Warner Theatre, Leicester Square, London.

Warner Theatre,

3 Cranbourne Street,

 Leicester Square,
London, WC2H 7AL


Original Owner:  Warner Bros.

Architects:  Edward Albert Stone, F.S.I., in association with Thomas Retford Somerford, A.R.I.B.A.

Building Contractor:  Griggs & Son, Ltd.

Original Seating Capacity: 1775.

Date opened:  Wednesday 12th October 1938.

Gala Opening Attended by: the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

First film shown:  “The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn, Olivia Mary de Havilland and Claude Rains.

Compton three manual ten rank organ equipped with a Melotone unit. Opened by~ Phil Finch.

First General Manager:   William ‘Bill’ Pepper. 

Present Status:  Vue Cinema, West End.



The 1930 and ’40s was a time when cinema was booming. To bring more movie entertainment to the West End of London two Leicester Square theatres were reduced to rubble. First to go was The Alhambra to make way for the Odeon flagship, known as the Odeon Leicester Square.

Daly’s Theatre pictured in 1937.

The next live venue to bite the dust was Daly’s theatre, which was opened on the 20th June 1893 for Augustine Daly. This opened with ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Closure came on the 25th September 1937. A new super cinema run by Warner Bros called the Warner was built, opening on Wednesday 12th October 1938 with ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’. The film went on to play to capacity audiences at the theatre. In attendance were the Duke and Duchess of Kent. The Premier was in aid of the British Empire Cancer Campaign. A big crowd turned out to welcome the Duke and Duchess and they were welcomed by Lord and Lady Hailsham.

Opening night of the Warner Theatre.

The Warner was designed by E A Stone and TR Somerford. There were four pairs of doors at the front and above the canopy were five elongated windows. The sweeping curve of the interior was emphasised in the ceiling by a series of cone shaped lighting coves housing indirect lighting apparatus which produces a soft evenly distributed light. Covering the floor was thick carpet supplied by Firth and Son, in the attractive design which incorporated red, beige and black, which had been adopted by Warners for their American theatres.

The circle at Daly’s was at street level and the stalls below. At the Warner stalls were at street level. The stalls area of Daly’s was retained and was used as a public reception room and for engineering equipment. Seating at the Warner was 1775. These were supplied by Lusty and Son and were placed in three blocks. They were coloured in rich old rose to harmonise with the hues of the carpets. Wood panels were used extensively through the theatre. A light timber, relieved by thin bands of silver were applied to the side walls and capped by bold cross beams of darker wood.

The foyer was illuminated mainly by four pendant glass lighting fitments suspended from plain circular plaques in the ceiling.

One of the features was a Compton three manual ten rank organ equipped with a Melotone unit. It also had adjustable contact action. Designed by TR Somerford the bold console was on a rising lift with horizontal turn, enabling the organist to play facing the screen or the audience.

The auditorium viewed from the stage.

Towards the stage, sat the splay walls the decorative treatment incorporated large ornate grilles that on the left permitted the operation of the ventilation system and on the right there was connection with the organ chamber. Another organ outlet was placed over the plain proscenium arch.

Organist at the opening was Phil Finch, who had played at the Regal Marble Arch and Carlton Islington.

Luxury! The ladies powder room.

In the balcony seats were placed well apart to allow plenty of leg room. Deaf aids were supplied and the Warner was the first cinema in England equipped with a public address system. Coltman displays were used for publicity purposes.

The Warner was home  to Warner Bros Pictures and the Empire, which opened in 1928, ran  MGM pictures.  It was ten years after the Empire’s debut that The Warner made its grand appearance.

The projection equipment at the time of opening consisted of RCA photophone high fidelity sound, Super Simplex projectors and Peerless Magnarc high intensity arcs.

In 1970 the cinema, like many others was twinned with only one of them  opening on the 29th October 1970 as the Warner West End. The circle had been extended into Warner West End.

There were 890 seats in it and the opening film was a Gala premier of “There was a Crooked Man”. On the 12th November screen two known as the Warner Rendezvous with 680 seats opened in the former stalls with  the film “The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer”.

In 1974 more work was carried out when the former bar area opened as Warner West End 3 with the other two screens renamed Warner West end 1 and 2. In November 1975  screen two was twinned and reopened as Warner West End 3 and 4 seating 270 in one and 454 in the other. Screens 1 and 3 were then renamed 2 and 1. More changes in October 1981 when a 180 seat hall named Warner West End 5 was opened in unused space.

The Royal Film Premier of “Never Say Never Again” was held at the Warner on 14th December 1983.

The Warner closed on the 12th September 1991 and the auditoriums were demolished and only the original 1937 facade  which is listed Grade 2 remained. Nine new auditoriums were built and it opened on 23rd September 1993 with a Royal Charity Premiere of “The Fugitive” attended by Princess Diana.

It opened as the Warner by Warner Bros International Theatres. On the 6th December 1996 it was renamed Warner Village Cinemas and in March 2004 taken over by Vue cinemas.

The Vue Cinema, Leicester Square

The Vue West End closed for refurbishment on the 9th March 2017 and reopened with luxurious reclining seats being one of the new features on 11th July 2017.


David A. Elliscopyright whitechestercinemas.co.uk