Book honours St Albans cinema founder

PUBLISHED: 11:59 16 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 May 2010

Arthur Melbourne-Cooper and his daughter Audrey

Arthur Melbourne-Cooper and his daughter Audrey

THE founder of the first picture palace on the site of the former Odeon cinema in St Albans is being honoured in a new book to be published this week. It is being released at the same time as cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway is trying to attract suffi

THE founder of the first 'picture palace' on the site of the former Odeon cinema in St Albans is being honoured in a new book to be published this week.

It is being released at the same time as cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway is trying to attract sufficient funds to buy the Odeon in London Road which has stood empty for many years.

The book called They Thought It Was A Marvel points to early St Albans cinematographer Arthur Melbourne Cooper (1874 - 1961) as being one of the founding fathers of moving pictures.

The University of Amsterdam Press together with the Netherlands Film Museum is publishing the 600- page book by Tjitte de Vries and Ati Mul on the early animation films of Mr Melbourne-Cooper.

It is the product of many years of research - much of it in St Albans - and looks at the animation films made by Mr Melbourne Cooper, some of which were produced in the basement of the Alpha Picture Palace in London Road, the site of the present disused Odeon Mr Hannaway's plan to restore the Odeon hinges upon his ability to find £3 million to fund the purchase and the refurbishment of the building.

At a recent public meeting held at the Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted, the first cinema he restored, he elicited paper promises amounting to more than 80 per cent of the £1 million needed to purchase the building alone.

He has just over a month to raise the cash to complete the exchange of contracts on the building.

If that is achieved then he will need to raise a further £2 million to refurbish the building. The remainder is not so time-critical and can be raised over the next two years.

Mr Hannaway has been negotiating with the owners of the 1930s art deco building for more than nine months.

Wattsdown Developments - owned by Mike Moult - put it up for sale with planning permission for 14 luxury flats more than a year ago.

The intention is to work along the same lines as The Rex using only one screen to show the best films on release from all over the world.

They Thought It Was A Marvel can be ordered at the Amsterdam University Press, info@aup.nl


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Herts Advertiser. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Herts Advertiser