166 London Road,
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In 1927 St. Albans' first cinema (the Alpha Cinema, later called the Poly Cinema and still later, the Regent Cinema) burned down. The site was cleared and on 3 December 1931 the Capitol Cinema opened its doors. It was a project of Lou Morris and had been designed by Percival Blow and James Martin Hatfield, with internal decorations and design by Robert Cromie. Total seating capacity was for 1,620, with 1,168 in the stalls and 452 in the balcony. There was a 20 foot deep stage. Due to the slope of the land the cinema was entered at balcony level and patrons descended to the stalls. The Capitol Cinema was equipped with a Compton 2Manual/6Ranks theatre organ, a cafe and there were three dressing rooms.
In 1934 the cinema was enlarged, to the plans of Messrs Kemp and Tasker, to 1,728 seats. The Capitol Cinema was bought by General Cinema Finance and then passed to Oscar Deutsch’s chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd., who re-named the cinema in 1945.
The Odeon was one of the first batch of cinemas selected for tripling, and the new three-screen complex opened in January 1973 with the two smaller screens 115 and 129 seats tucked under the balcony and the circle still seating 452 as Screen 1. A fourth screen was added in 1988 in the front stalls area. All closed on 20th August 1995.
The building then sat empty, but apparently in good condition. Various proposals have been put forward for re-opening the cinema, but it was owned by a development company who wish to demolish the building and use the site for flats. There is no multiplex in the town, but there is one in nearby Hatfield.
In November 2009, it was announced that the Odeon had been purchased by James Hannaway, who restored the long closed Rex Cinema, Berkhamsted. A competition was held in November 2010 to decide a new name for the cinema, and the winning entry was ‘Odyssey’. He raised funds and preliminary renovation/restoration work began in early-2011. Plans were approved by the council in March 2013 and work began on a full restoration in July 2013. An estimated time of re-opening is 2014, when it will be a single screen cinema with seating for 500, plus a cafe & bar.
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