About the Odyssey

A Quickfire Guide to The Odyssey Cinema

James Hannaway, Open Day September 2010

What’s this all about?
We are restoring the old Odeon cinema in London Road, which has been lying derelict for 15 years. It was renamed The Odyssey in Nov 2010 as a result of a naming competition among the St.Albans public.

Who is restoring the cinema?
James Hannaway, CEO of The Rex Cinema up the road in Berkhamsted, along with a small team of dedicated folk including Project Managers Martell and Co.

What will the cinema be like?
The Odyssey will go from being a 4-screen multiplex to a glorious one-screen art deco (much like The Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted). We’ll seat approx. 500 people and hopefully have a cafe & bar too.

What kind of films will you show?
A repertory programme of old and new, well-known and films to discover. There’ll be something for everyone, including kids.

What work needs to be done?
Everything from the ground up. It is derelict. New roof and all necessary infrastructure to return it a glorious 500 seat cinema

How much needs to be raised?
We bought the building for £1m April 2009, and now we need c. £1.5m for the restoration

When does it need to be raised by?
Now and until it is fully repaired and opened. ETA 2014.

The History

St. Albans’ first cinema on London Road was originally built in 1908 by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, the son of a local St.Albans photographer, in a bid to lift cinema-going from its lowly status. At that time, it was known as the Alpha Picture Palace. The cinema is cited by The Shell Book of Firsts to be one of the first cinemas as we know them today.

The cinema was destroyed by fire in 1927.

Fire at the cinema, 1927

It re-opened as the Capitol Cinema on 3rd December 1931. Somewhere in between it became The Poly, then The Regent. In 1945 it was bought by Odeon, under whose banner it continued as a working cinema until its closure in 1995. It has lain empty, under threat of demolition, ever since.

For fifteen years a steady campaign in St. Albans and surrounding towns and villages has kept the hope alive to protect the building and see it returned to its original glory. This year, thousands of local people played a key role in securing the site by helping to raise £1 million in a mere, heart-stopping, eight weeks. The cinema was rescued from development by managing to Complete on the site by 9th April, and work has slowly begun to return it to a glitzy all-singing-in-the-rain, queues around the block, happy cinema again.

While the first hurdle has been leapt, there is still is much work to do. Its new name – The Odyssey (in homage to the work of Stanley Kubrick alongside the notion of journey) – was announced on Sept 12th 2010. Next we will see a huge fundraising push to find the £1.5million needed to bring the cinema back to life over the following three years.

It is our determined wish to open the big screen again at the beginning of 2014.

6 thoughts on “About the Odyssey”

  1. Everyone loves what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

  2. Louise brash said:

    Would love it if you could do the old art deco cinema in aylesbury. Too many of these beautiful buildings are destroyed.

  3. Your vision, commitment and dedication to the Odyssey Project is much appreciated by the inhabitants of Snorbs and the locality. I, for one, can’t wait to return to the cinema of my youth!

  4. Helene said:

    I’m very excited about this. It will be wonderful to have a proper old fashioned cinema on our doorstep. The local multiplexes are fine, I guess, but lack character and atmosphere.

  5. I’m so excited to hear of another lovely old cinema being brought back to life as a single screener. I’ve just mentioned it on my new cinema buildings blog and I look forward to visiting when you are done and doing an article on you.

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