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The home of London's big cinemas

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Celebrity Handprints
Charlie Chaplin Statue
Empire Cinema
Odeon Cinema
Square Garden
Vue Cinema
Leicester Square is the home of the big cinemas. The square boasts the cinema with the largest screen, the cinema with the most seats and the cinema with the latest state-of-the-art technology in Britain.  It is the prime location for major film premieres and has shown the likes of James Bond films and animation films such as Shrek. It even co-hosts the London Film Festival each year. The major cinemas of the square are the Odeon, which was the location of the first digital projector in Europe in 1999, and the Empire, which was the location of the first regular public film shows in Britain in 1896.

The Odeon
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Did You Know?

Leicester House was once the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King George II. He had a passion for cricket and in 1751 he was hit on the head by a cricket ball. He was taken home to Leicester House and later died.

The Empire
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The square is named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased land in St. Martin's Field in 1630, where he built himself a large house, known as Leicester House, at the northern end. The area was initially fashionable but by the later part of the 18th century, the Square was no longer a smart address and began to serve as a venue for popular entertainments. Leicester House became the home of a museum of natural curiosities in the 1780s and was later demolished in 1791. By the 19th century, Leicester Square was known as an entertainment venue, with many amusements including Wyld's Globe which was built for the great exhibition and housed a giant map of the Earth. Several hotels grew up around the square making it popular with overseas residents and visitors to London. A large theatre, the Alhambra, built in 1854, dominated the site, to be joined in 1884 by the Empire Theatre of Varieties.

Leicester Square c1880
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Famous residents of Leicester Square include Sir Issac Newton, the scientist probably most famous for his theory of gravity, Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal Academy; John Hunter, a pioneer of surgery; and William Hogarth, the painter. Busts of these can be found at the corner gates of the garden in the square. In the centre of the garden you will find a statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. The most recent addition is a statue of film star and director Charlie Chaplin, born in south London in 1889. On the pavements are inscribed the distances in miles to countries of the former British Empire and floor mounted plaques with film stars names and cast handprints, such as those of Tom Cruise.

Charlie Chaplin Statue
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Did You Know?

Maurice Micklewhite was making a phone call from a telephone box in Leicester Square when he saw a poster for the film The Caine Mutiny and decided to change his name to Michael Caine.

Handprints in Leicester Square
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Visitor Information
The gates to the garden are locked after dark. Nearest Tube Station: Leicester Square.

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