Empire gets top billing in Leicester Square clean-up

The revamped Empire Cinema is to play a starring role in the redevelopment of London’s Leicester Square, it has emerged this week, with owner First Leisure planning a bar-restaurant to be partly housed in its restored façade.

The revamped Empire Cinema is to play a starring role in the redevelopment of London’s Leicester Square, it has emerged this week, with owner First Leisure planning a bar-restaurant to be partly housed in its restored façade.

Designed by David Matthews while at the now defunct Wakefield group Esquisse, the concept will be located in a new balcony, built into a recess in Thomas Lamb’s ornate, 1927 Italian Renaissance exterior, and covered by a glass roof.

The next-door Equinox nightclub, which will operate the venue, is expected to be renamed the Empire Ballroom, as First Leisure seeks to create what a company spokesman calls ‘a quality daytime offering’. It is not yet clear who will implement the design.

The Empire project, which is likely to lead to further identity and branding work, is part of a general regeneration of Leicester Square. Edaw is working on a masterplan that could involve a Las Vegas-style casino and a premium hotel.

Westminster Council, which has already taken steps to clean up the square’s tawdry image, is keen to broaden the area’s appeal beyond its ‘home of cinema’ positioning.

Planning permission for the Empire Cinema scheme has been obtained and work should begin next year.

Kidson Design has also completed a refurbishment of the UCI cinema interiors ‘in anticipation’ of the project.

UCI film marketing manager Andrew Woodyatt says, ‘We’ve got rid of the 1980s horror of all the neon and trashy carpets and hideous wallpaper. Instead, we’ve pared it right down and decluttered the walls.

‘There’s a flesh-toned gold wall colour, matt black doorframes, dark red carpets and a red flock ceiling set with thousands of fibre- optic twinkling stars (pictured).’

The aim is to bring the glamour back into cinema-going, he adds. ‘Suburban multiplexes do the job, but they don’t have that luxurious feel and sense of history.’

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