn’t stop singing the songs.

“It would be amazing to watch it again at the Leicester Square Odeon.”

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