St. Albans’ first cinema on London Road was originally built in 1908 by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, the son of a local St.Albans photographer, in a bid to lift cinema-going from its lowly status. At that time, it was known as the Alpha Picture Palace. The cinema is cited by The Shell Book of Firsts to be one of the first cinemas as we know them today.
The cinema was destroyed by fire in 1927.
It re-opened as the Capitol Cinema on 3rd December 1931. Somewhere in between it became The Poly, then The Regent. In 1945 it was bought by Odeon, under whose banner it continued as a working cinema until its closure in 1995. It has lain empty, under threat of demolition, ever since.
For fifteen years a steady campaign in St. Albans and surrounding towns and villages has kept the hope alive to protect the building and see it returned to its original glory. This year, thousands of local people played a key role in securing the site by helping to raise £1 million in a mere, heart-stopping, eight weeks. The cinema was rescued from development by managing to Complete on the site by 9th April, and work has slowly begun to return it to a glitzy all-singing-in-the-rain, queues around the block, happy cinema again.
While the first hurdle has been leapt, there is still is much work to do. Its new name – The Odyssey (in homage to the work of Stanley Kubrick alongside the notion of journey) – was announced on Sept 12th 2010. We saw a huge fundraising push to find the £1.5million needed to bring the cinema back to life over the following three years.
We finally opened in November 2014.