Major milestone in St Albans Odyssey cinema restoration

The windows on the front of the Odyssey cinema which inspired the design inside

The windows on the front of the Odyssey cinema which inspired the design inside - Credit: Archant

In the same month that its sister venue won the Best Cinema title at the first ever Guardian Film Awards, St Albans’ long awaited Odyssey picture house had its own reasons to celebrate.

This week marked a key feature of the London Road cinema, the proscenium arch, receiving the finishing touches by the largest manufacturer of cinema screens in the world, which offered a valuable glimpse of what the ambitious entertainment venue will eventually look like.

Gold, intricate, 23 feet tall, and soon to be flanked by red velvet festoon curtains, the arch is the first material indication that what is being built will certainly be no ordinary cinema.

Specially laser cut, painstakingly painted and modelled on long-forgotten art-deco features discovered at the front of the building, the arch mimics the traditional and original style of the cinema back in its heydey.

James Hannaway, the man behind the regeneration of the former Odeon site, said: “You will get the sense of walking into a palace; a place that’s going to take you away for a couple of hours. A fantasy.”

While multiplexes conform and hide behind dark, drab interiors, the independent and historical gem will boast intricate and detailed décor, soft and warm troughs of light and a luxurious colour scheme of black, gold and red.

The same high level of quality and quirkiness will be evident in the cinema listings, with arthouse films encouraged rather than alienated and between 20 to 30 different films expected to be shown in a month alone.

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At 44 by 23 foot the cinema screen will undoubtedly be one of the biggest in the country.

And that’s not the only thing the building can claim, as James explained: “It’s really important everybody takes note that this is currently one of the last buildings to be restored from its original purpose. Right back to the original idea behind it, which was one screen, one audience, and one film.”

Only a few old-fashioned aspects of the cinema remain now, including the original doors – which must be replaced for fire safety purposes – a worn out exit sign, and an old cutting room table.

Site manager JJ Madden said they were currently looking at an August opening for the cinema, which is rumoured to be having a week-long run of events in celebration.

If you cannot wait that long to support your future cinema-to-be there are various ways to get involved with the Odyssey before its grand debut.

The Mayor’s Raffle for Grove House gives people a chance of winning a personalised embroidered seat as well as tickets for the opening week.

Tickets cost £1 and can be purchased from Grove House in Waverley Road, Grove House shops in Victoria Street, Hatfield Road and Piggottshill Lane, The Peahen and The Dressing Room.

The Herts Advertiser will continue to provide updates on the progress throughout the year ahead of its summer opening date.

The Odyssey team are still looking for funding and a number of sponsored seats are available. For details contact Jill Taylor at