Friday, 5 February 2010

Alpha cinema opportunities and audiences

Satyajit Ray takes a shot

As we are all too painfully aware the battle to rescue the Odeon and reopen it as a Rex style working cinema has hit a nasty moment fundswise. But there are some who have been forecasting doom for the project from the outset. A minority, of course, but they do exist. One of them is the Picotts End Residents Association blog which said back in the autumn:

But St Albans isn't Berkhamsted. The Rex succeeded because it was a David and Goliath kind of battle which people in a small town greatly applauded. St Albans is more streetwise and chavvy than Berkhamsted.

My own Borehamwood ingrained instincts tell me that anyone who thinks St Albans is chavvy needs to get out more but maybe that’s how people in Berko and its environs see S.A. Certainly there are differences. S.A. is bigger, livelier, much more mixed in class/ethnicity/ and age groups. But surely this is not a drawback to having a successfully functioning cinema? Surely it offers all sorts of opportunities for ventures that the Rex, lovely though it is, could never stretch to. The Alpha could for example host short film festivals for the culturally diverse audience it will command - for example festivals of Italian, Bengali, Irish and Polish interest. S.A. is not short of teenagers who would be game for all sorts of programming, with or without 3D spex. Older people in S.A. tend to the media/bohemian far more than in the Rex's own audience. No offence meant, Berko, but anything the Rex can do, the Alpha could do with more risk and boldness. Streetwise and chavvy it may be here, but since when did that ever mean a lack of life – or people willing to buy a cinema ticket??


  1. I do think there's a big difference between Berkhamsted and St Albans though - not a chavvy difference, but I've lived in St Albans most of my life and have seen the sort of people living here change from a place with a community feel like Berko into a place where pulling up in a brand new Lexus 4x4 and yelling at market stall holders that £1.50 for a muffin is too expensive is considered quite normal. We're a town that said we wanted local independent shops but won't shop in them because they cost more, argue with Waterstones staff that we can find it cheaper online.

    Yes, there is a hardcore of arty types here, but they're a minority. Though I sincerely hope to be proved wrong, I fear that asking St A as a city to put its hand in its pocket might not be the success we'd wish it to be.

    Sarah (seat sponsor!)

  2. Do we think that this cinema is only for St Albans residents? I live in Welwyn and often go to the Rex, even though it takes a good 40 minutes and more to get there. We also often go to good cinemas in London (1 hours journey) because they show the sorts of films we want to see. Also, there will be overspill from Berko - the Rex can't keep up with its own popularity!!
    Seriously though, the money is piling in from all quarters. If we just get out there and generate enthusiasm, those that do appreciate this kind of thing will help it to succeed. Anyone who wants to help hand out the Civic Society leaflets at the market on Saturday 6th is very welcome. From 10.30 onwards.
    Sarah (ABL Sponsor)

  3. Hi, I am the course leader of the course of interior and spatial design at the University of Hertfordhire. I am doing a project on cinemas restoration with my students. Do you have interior pictures of the building?
    Many Thanks

  4. no, sorry...have no pics of the interior..but there are a few somewhere on the Web..Flickr I think. And the Museum of St Albans has useful folders with pictures of the 70's interior. There is a rumour that the original Deco wall mouldings are still in there. But nobody knows for sure...and never will unless it's properly restored. Hope you & your students are actively supporting the Campaign to rescue it.