Odeon to Odyssey Timeline 1908 - 2012
By Penny Dade
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27 July 1908
Arthur Melbourne Cooper (1874 – 1961) opened his Alpha Picture House in St Albans. It was the first permanent cinema in Hertfordshire. Designed by Percival Blow and seating 800, Cooper showed his own films e.g. Dreams of Toyland, 1907. Proscenium designed by music hall artiste Fred Karno. On the ground floor there was a restaurant, swimming pool and a hairdressing saloon.
Cinematograph Act became law and the Alpha was inspected and its condition found wanting as a place of entertainment.
1918 – 1926
Renamed the Poly Picture House. On 22 April 1918 the Poly showed the Maciste as Alpine Soldier.
2 October 1926 – 14 December 1927
The Poly cinema was renamed the Regent on 2 October 1926 having been refurbished, again by Percival Blow, with a ground floor stalls area seating 573 and balcony and boxes for 314, an organ and a dance floor in the basement. On 2 October the two films showing were Gayest of the Gay and Mysterious Stranger. On 4 October 1926 the programme included For Your Children’s Sake and Broadway Billy, followed on 7 October by Blood and Sand starring Rudolph Valentino and The Kid Brother featuring Harold Lloyd.
15 December 1927
The Regent suffered a massive fire early in the morning. The cause was thought to be a lit cigarette. A report of the fire appeared in the Herts Advertiser newspaper.
The cinema’s seating was enlarged to 1728 by the firm of architects Kemp and Tasker.
D.J.James circuit was bought by Eastern Cinemas, part of General Cinema Finance (GCF), which included St Albans’ other cinema, the Grand Palace. On Monday 7 December the film Trader Horn was shown.
3 September 1939
Capitol closed in the first week of the Second World War and then reopened a few weeks later, to boost the public morale.
The Rank Organisation Odeon cinema circuit acquired the Capitol and launched the Odeon National Club for children, which in St Albans was held at the Grand Palace cinema from 17 April 1943.
1 January 1945
The Capitol became an Odeon cinema though it retained the name Capitol Odeon until June 1945. Showing from 8 January 1945 was the film The Climax starring Boris Karloff. St Albans Odeon was part of the North and West London area release.
18 June 1945
The Capitol became the Odeon cinema. Programme for 25 June 1945 was the double bill Tomorrow the World starring Frederic March and Betty Field and Murder He Says with Fred MacMurray and Helen Walker.
10 April 1950
Showing of My Foolish Heart starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward.
Introduction by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) of the X certificate films replacing the H for horror films. The Rank Organisation banned X films from being shown in its Odeon cinemas from 1951 -1956.
14 June 1959
Double bill of Beyond this Place (A) and Carry on Admiral (U).
Live shows at the St Albans Odeon including Billy Fury and John Denver.
20 March 1966
Our Man Flint (A) starring James Coburn and Lee J Cobb.
21 January 1973
St Albans Odeon amongst first twenty Rank cinemas to be converted into a multiplex with three screens, with Screen 1 in the circle seating 452 and Screens 2 and 3 respectively 115 and 129, which is a total of 696 compared with 1728 in the 1930s. Films shown were A Clockwork Orange (1), Butterflies are Free and Now for Something Completely Different (2) and Nicholas and Alexandra (3).
11 November 1983
Odeon and other cinemas moved for first time to change of programmes on Fridays and double bills were replaced by a single main feature, advertising and trailers.
Launch of Odeon’s new slogan ‘First Choice Odeon’ and end of live shows.
An additional fourth screen added at the end of the year, as advertised in Variety magazine in July 1988.
20 August 1995
Odeon cinema closed, although financially sound, in order to encourage people to attend the multiplex at Jarman Park, Hemel Hempstead, which opened on 25 August 1995. This action “unleashed some of the worst criticism Rank had ever faced… (Eyles, p.166). Last film shown was Waterworld.
Derelict Odeon bought by James Hannaway of Rex Cinema, Berkhamsted, with help from the people of St Albans and the Civic Society. It was renamed the Odyssey cinema, in homage to local film director Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Potential opening of Odyssey cinema.