Rex Cinema Berkhamsted: Under Threat!

A series of photographs by Alan French, when the cinema was threatetened with closure.

By Alan French

The following images are copyright and photographed by me. (Alan French.)

They reflect an unenviable situation that existed in Berkhamsted during the 1980s. The town’s social life was under threat when it was realised that The Rex Cinema was more valuable as a property than a cinema. At that time, property development was commonplace; some people felt threatened by this trend; some may have welcomed it.

The cinema was actually, at the time, doing good business, and even had Bingo facilities, which also proved popular. Cinema going in the country was now showing an increase of 25%; a fact which reflected at The Rex.

Many people were concerned as to the detrimental impact and quality of the social life for the area.

Hemel Hempstead’s cinema facilities had been reduced some years before, and gave priority to Bingo. Whereas The Rex’s Bingo ran concurrently with its film screenings.

A campaign was started to help save The Rex. Two teenage boys were instrumental in this. As a member of Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers aka Hemel Hempstead Cine Society, I am proud that we also were involved in the attempt to save it. Much of this was due to Brian Harris, a man who sometimes took up causes. He helped the boys to obtain signatures, from the public, for a petition that hopefully would keep the cinema going. Not only did he help in asking people to sign in Berkhamsted High Street, but also took advantage of being the boss of a silk screen printing business called Studio One. He designed and produced yellow cards which were sent to the Dacorum Borough Council. These were placed in a specially made cardboard post box, which he designed and made. The impressive box was put on display with the post cards, in the cinema, for its punters to register their concern.

An award winning documentary was also made titled THE LAST HOUSE. I am again proud to have been on the film crew for this production which Brian was in charge for Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers.

The super 8 film traced the cinema’s history, even to where the previous building had stood, Egerton House, which had a connection with the story of PETER PAN. It also referred to Berkhamsted’s other cinema THE COURT. Unfortunately,  it was necessary for the film to have a tear jerking and emotional end, as the projectionist, Paul Betts, and manager, Alun Rees, finish the show. A last look around by Alun as the building is left to its ghosts, and then the lights go out.

Brief extracts were shown on television, when the cinema was re-opened in 2004. Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers then made a new documentary, of which I was not involved, but delighted, because it meant the cinema did not die. It continues today, enhancing the quality of the entertainment and social life of the area.

There is more that I could say, but maybe some of you may wish to add in the comment segment of this write up.

Meanwhile please enjoy the photographs which were taken when the cinema was under threat. The camera was a 35mm SLR Nikon FE2.

This document is also being submitted to The Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers website, for inclusion inclusion in ‘Alan’s Blog’ for their website

Write up and photographs copyright Alan French. 2012.


This page was added on 29/03/2012.

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  • My husband is Alun Rees’ nephew. We can’t find any info on his death. We exchanged cards and letters, then they just stopped. Please email us with any information, obituary, anything. We are in Boise, Idaho, USA. It’s where his sister Melba resided til her death. (Cheyenne, WY)
    her sons were named after Alun, Grant Alun, and David John.
    Even the date of his death would be helpful, as well as, was he burried in Wales where he was born, London?

    By ROBIN VanLeer (07/05/2019)
  • Lovely to see the photos taken by Mr French, bringing back so many memories. I remember the campaign(Friends of the Rex) to save the Rex and the meetings held in the Court House, it was all worth it in the end. So thankful that the Cinema was saved and goes from strength to strength.

    By Richard Sears (13/04/2017)
  • Since this article’s original submission, Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers have created a new

    By Alan French (22/07/2016)
  • Since my last entry, I have learned of the sad death of Alun Rees. An important figure in the history of The Rex. Please R.I.P.

    By Alan French (13/12/2012)
  • Hi, Just seen the comments. I am glad that my article was worthwhile. Alan French

    By Alan French (08/08/2012)
  • Hi Faith, We are sort of related. I used to live in Cambridge Terrace, George Street, Berko with my Gran Edith Halsey nee Hulatt. Frank Hulatt was one of her brothers. Maggie BOYD married Frank Robert Hulatt and later Fred Hulatt living in Kings Langley. Both were my Gran’s brothers. I only have a picture of the Halsey tribe with my Gran taken in George Street Rec. about 1949.

    By John Halsey (14/05/2012)
  • My Nan, Edith Boyd used to be a cleaner at The Rex Cinema. They moved from Wandsworth to Hemel Hempstead at the time of WW2 and lived in George Street. She also worked at The Rising Sun pub. My Dad’s name is George Boyd and his Sister’s name’s is Nita – my Nan & Grandad lived next to another relative of my Grandad’s – Nellie & Frank Hullatt. Does anyone have any old photos of George Street during the 1930/1940’s? Faith

    By Faith Batson (27/04/2012)
  • Well Alan, I am one of those who was very pleased the REX was saved. My father, Fred, was a projectionist at the Rex from the mid 1930’s until he went to war. As a family we lived in the first flat beside the cinema. I spent a lot of time visiting the projection room by using the metal steps in your photos. I have a couple of photos in the projection room in the loft somewhere. Thanks for bringing back memories.

    By john Halsey (04/04/2012)