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St Albans’ Odyssey: gorgeous, grown-up cinema

The newly-renovated Odyssey Cinema in St Albans only opened at the end of last year, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to pop over there ever since. So when Mr C came up trumps with tickets for my birthday, I was extremely impressed that he’d taken the hint.

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The same team that has made such a roaring success of the Rex in Berkhamsted are behind the Odyssey, and it shows. Great films – some mainstream, some really not – and an utterly gorgeous, grown-up experience combine to make going to the cinema about something more than the smell of over-priced popcorn and bags of rather tired pick’n’mix. I’ve loved the Rex since it opened – although squaring the beauty that it is now with my childhood memories of it as a multi-screen, sticky-floored, smoke-filled flea pit it used to be was tricky at first – and so I had high expectations for the Odyssey.

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And they were more than met. The cinema itself is huge and beautiful. You’re surrounded by Art Deco loveliness – the arch over the screen is just stunning – and you get to enjoy it all from the comfort of lovely swivelly armchairs, so you can get your viewing angle just right, or from the equally comfortable circle seats. Add in little tables on which to perch your drinks and snacks (so much more than popcorn), and it’s a pretty much perfect place to relax and watch the film.

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Being able to enjoy a glass of wine – or a beer, in Mr C’s case – with your film is infinitely nicer than slurping fizzy pop through a straw. (Or, as I did recently, spilling an entire takeout cup of tea all over yourself as you’re standing up to let someone squeeze past.) The Odyssey not only has a bar upstairs by the box office and circle, but also one downstairs where the tables are, with a decent selection of wine and beer (and snacks) to choose from.

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The Odyssey isn’t quite finished yet, despite having been open for a little while now. There are a couple of bits that still need a lick of paint, and the bar at the back of the downstairs is still mostly plywood, but that in no way detracts from the experience. It already feels luxurious and elegant – sort of cross between a really good theatre and a nightclub cabaret, which is a darn sight more attractive than your local multiplex.

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It’s definitely worth a visit – and it’s still easier to book for than the Rex, which seems to sell out in minutes when each month’s tickets are released. I know we’ll be going back, and I’m definitely not waiting for another birthday. What’s not to like? Great films, great seats, great venue – and a glass of wine while you’re at it.

Odyssey, 166 London Road, St Albans, AL1 1PG, 01727 453088,

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