The Hideousness of Leicester Square

A couple of days ago I had one of those disappointing afternoons, when I started out full of enthusiastic anticipation, but instead of a pleasing cultural experience, I had a rather disappointing time of it.

I was in central London with a couple of hours to kill, so I checked film times and decided to go to the new version of ‘Jane Eyre’.  Unfortunately it was showing at the Odeon West End (that’s the one that’s on Leicester Square, but isn’t the Odeon Leicester Square.)  Now, normally I avoid all of the cinemas there, because they’re expensive, rarely show anything I want to see, and frequently con you by charging premium rates for screens that are barely larger than a flatscreen TV.  But there’s only 2 screens at the West End cinema, and the timing worked for me, so I decided to ignore that warning voice in my head and went anyway.

I’m not sure why, but I keep forgetting that Leicester Square is dug up at the moment.  It’s being prettified, like so many other bits of London, and it’s being done extremely slowly.  I’m fairly certain the Square had a major facelift less than 10 years ago, but it was clearly insufficient to satisfy for the great  2012 Olympic construction bonanza.  Mid building phase it is cramped, crowded, noisy, dirty and unnecessarily unpleasant, but there is no alternative route to the cinema.

Once there, rather than welcoming me with open arms, given the grottiness of its location, the cinema charged me nearly £16 for a ticket.  An involuntary ‘How much?’ escaped when the girl rang up the price on the till.  I’d been to another film earlier in the week, admittedly at a cinema more local to me, for £6.75, and thought I might have to pay up to twice the price, but not that much.

I told myself they must have refurbished the place with comfortable seats and a bigger screen since I’d been there last some 4 or 5 years ago, swallowed down my resistance and paid up.

I was wrong.

The seats were uncomfortable (I tried 4, before abandoning the hope that they weren’t all knackered) and place was ripe with a fusty foetid smell, and the toilets were filthy.

And then to cap it all, I’d accidentally wandered into a showing that had subtitles for the hard of hearing.  I think it’s a brilliant idea that the cinema offers such facilities, especially for any unfortunate person who has battled their way through the building battlefield outside, but I found the subtitles deeply distracting; especially those (rumble of thunder) that informed of the (soft chatter outside door) sound effects (gentle laughter at bottom of stairs).

(Bird singing) I think I enjoyed the movie, despite my distraction.  I almost feel I should watch it again from a comfortable seat in a sweet smelling environment (door slamming) where I could listen to, rather than reading, the words.  Having said that, I did think they had made a clever decision in putting the Rivers section at the start of the film, and telling the story up to that point in flashback, as it gave greater relevance and strength to that part of the narrative, which otherwise is a bit awkward.  (Wind whistling) I think the performances were good; and there was extensive play made of the gloominess of the Yorkshire weather (rapid footsteps), but despite my efforts to immerse myself in the visuals, I was constantly being jolted out of it by the words on the screen.

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  1. So was it better than any of the old versions (door creeking) of Jane Eyre? I didn’t know there was a (banging on the door) new one that came out. Who’s starring in it (birds twittering)?

    • Hi. I love the sound effects! Mia Wasikowska plays Jane, Michael Fassbender is Rochester and Judi Dench is Mrs Fairfax. It is a good version of it I think (although on balance I preferred Toby Stephens as Rochester in the BBC’s version a couple of years ago), so it was a shame I saw it in such unpleasant circumstances.

  2. Rowena,

    £16:75? Cripes, that’s about $25. Here in Atlanta, it costs us about $7 per seat for first run movies. There are two, “second-run” movie houses nearby, where movies past the first couple of weeks freshness can be seen for a dollar.

    How come they can charge so much for a second rate experience and stay in biz?

    The old art house rule for London was that they’d show an art movie for years on end and that was the only place you could find it, so you were paying the premium for the access. “Jane Eyre” is hardly in that category.

    I find going to the movies a really hard sell, when you can see it at home on a 60″ screen, with a remote in hand. Odd to want to go and catch flu in the stink of popcorn, uncomfortable seats and pocket being torn asunder:)


    • Brendan, I do generally enjoy the cinema experience, but realise that I mostly go to more indy cinemas which are generally more pleasant and less expensive. I’ll certainly not be going back to the Odeon any time soon!


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