Odyssey Cinema

166 London Road,
St. Albans, AL1 1PQ

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Odyssey Cinema

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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 by architect Richard Macan-Lind were approved by the council in March 2013 and work began on a full restoration in July 2013. A planned re-opening is set for 27th November 2014, when it will be a single screen cinema with seating for 500, plus a cafe & bar.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Ian on January 21, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Exterior in 1988 here:-

Proscenium arch in main screen here:-

One of the mini’s beneath the balcony here:-

Picture across the balcony here:-

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 21, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Photographed in September 1949 playing the ABC circuit release:
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A photograph from the 1960’s:
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Ian on February 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Another exterior – with a plainer decor than the 1988 shot above – here:–

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kevinp on January 25, 2009 at 10:53 am

did any one know it was called the RIALTO for a while… who ran this..i thought it was Odeon to the end…

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kevinp on January 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm

seems the property developers have partially given in…. and allowed one of our stalwarts
James Hannaway ( rex berkhamstad ) to pop in and check the building out…


keiths on November 12, 2009 at 10:27 am

There are, surely, two issues here which ‘begger’ belief, especially as we’re supposedly a world-leading power. First of all that we have laws in place in this country which enable its usage as a cinema to be blocked by the operators of a multiplex 8 MILES away, and secondly that the council of a town with INTERNATIONAL significance can allow ANY building to get into this state. In Richmond, Surrey, Odeon themselves re-opened a derelict cinema just around the corner from their main screens, with great success.

paxton on November 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm

more photos on www.stalbansodeon.blogspot.com – taken since we’ve heard that James Hannaway is hoping to complete purchase of the Odeon and to restore it as a working cinema (hurrah!!!! At last)

paxton on March 14, 2010 at 5:05 pm

no…it’s never ever been called the Rialto – that photo’s faked


Ian on August 22, 2010 at 8:30 am

Four interior shots from the mid to late 1980’s – they have been digitally rescued from negatives of poor original shots, but give some idea of the interior of the Odeon when it was up and running.





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