Empire Leicester Square

The Empire Leicester Square first opened its doors as a theatre in 1884, and from the earliest days of the moving image has been at the forefront of advances in cinema technology, where, in March 1896, Louis and Auguste Lumière presented the first theatrical performances of a projected film to a paying U.K. audience.

As part of the introduction of the IMAX curved screen which spans from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, Clarkebond were heavily involved in the strengthening and refurbishment of this historic auditorium.

The space previously occupied by Screen 1 allowed Empire to develop a second auditorium in addition to the IMAX theatre, that will host a large format digital screen - providing fans a further opportunity to enjoy the latest releases in ultimate comfort.

To accommodate dividing up the original Screen 1 auditorium into two screens a substantial sound wall had to be constructed to ensure they were acoustically isolated. This wall was 15M high and 48M long and weighed circa 50T. Beneath the auditoria floor was a separate demise which Empire had no access to and the floor itself was unable to sustain such a significant load. Furthermore to maintain total acoustic isolation between the two screens the sound wall could not bear onto the floor. This required that the sound wall had to be hung from the roof rather than supported from its base. With such physical constraints Clarkebond had to assess the capacity of the existing roof structure which was made up of 100 ft clear span 1920’ steel fabricated roof trusses supporting an insitu beam and pot concrete floor. The lack of archive information required material testing, site exploratory works and back calculation assessment on the capacity of the existing structure. During the works real-time monitoring of the roof structure was carried out to a predefined construction sequence to ensure calculated theoretical deflections reflected actual deflections.

To maximise the newly formed Impact Screen a balcony was installed adjacent to the flank wall of the cinema overlooking Leicester Place. Restrictions with regard floor loading on the existing cinema floor over the demise beneath equally applied. Again material testing, site exploratory works and back calculation concluded that a steel framed balcony was feasible. It consisted of a steel girder spanning 57 ft. (17M). Detailed consideration had to be given to its dynamic response.         

The Empire Leicester Square remained open during the construction work, with the other seven auditoria continuing to screen the latest film releases.