Detective Shaw’s London: Leicester Square
Any fan of the big screen visiting London can’t help but visit Leicester Square. This pedestrian area is in fact home to two major cinemas in the United Kingdom: the Odeon Leicester Square and the Empire Leicester Square (which includes 9 theatres, one of which has the largest screen in the country). The Odeon West End used to be there too, but now it’s closed, while nearby is the Prince Charles, which is a repertory cinema.
This peculiarity means that this square often sees important actors and directors parading in front of the public and media representatives on the occasion of the European or even world premieres of important films. I myself once, in the autumn of 2004, while passing by Leicester Square by chance, came across the UK Premiere of “Garden State” as part of the London Film Festival and saw Zach Braff and a freezing Natalie Portman on the red carpet.
Leicester Square is located in the West End (in the City of Westminster), right in the heart of London. Within walking distance it is surrounded by other places of tourist interest such as Trafalgar Square, which the National Gallery overlooks (entrance to the permanent exhibition is free), and Piccadilly Circus, with its famous statue of Eros. In the centre of the square is a small park, which was renovated in 2012 for the Olympics.
Many restaurants of the most varied nationalities dot the entire area, which is particularly busy at night during the weekend and in general in the summer. And then there are the West End theatres (about forty in all Theatreland), where famous musicals are staged for several years in a row. The last one I saw was “Chicago” in 2011 (yes, it’s been a while). Tickets can be a bit expensive, but if you buy them in advance on the web you can get away with a few tens of pounds.
Right near the square there is the Leicester Square Theatre, which, initially built as a church in 1955, became a location for live music concerts in the 1960s, changing its name several times. In 1976, when it was still called Notre Dame Hall, it hosted one of the first Sex Pistols concerts.
The casino Hippodrome and the headquarters of Global Radio, inside which there are eight radio stations, also overlook the square…