A cinema for grown ups and lovers of independent film

Address: 166 London Rd, St Albans AL1 1PQ
Phone: 01727 453088
Ticket information: Evening Prices range from £9.50 – £23.00 for a settee
Matinee prices range from £5.00 – £13.00 for a settee

Situated on a busy road running out of the Roman city of St Albans, sits the lovingly restored art deco cinema The Odyssey. A cinema that has changed hands multiple times over the last 100 years and given six different names since it first opened in the 1920’s. However the days of uncertainty about ownership or admission numbers to this cinema are well and truly left behind in this cinema’s past.

The Odyssey – External view
The Odyssey – External view

A well loved local institution, the Odyssey is currently experiencing what can only be described as a cinema renaissance. Having tried to get tickets for downstairs table seats multiple times during award season, it’s fair to say it can be fairly challenging to get the seat you want unless you book as soon as listings are released.

However don’t let this put you off – it’s hard to get the tickets you want because this is a fabulous cinema that is popular for those not wanting to traipse up to Hatfield for a standard multiplex screening.

From the second you spot the cinema, you can appreciate the love and hard work put into the venue as part of it’s 2014 restoration. Now owned and run by the same team behind the ever popular Rex cinema in Berkhamsted, expect a warm and friendly greeting as you step into the art deco foyer. With stunning film soundtracks playing gently in the background and signposting to the bar from the attendant, you know you’re in for a good time.

Once you’ve picked up tickets – you can choose to either visit one of the two large bars onsite. One is on the ground floor, one on the lower ground floor to allow those customers who have tables, settees and armchairs, quick and easy access to refreshments. We recommend the cheeseboard (£7), enough for two to share with a bottle of red wine. With plenty of choice for alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks and thankfully no option for popcorn, this is most definitely a cinema for grown ups.

The Odyssey – Seating layout

You have a choice of seating on either the first floor or lower ground, perfect for those who are looking for a more intimate experience or just wanting to catch up on the latest film screening. All seats are extremely comfortable, in plush red velvet material and offer the required legroom for a 6′ male. We know – we tested this.However our favourite seats were the armchairs on the lower ground floor. Unusually, this cinema offers not only an usher to take you to your allocated seat but also an introduction to your film in front of the 23ft tall screen by the manager. It’s an endearingly nostalgic way to begin a film.

What we noted very quickly is how respectful people are who come to the Odyssey cinema. Both bars stay open throughout the film screening making the potential for disruption and distraction to your film a very real possibility. Nevertheless, whilst you are aware of people getting up to visit the bar or continuing to eat and drink next to you, it is done so very quietly( no-one wants to offend the person sat next to them, even the ones who we saw with small children) leading to no impact on the atmosphere or your experience. It’s a testament to the audience that this cinema attracts.

The Odyssey – The screen

With a varied film programme for those who like to expand their film repertoire outside the standard Marvel universe offering, you can also enjoy arthouse and independent films or re-runs of cinematic classics, from The Breakfast Club to Lawrence of Arabia. There are also accessible screenings for those who are hard of hearing which makes this cinema a venue for all of the community to maximise. Although there aren’t specific parent and baby screenings, you will see parents and children at the U and PG rated films. In fact the cinema actively encourages feedback from parents on what films they would like to put on for their younger audience.

But – this cinema is not about the kids. It’s all about giving the adults a really enjoyable experience, from the perfect film programme to the ability to eat cake and drink wine throughout your film. Make it about having time out with your partner, friends or family and watching that film you’ve been wanting to see in real comfort and luxury. Well done The Odyssey – you’ve set the bar very high for not only cinemas in Hertfordshire but in the UK.

Key takeaways

  • Nearest parking is a five minute walk away off London road. It can get pretty busy on a Saturday night so give yourself plenty of time.
  • Best seats are on the lower ground floor – book a table for two if available.
  • You need to book as soon as you can after the listings are released – this is on the last Saturday of the month.
  • Book online – don’t wait to purchase tickets on the day.
  • There is no popcorn allowed here or hot food – but there is a lot of other refreshments available. We LOVED the cheeseboard.
  • Make an effort to visit for the re-runs and classics as well as the newly released films – this cinema prides itself on it’s varied film programme, including the oldies and goodies.

Find out more information about The Odyssey, St Albans

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