Tuesday, 29 December 2009

the Odeon car park 11 20 am Tues 29 Dec 2009







Dull as it looks, this is the only thorny issue connected with the restoration of the Odeon. The chunk of land shown here was not always a van hire park. It belonged to the Odeon and, as you can see, provided plenty of space.

The developer sold it to Tesco. Presumably Tesco (in fit of discovering that it had to stop the rot of London Road caused by its acquisition of so much land and property it had no intention of using) recently leased it out to the van hire firm. No disagreement with that. But one wonders what will happen in a couple of years time. How long a lease has the van hire company? No-one there today to ask.

Or, more challengingly, what is Tesco up to? Will there be another head banging attempt to get planning permission for a superstore nobody wants? Now they are going into the old Woolworth’s in St Peter St maybe not. Maybe they’ll try to build a smaller Tesco down here with some housing…and as a sweetener offer a deal to let the Odeon have some parking space? Or maybe they’ll give up and disappear from London Road. And sell the car park back to the Odeon.

Mmmm, the possibilities are endless. One has trouble picking the likeliest outcome. But what we down here do know is that there isn’t any parking space in the little streets round the Odeon. Ok for us who live here because we’ll just walk. Lots of other people could just walk too. Or get the train. Or bus. But they won’t, will they? They’ll expect to drive here. And they then won’t want to walk the five minutes down from the public car parks slightly up London Road. They will want this car park back.

Don’t actually think anything will make St Albans change its mind about Tesco moving into London Road. Nothing…not even selling the car park back to the Odeon.. is going to achieve that. Maybe out of spite they will sell it to someone else. Then all those people from Harpenden with three kids and a 4 x 4 who’ll want to park near the Odeon will be cramming into Paxton Rd. They won’t be popular either. And the Odeon won’t be popular for leading to such a pass.

It looks insoluble. But maybe it isn’t.

Monday, 28 December 2009

U.K's oldest working cinema?

it could have been us but it's the Electric cinema in Birmingham..go to the BBC news site to see it....& links to news of other deco working cinemas.

Friday, 25 December 2009

St Albans Odeon - the roof still with snow on it, Christmas Day 10 am.


7 or 8 hours too late, sadly, for a shot of Father Christmas and the reindeer parking up there for a brief rest and to admire the Abbey...the reindeer love the view from here and Father C. always gives up at this point along London Road (like lots of people) to have a quick look at his map - the little streets round the Hare and Hounds always defeat his memory.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Arthur Melbourne-Cooper: the cinema show at Ridge, this day in 1895




On this day in 1895 Arthur Melbourne–Cooper, still only twenty one years old, put his projector and equipment onto a cart and set off for Ridge village hall. It was probably getting dark, the weather might well have been as cold and wintry as today’s and the horse or pony had a fair way to pull it all…eight miles or so, maybe round the back lanes through Cottonmill to Napsbury and then up the long drag of Black Lion Hill to Shenley and then along the lanes shown in these images.

The audience, who had paid, maybe only a penny or two, must have been excited about this holiday treat. So amazing did it prove to be that some of them when interviewed in the 1960’s still talked of how wonderful it had been to see moving pictures for the very first time. The title of Tjitte de Vries’s book is from what one of them said..it was a marvel to see even the leaves on the trees moving. All of them , even the little ones, the shiny-eyed five and six year olds in the front row, are dead now, but there is a direct line of enchantment between them and their Christmas evening of moving pictures that night in the village hall, and us and our never exhausted love of film. We inherit their pleasure and excitement every time the credits roll up and the first shots of a movie take us up into its world. Did Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, as he and the cold, tired horse plodded back to St Albans, have any idea of what they’d started?

St Albans Odeon in the snow 7 30 a.m.18 12 09

these weren't mean to be moving images...so cold I had the camera accidentally on the wrong button. Never mind..it gives some sense of what it was like I suppose video

Notice the pigeons are back..all clustered on the front looking glumly down into the garage forecourt...in the hope someone will throw away the remnants of an early morning bun or bar of chocolate. videot video

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Odeon 8 a.m. 17 December 2009 - so cold my camera fingers got frostbite




Notice, at the junction with Alma Road, the rare sighting of an early morning 84 from Barnet, a bus route with a history as long and chequered as the Odeon - probably the way many people came in the 20th. century to reach the Odeon, their nearest cinema.

If you simply want to give money to the Odeon Rescue bid you might find this helpful:

Extract from e mail from James Hannaway of the Rex

DONATIONS (This category is included by request)



Already, before and after the meeting on Sunday 29th November, people have asked how they can simply offer cash to get it moving. Weeks ago a woman asked at the Rex box office, if she could set up a monthly direct debit of £20 until St Albans was up and showing films again! In just two weeks the Donations tick box has already registered 133 names! Overwhelming, heartwarming and extraordinary, it is beyond thanks. Thank you all the same. However, you must not send anything just yet.


Such is the faith in a new cinema from the dust of the old (and even before making anything clear) we have received a number of cheques, one for £5! Before you pledge anything, proper things need to be in place. Therefore, following this please just send your Name, address and/or email (those who have already ticked the Donations box are now registered and on our database, so you should NOT send again).



Donations are the unexpected icing. Of all things, they show a different kind of thinking. While such open gestures of trust and hope do not diminish the leaps of faith in all the other departments, they are a different kind of leap. Made by people who want nothing in return but to see a cinema back in the City Centre, where it belongs; alive and thriving once more after fifteen wasted years.



While I thank you for this best of all no-strings money, I urge you not to give anything you haven't got. It is not a charity, it is a business, albeit not driven by profit, if it works it will make one. It is a limited company and a business all the same.



NB. If you don't mind, we will keep those cheques already sent (no more, please). They will never be cashed. Instead they will form part of an archive to be treasured as the first leaps of faith. We will ask you to write new ones when the time is right.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


They Thought it was a Marvel Tjitte de Vries and Ati Mul

a 600 word page book about the animation films made by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper who owned the first cinema on the Odeon site is being published TODAY in the Netherlands by the University of Amsterdam Press with the Netherlands Filmmuseum .

These are the first animated movies ever made & they were made in St Albans.....read all about the pioneering work of Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, seen here with his daughter Audrey Wadowska. Order your copy from the University of Amsterdam' Press website (www.aup.nl) Eu 39.50 ISBN 97896085550167

Latest info on how to be part of the Odeon rescue bid

contacttherexberkhamsted.com for the latest information on financial strategies

Tuesday, 8 December 2009






The Rex

there to see Bright Star. At least I got a ticket for this which is more than I managed with Coco before Chanel, inexplicably totally booked including matinees. I'd have expected Chanel to draw crowds in London but Berkhamsted? Anyway B. Star is as sad and lovely a movie as anyone could wish for. And here are some shots of the Rex exuding the poised glamour of a ceaselessy busy cinema. One day ( we hope) the Odeon will be as well cared for. Notice the roses on the balcony. Find me a multiplex that would do that.

The railway is the station at Berko just to prove that such jaunts can be done from here on public transport (Flyer to Watford, then trains to B. run every ten minutes) Not possible for evening shows though because, quaintly, the Flyer doesn't run late i.e. after half nine.

Friday, 4 December 2009



London Road at eight forty five a.m Friday 4 December...

with true art deco panache the Odeon is right in the path of the rising sun - seen here as everyone is trekking off to school and work in St Albans. And looking up the other way the ghost of beautiful winter moon. What a great site for a cinema. We owe a combination of thanks to Thomas Telford for his bold sweep of road and to Melbourne Cooper for seeing the possibilities of what was probably then just a patch of steep scrub alongside the footpath down towards the river.

Thursday, 3 December 2009



It's not only us human beings who have been fighting over the Odeon....for many years a colony of crows roosted happily on the apex of the roof. Recently their numbers have reduced....presumably because the insect suppy up there has diminished. Today a group of pigeons seemed to be making a claim to the territory; after all it's the best perch in the area. But two survivors of the crow colony saw them off. If you click on these images you' ll see them just before the stand off...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

If you want to help save the Odeon e-mail therexberkhamsted@hotmail.co.uk and say so.

You will be sent a copy of the form outlining the options - advance memberships/loans/shares. £1 million needed NOW. But if the mood of the meeting on Sunday was anything to go by I'd say this would be a promising venture for anyone with spare cash to invest.

How better to use money than on something so wanted and needed by everyone in St Albans.....

Sunday, 29 November 2009





the Rex, Berkhamsted, Sunday 29 November 2009...standing room only for the meeting to rescue the Odeon..

Thursday, 26 November 2009



The Odeon is not just worth saving because we want a proper cinema...but also because it is on the site of maybe the first cinema (as we know them) in the country..the Alpha Picture Palace built by Arthur Melbourne Cooper, local cinema pioneer , in 1908. More about him in the future.

He also had his Alpha Studios just over the road. In 1996 the BFI put this notice on the side of Telford Court to mark the place. If you're anything like me you've probably walked past it '0000's of times without noticing it.... so here it is...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


it's not all lifeless dereliction round the back...look carefully into the undergrowth......

Sunday, 22 November 2009


the Odeon, on Saturday night, 21 11 09, a weekend of drenching rain, heaviest downpour ever recorded in U.K.....









Saturday, 21 November 2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Monday, 16 November 2009