St Albans' iconic cinema is reopening its doors after 19 years.

Owner of the Odyssey, James Hannaway, said the historic entertainment venue will open on Saturday, December 13.

The cinema has been converted from a four-screen multiplex into a single art-deco theatre which will seat more than 400 people.

In a statement, Mr Hannaway apologised for not being able to invite everyone to the opening four nights but urged film-lovers to be patient - because, he said,  the cinema is here to stay.

He said: "From our very first steps into that deep cavernous zombie-dead Odeon building in 2006, as understatements go, we were quick to notice it wasn’t a good idea.

"After 19 years derelict, and the overwhelming St Albans support, we knew we were never going to get everybody in for just one ridiculous opening night. 

"Now even with four opening nights, it is just as ridiculous.

"It is bound to be madness at first, but remember once we’re open, up and running, this Odyssey Cinema is here to stay.

"It’s been a long time dead, now it’s alive again, and not going anywhere. Nor can it be threatened ever again."

The building was bought for £1million by a group fronted by Mr Hannaway, the CEO of The Rex cinema in Berkhamsted, in 2009.

Residents dipped into their pockets to raise £1m towards reservation costs before Alex Heal, a St Albans Girls School pupil at the time, revealed to a packed audience in 2010 that it would be renamed The Odyssey - in a nod to director Stanley Kubrick who lived nearby.

Marion Hammant, who spearheaded the St Albans Civic Society’s campaign to prevent the historically-important building from being developed, called the cinema’s rebirth "magical".

She said: "It was never just a cinema, it is an interesting art-deco building that made a wonderful entry in to the town.

"We had films screened in the Arena and it’s good to be able to see films there.

"But to have a real cinema, an iconic cinema, that is not just cramming people into a small room in a multiplex but a real cinematic experience is just magical - it really lifts the heart."