St Albans asked to name its new cinema

A COMPETITION has been launched by entrepreneur James Hannaway to find a new name for the former Odeon to herald in its next era under his ownership.

The Alpha – the cinema’s first known name – was used as the working title during the widely-supported fundraising campaign for it to be restored, but Mr Hannaway wants the people of St Albans help it find a new identity.

He bought the dilapidated building in April after raising �1 million in eight weeks thanks to the generosity of local people and businesses, purchasing the cinema from developers who planned to demolish the art deco building to make way for flats.

Since it was first built by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, the cinema had been called The St Albans Alpha Picture Palace, The Poly, The Regent and The Capitol before closing its doors in the face of overwhelming opposition as The Odeon in 1995.

The new name will be the sixth in its 102-year history and the winning entry will be announced in the second public viewing of the site on Sunday, September 12.

Mr Hannaway, who has also successfully restored the fortunes of The Rex in Berkhamsted, said: “It remains truly overwhelming that community support determined the outcome of something thought impossible in the biggest and longest recession the world has known since the 1930s.

“It has shown how simple determination to preserve something worth keeping has out-manoeuvred the worst excesses of bad marriages to the excesses of new; while the old was built to last.”

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He pointed out that most old cinemas had disappeared but praised the determination of local people to protect the former Odeon. He added: “In a short two years or so, you will sit before a huge screen in one of the very last big 1930s towering palaces. So name it. Call it something. Something that will fit its place, its rescue, its journey, its locality, its people.”

Entries, which must be submitted before 6pm on September 6, should aim to be distinctive and timeless, while incorporating local and film/cinema relevance and a sense of heritage, integrity and grandeur.

Advanced booking list membership for the first year will be given to the winner, who will also have their own name displayed in the foyer or bar area, and the three most frivolous, witty and ridiculous entries will be rewarded with two tickets to The Rex.

The competition is free and open to everyone with entries limited to one per person. In the event of more than one person submitting the winning name, the winner will be drawn from a hat.

Enter at or post your idea to ‘Name the Alpha’, c/o The Rex Cinema, High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 2FG.

A further �1.2 million is needed to renovate the cinema over the next two years.

Support for the project can be shown by buying one year’s membership on the Advanced Booking List at a cost of �285, or donating by posting a cheque made payable to ‘The Apha Cinema St Albans Ltd’ to James Hannaway at The Rex, or transferring money directly into the bank account named The Alpha Cinema St Albans Ltd, account number: 45477009, sort code: 09-01-27