St Albans Odyssey cinema dream moves a step closer

The Odyssey Cinema on London Road

The Odyssey Cinema on London Road - Credit: Archant

A MAJOR step has been taken in the redevelopment of the city’s only cinema which could be showing films as early as next year.

An application has been submitted to the district council to change part of the ground floor of the Odyssey Cinema in London Road, St Albans, into a restaurant or café and roof repairs are scheduled to be carried out.

Denise Hicks, spokesperson for the art deco building which was once an Odeon Cinema, explained: “We’re looking at how we’re going to use the entrance space.

“We’ve been looking at lots of different designs and looking at how best to create an exciting environment and atmosphere for people.”

Currently the cinema, which takes its name from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, is full of scaffolding according to Denise: “The cinema is still on track to be open at the start of 2014. Lots of architects are drawing up a lot of designs at the moment.

“No one is more eager for it to be opened than the team!”

The movie theatre was first built in 1908 by cinematographer Arthur Melbourne-Cooper and had a chequered history until it was closed in 1995 when the multiplex Odeon cinema in Jarman Park, Hemel Hempstead opened.

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The building was earmarked for a flats development but was eventually sold to cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway who owns the popular Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted.

He purchased the derelict building in April 2009 for a million pounds, which kick-started the cinema’s journey to refurbishment.

During the renovation process Denise said the team had discovered various hidden treasures harking back to the cinema’s earlier days: “We’ve discovered some original features we haven’t seen close up before, which is really exciting.”

Some coving was still intact in the building, possibly dating back to the 1930s, and was being restored to its original state.

But Denise added: “The roofing is the most important thing we need to do. We need to make sure it’s all waterproof and tight.”

Borras Construction were responsible for removing asbestos from the building after it was found last December. Adam Bowden, managing director of the company, confirmed last week that the work had been completed and the cinema has been cleared.

Moviegoers can expect a mixture of old and new films when the cinema opens along the lines of the Rex.

Around 500 people will soon be able to enjoy films at the proposed one-screen cinema but the battle to restore it is not over yet.

Denise explained that they still needed to raise around £400,000: “We are still selling seat sponsorship and advance booking lists are still available for anyone interested.”

The consultation end date for the planning application is March 6.