Huge amounts of asbestos were taken out – which an architect hinted had delayed the project 8211; and 70 tonnes of steelwork has gone in to make the building and ceilings stronger and to carry the weight of the 410 Dolby Atmos speakers to be installed around the single, two-tier auditorium (complete with 10 miles of super-thick speaker cabling).
Glass sheets were being added to the new front Oscars bar above the entrance and leading into the second tier, while the auditorium itself had very little final surfacing applied and had full-height scaffolding in place until the day before.
There are now 185 Dolby Cinema installations across the globe, but this will be the first in the UK. Chris Kukshtel from Dolby: “We want to make sure we’re there at the beginning to design the room. With this [installation] there are two tiers and the room is massive.
It’s a different proposition from designing a Dolby Cinema from scratch. “A classic Dolby Cinema would start with a blank box but here we’re making an iconic building as good as it can be. It’s an iconic piece of architecture so there was no pressure whatsoever!”
As well as Dolby Atmos sound, a key component of Dolby Cinema is Dolby Vision HDR and we were shown this in action in a small cinema scenario at Dolby’s own screening room elsewhere in Central London.
The images do indeed look stunning and there was plenty of definition in the darker scenes we saw. To reduce the amount of light reflected back onto the screen and affecting the picture, most seats in Dolby Cinemas are black.
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Odeon is adding a lot more digital technology into the cinema, so you’ll be able to order food and drink via your phone while some customers will also have an at-seat service. Dolby says one of the ideas behind Dolby Cinema installations is that there’s no such thing as a bad seat.
However as you can see below, the seats at the back of the top tier are 30 metres from the screen and so are cheaper. Prices vary depending on location within the screen and are more expensive in the evenings and seemingly even more expensive on the first day of opening.
At the most expensive times 8211; say the first day of opening 8211; the cheapest tickets remain the same while in the stalls things start to get a bit ridiculous, up to £25.75 for the cheapest stalls ticket and a whopping £40.75 for the best. On other evenings, the most expensive seat is £35.75.
The second-tier will also have better accessibility (accessed via two new lifts) and there’s a sloped ramp into the auditorium – the architect who accompanied our tour told us that a six-foot-high steel girder had caused an issue here and the only solution was to raise the entire floor of the Oscars bar at the rear of the circle.
Many original features have been retained such an orchestra pit for live events and the historic Compton organ – also beneath the stage. The national anthem is played on the organ for royal premieres. A real Royal Box area has also been able to be created.
Odeon says that the number of seats has been reduced in the new auditorium but that this isn’t an issue as the previous screen was rarely full. There are 21 Odeon Luxe cinemas at present and the firm says that usage has gone up at the other locations when they have been converted to Luxe auditoriums.
Dolby had to work hard to ensure sound doesn’t leak out of the auditorium – there’s a hotel behind the cinema, so it was crucial that guests wouldn’t be able to hear bass coming from the venue.
The solution is a steel box being constructed behind the screen that’s a room within a room. Kukshtel says that bass is also always matched to the auditorium in a Dolby Cinema, so it isn’t too much for the room. Acoustic panelling is also being installed on all walls around the room.