�1.2million boost for St Albans cinema scheme

ONE Odyssey may be over but another is about to begin after �1.2million was secured to restore the former Odeon cinema in St Albans.

Work is already underway to return the inside of the art deco building, now renamed The Odyssey, to its former glory after four passionate supporters invested the money in loans.

And if everything goes to plan, the first film could be screened at the beginning of 2014 with the opening of The Odyssey as the sister cinema to The Rex in Berkhamsted.

The angel investors – so-called affluent individuals who provide financial backing to start-up businesses – have brought an end to two years of negotiating in which the owner of The Odyssey on London Road, James Hannaway, sought to raise the money needed to turn it back into a working cinema.

Mr Hannaway said: “The yes came from one man who, along with his family, agreed to step in to the bank’s pockets, without a second thought. After two solid years, almost to the day, of endless talks, emails, meetings, tasks and questions answered, re-answered and repeated, it was all over in two days.

“Suddenly every hoop and tedious question seemed worth it. A virtual repeat of how The Rex was won. One Odyssey over, the best to come.”

Mr Hannaway, who had previously restored the fortunes of The Rex, had been near to closing a deal with a financial services organisation in April but negotiations broke down after the terms were found to be unmanageable.

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Denise Hicks, communications director at The Odyssey, said that nothing which had been achieved so far would have been possible without the help of the local community.

She went on: “To date, 136 people have sponsored seats at �1,000 each; �30,000 came in pure donations. Ordinary people raised a million in just eight weeks to buy the site, 580 individuals willingly paid �285 for an ABL (Advanced Booking List) to ensure a seat in an as-yet unbuilt auditorium at the height of the worst recession since 1929, all for an old derelict cinema.

“This was anathema to banks and others but crystal clear to everybody else.”

Work to demolish and remove the original four screen pits in the inside of the building has finished and much of what was needed to satisfy the fire brigade and council’s prohibition notice last September, which halted a showing of Grease and an open day, has been completed.

But the team behind The Odyssey is keen to stress that money is still tight. A quantity survey has confirmed the finish price will be around �1.6m and with the budget set, there is little slack for anything else.

They will launch a renewed fundraising push for the last �400,000 this summer and are eager to talk to a “friendly architect” who may be able to help them with some early drawings.

The Odeon was closed in 1995 and was renamed The Odyssey when Mr Hannaway purchased it in 2010. The Herts Advertiser has supported the campaign to revamp the cinema with coverage and the Countdown to the Odyssey column.

This year is the last chance to buy an ABL, or to sponsor a seat and/or other parts of the building. Visit www.odysseypictures.co.uk to find out more or email contactus@odysseypictures.co.uk with your request.