St Albans Civic Society has pledged £2,500 to the ambitious plan to buy the Odeon in London Road and restore it as a working cinema in the hope of rallying others to dip into their pockets.

Members called an emergency meeting last night after cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway, who restored the Rex cinema in Berkhamstead, announced time was running out to complete a £1 million deal with the developers.

Eric Roberts of St Albans Civic Society said: "We have decided to make available to James £2,500 in order to try and help him secure the building, subject to certain checks we have to make regarding our charity status.

"It is a gesture from the Civic Society to encourage other organisations and people to come forward quickly. It's a dip in the ocean, but we are hoping to trigger some reponse from others."

Mr Hannaway, who by Thursday had raised a mere £108,000, said: "The flexibility we had hoped for is not there.

"The deadlines are firmly in place."

He said backers he had been hoping would stump up the bulk of the cash wanted too much return and it was down to people and businesses in St Albans to provide it.

Eric added: "The backers that James had have parted company so to speak. I think they wanted too much in return from their money. We are now trying to encourage people who have said 'wouldn't it be nice to have a cinema' to part with their money."