St Albans cinema plans - dream is in your hands

PUBLISHED: 09:15 27 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010

THE man trying to make a big screen dream come true for St Albans is urging people to put their money where their mouths are. Cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway revealed a fortnight ago to the Herts Advertiser that he had secured a deal to restore the fo

THE man trying to make a big screen dream come true for St Albans is urging people to put their money where their mouths are.

Cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway revealed a fortnight ago to the Herts Advertiser that he had secured a deal to restore the fortunes of the former Odeon in London Road, subject to his ability to find £3 million before contracts are due to be exchanged in January next year.

Mr Hannaway is holding a public meeting at The Rex in Berkhamsted High Street at 12.30pm on Sunday, November 29.

He said: "There will be an overall statement about how we envisage the restoration but small details will be for other public meetings as the project develops. On Sunday we will outline our initial fund-raising plan.

"There will be five ways individuals can contribute - through shares, advance membership, sponsored seats, donations or small loans.

Speaking to Odeon supporters who had urged Mr Hannaway to make a move for the Odeon in the wake of his success in restoring The Rex, he said: "Our management team of seven has already invested time and money over the past three years and The Rex has put up the £10,000 security to get us through to exchange.

"It seems ridiculous to raise so much in such a short time but the dream is in your hands now. If I didn't think it could be done I wouldn't have come this far. I will do everything I can despite the bad timing of Christmas to make sure it has every chance of coming true. I hope you still want it as badly as you have said."

Mr Hannaway has been negotiating with the owners of the 1930s art deco Odeon 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.

Mr Hannaway explained that investors were in place to cover a third of the funds but, based on the restoration costs of The Rex eight years ago, he estimated the Odeon would cost around £2 million to restore.

He said that it was bigger than The Rex and its complicated conversion to four screens in the 1970s made it less straightforward.

He stressed that he had never anticipated receiving any finance from St Albans District Council. He explained: "Councils can never provide finance for schemes such as the Odeon. It is not within the public sector.

"However, the council is only too happy to assist with advice and expertise when refurbishment is up and running. So too I agreed to assist the council by keeping them fully informed of our progress, while ready to take part in discussions concerning current town centre proposals."

Mr Hannaway is asking supporters who can't come to the meeting to please email contact details to: therexberkhamsted@hotmail.co.uk.

The intention will be 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.

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