£1 million needed to secure new St Albans cinema

PUBLISHED: 07:15 06 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:44 06 May 2010

Hundreds of people packed out The Rex in Berkhamsted to hear about cinema plans for St Albans

Hundreds of people packed out The Rex in Berkhamsted to hear about cinema plans for St Albans

FILM fans supporting a scheme to restore the old St Albans Odeon as a cinema have to raise less money initially than was originally feared. At a packed meeting at The Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted, entrepreneur James Hannaway, the man behind the Odeon scheme,

FILM fans supporting a scheme to restore the old St Albans Odeon as a cinema have to raise less money initially than was originally feared.

At a packed meeting at The Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted, entrepreneur James Hannaway, the man behind the Odeon scheme, revealed that only £1 million was needed by January to secure the purchase of the art deco building in London Road.

More than 700 people went along to the meeting called by Mr Hannaway at The Rex - the first cinema he restored which has proved to be hugely successful.

The plan for the Odeon hinges upon his ability to find £3 million to fund the purchase and the refurbishment of the building. But it was revealed on Sunday that he only needed £1 million by January to proceed with the exchange of contracts on the purchase price.

The remainder could be raised as and when over the next two years while the building work proceeded.

Numerous people pledged their support for the scheme and grabbed "expression of interest" forms to take away to fill in offering various kinds of financial help.

Mr Hannaway, who said the scheme had been launched "on a wing and a prayer" took questions from the floor with his team of expert helpers.

Asked about lottery and arts council funding he said previous experience of setting up The Rex had shown him it was "a waste of time" and he was only interested in "no-strings public funding". Similarly, he explained a limited company had been set up to handle the scheme so it would not have charitable status.

That meant that financial support could be offered in five different ways - through investment as shareholders, through loans, donations, sponsorship of chairs or by buying advance memberships of £285 each.

With regard to security for loans it was pointed out that the building itself would act as collateral.

Mr Hannaway said St Albans District Council's chief executive Daniel Goodwin had been very supportive of the scheme and the building team would work closely with the council's planners.

Although there had been no structural survey carried out on the building yet, it was believed that the walls and roof were in good condition.

The question of lack of parking arose because the original Odeon car park had been sold off to Tesco but Mr Hannaway did not envisage it would be a problem.

St Albans MP Anne Main, who attended the meeting, praised efforts to redevelop the Odeon.

She said: "It was great that so many people were willing to turn out on such a horrible Sunday to discuss the future of the Odeon. I hope the project will be a huge success as there was a lot of goodwill in the room."

Cathy Budd of Valerie Close, St Albans, said afterwards: "At last there is a bright spark on the horizon that we will get the cinema we have wanted for so long after all the raised hopes over the years which have come to nothing."

And Shirley Ascher of Cranbrook Drive, St Albans, said she felt the cinema would be a huge boost to businesses at a down-at-heel end of the city.

If you didn't attend the meeting but would like to fill in an "expression of interest" form you can access it on http://www.allaboutstalbans.net/cinema/odeon_form.aspx

If you complete the form online the website administrators will collect and collate the data for Mr Hannaway on a weekly basis to speed up the process.


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