“We want to restore its former glory as the No. 1 site in Europe,” Aron said of the 80-year-old cinema, which is the regular venue for U.K. movie premieres. The theater has hosted the annual Royal Film Performance since 1946, starting with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s “A Matter of Life and Death,” and is also the headline venue for the annual London Film Festival.
Speaking after an event to announce a 25-theater deal between AMC and IMAX, Aron told Variety that the refurbishment would see major investment of as much as £10-15 million ($12.5-18.5 million).
The site houses an original Compton Organ from the silent era, known as “The Duchess,” and Aron said he was aware of the site’s heritage and importance to British cinephiles. Many have voiced concern in the past that the site might one day be turned from its current single-screen auditorium, which houses 1,700 seats including a balcony, into a multiplex.
Aron said AMC’s plans will allay any such concerns, with the company deciding it should stay as a single-screen site and retain the Compton Organ. “It’s impossible to think anyone would object to what we have planned for Odeon Leicester Square,” Aron said, adding that the upgrades would improve the site while retaining its character.
Aron told reporters that the Odeon would certainly have a giant screen, “but it won’t be IMAX,” in order to avoid competing with IMAX’s laser theater in the neighboring Cineworld Empire Leicester Square. Odeon has its own proprietary premium large-screen format, iSense, though it was not confirmed if this would be the format used at the Leicester Square venue.
Aron told Variety that AMC, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Dalian Group, would upgrade the venue’s sound system, install new reclining seating with more legroom, and add more restrooms.
The refurbishment is part of AMC’s plans to modernize its theater circuit across Europe, which Aron said would begin this year. “We’re moving quickly,” Aron said of the company’s plans. “We will have renovated theaters in the U.K. and Europe this year and a significant number of installations in 2018.”
The Odeon Leicester Square opened in November 1937. AMC acquired the Odeon/UCI chain in November 2016.