Heritage: Looking back at life on our silver screens

The Odeon cinema after it re-opened in Marlowes in 1960
The Odeon cinema after it re-opened in Marlowes in 1960

In this week’s heritage section we look back at 101 years of cinema in Hemel Hempstead.

The first cinema in Hemel Hempstead was the Electric Theatre which opened in 1909 at the Salvation Army’s Albion Hall in Albion Hill.

There were 180 seats and shows were continuous from 6.30 to 10.30 pm, with three weekly changes.

A new stage in a yard at the back was added in 1912.

It was later enlarged to accommodate 300 people and re-opened as the Aero in 1920.

The cinema closed on July 17 1926, three days before its replacement opened on a new site.

The building has long since been demolished and the Marlowes Shopping Centre now stands on its former site.

The new Aero replaced the existing one in Albion Hill and was designed by H R Finn of St Albans.

It was situated in Marlowes and could accommodate 760 in the stalls and 199 in the balcony.

It was opened on July 20 1926 and coincided with a visit to the town by the Prince of Wales.

The cinema was renamed as the Luxor in 1930 and later restyled as “The Luxurious Luxor” in 1936.

It closed in August 1960, and was then demolished.

The Princess was the town’s first purpose built cinema, built in ten weeks by architect W H Barton, before opening on December 23 1912.

It was situated in Marlowes (on the site now occupied by the Civic Centre) and had a single floor with seating for 600 people.

The Princess closed in 1962, just two years after the opening of The Odeon in Marlowes in August 1960.

The single floor auditorium had 1,148 seats with generous spacing between rows.

It had a large 63ft proscenium opening and there were ten auditorium effects speakers on the side and rear walls.

Poor attendance in the early 1970s led to bingo taking place on Wednesdays to Fridays, with films shown on the other four days of the week.

This arrangement continued until 1994, when the cinema finally closed.

The closure of the Odeon cinema in Hemel Hempstead paved the way for a new, out-of-town Odeon multi screen to be built as part of the Jarman Park ‘Leisureworld’ development.

It opened in August 1995 and continues to entertain today.