Odeon's Leicester Square cinema is one of Europe's most famous theaters, and at 1,679 seats, one of its biggest. In central London, it has hosted hundreds of premieres and royal galas in its 81 years. Any film worth mentioning has probably debuted here, from James Bond and Harry Potter through to the most recent Marvel releases. The Art-Deco interior is stunning and outside's facade is beautiful, not to mention its high tower, which dominates London's art district.
Glance at TripAdvisor, however, and you'll see that prestige alone doesn't carry much sway with the public. Reviews from 2017 saw users complaining about the poor service, the temperature and the very uncomfortable seats. "Give you a sore bum within 45 minutes," wrote one visitor, "utterly dreary," said another, while a third said it was an "absolute disgrace." Rather than a destination screen, the LSC has a reputation for being an overpriced tourist trap.
Something had to give, so Odeon closed the cinema at the start of 2018 to commence a year-long renovation. And the company, now owned by AMC, went into partnership with Dolby to make the LSC the first in the UK to be equipped with Dolby Cinema. The renovation, rumored to cost anything up to $19 million, intends to create a "pinnacle of luxury cinema," according to Odeon's UK chief Carol Welch.
The Leicester Square location will be fitted out with both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, the company's image and sound setups for high-end cinemas. The big benefit Atmos has over other 5.1 systems is its downward-firing speakers in the ceiling that enable objects to sound as if they're moving in three-dimensional space.
However, unlike most multiplex theaters, Leicester Square has a split level, with stalls below, and a circle / balcony above. That was a problem for Atmos, which requires precise placement of speakers both on walls and in ceilings. The solution was, essentially, to install two Atmos rigs, one to service each tier, so everyone has good sound. As well as installing speakers behind the screen itself, Dolby added a series of line array speaker stacks in the ceiling. Only two of these are visible, however, with the rest hidden by a blue cloth which creates the impression of a far shorter ceiling.
Up in the projection room, two new Dolby Vision laser projectors are sitting in crates, waiting to be installed. When working, they'll produce 108 nits of light for the screen -- a far cry from the 48 nits you find with a standard xenon-bulb projector. Other benefits of laser projection include a far wider contrast ratio and the ability to project the P3 color gamut, as well as true blacks.