St Albans cinema set to rise from the ashes

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:39 06 May 2010

CINEMA entrepreneur James Hannaway has launched a £3 million bid to restore the fortunes of the Odeon in St Albans in the same way as he has done at The Rex in Berkhamsted. Mr Hannaway has been negotiating with the owners of the London Road art deco build

CINEMA entrepreneur James Hannaway has launched a £3 million bid to restore the fortunes of the Odeon in St Albans in the same way as he has done at The Rex in Berkhamsted.

Mr Hannaway has been negotiating with the owners of the London Road 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.

Mr Hannaway said: "After nine months of lengthy start-stop negotiations and 14 years of an uncertain future, The Odeon is finally in the hopefully-safe hands of The Rex.

All we need is £3 million or so to bring it back to life."

Steve Walker, who owns Collinson's estate agents and acted for Mr Moult, said: "Congratulations to James for all his hard work in getting the deal to this stage and we wish him well for the future."

Despite the short notice, Mr Hannaway is hopeful that the money can be found before the date set to exchange contracts early in the New Year.

He 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: "It is bigger than The Rex. Added to which, its complicated conversion to four screens in the 1970s makes it less straightforward.

"I am most grateful to Mike Moult for forgoing the opportunity in an increasingly optimistic market, to use the opportunity to build. Instead he has entrusted the site to us to see it returned to a cinema once more. This is a huge and gallant move on his part after all his work to secure the site for development.

"We could not talk about this nor mount a fundraising campaign before reaching this agreement with Wattsdown. The timing is not great. Christmas will inevitably get in the way. However, there no time to waste in raising the money to buy and restore the site.

"It is now our job to see it through and make it work. But we can only do this with the support of the people of St Albans."

To that end, he is holding a public meeting will be held at The Rex at 12.30pm on Sunday, November 29, where he will outline the project and invite small investments, donations and the same kind of advanced first year membership offered during restoration at The Rex.

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.

The Rex has consistently sold out five nights out of seven every week since it re-opened.

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