CINEMA entrepreneur James Hannaway has set himself a deadline of Friday to raise £200,000 to prevent the curtain falling on the St Albans cinema dream.

With more than £800,000 in the kitty, Mr Hannaway, owner of the Rex cinema in Berkhamsted, is just £200,000 short of the £1 million purchase price.

But Mr Hannaway is working on borrowed time to seal the deal, having over-run the deadline to exchange contracts, originally on February 8. The building is now up for sale and open to offers from other interested parties.

Despite pledges on paper to plug the hole, Mr Hannaway is urging the people of St Albans to delve into their pockets and sponsor a cinema seat for £1,000 in the newly refurbished cinema, already named Alpha.

In return the owner can choose to have his/her name embroidered on the seat or a plaque with either your name, or the name of a loved one, displayed in the building's foyer.

Mr Hannaway said: "The best way we can do this now is if 400 people suddenly bought seats for £1,000 each.

"We have got to do it, there's no other way."

He added: "£800,000 in less than six weeks for a small local cause must be a fund-raising first. It is wonderful, extraordinary and phenomenal in the true sense of each word.

"It's brilliant that people have been trusting and just put their money where their heart is - it's fantastic."

The snowballing campaign to raise the outstanding cash to secure the building and restore it to a working cinema has even stretched to online social networking site Facebook.

The Review reported yesterday how cyber supporters launched a forum, called The Alpha Cinema, St Albans, encouraging members to dip into their pockets and contribute to the scheme, either by way of a generous donation or by sponsoring a seat for £50.

Since its conception on Valentine's Day, the group, which has attracted nearly 40 members, has swelled the total by £1,085, with members promising to spare some coins.

To make a donation make your cheque payable to The Alpha Cinema Ltd/The Alpha St Albans Ltd and send to The Alpha St Albans, The Rex Cinema, Three Close Lane, High Street, Berkhamsted HP4 2FG.