Along with a small group of trusted friends (most of whom are here, getting their hands dirty again, to restore The Odyssey), James Hannaway re-opened The Rex, Berkhamsted in December 2004 as a single screen repertory cinema, showing the best (and worst) films from across the world.
With an MA in Arts Administration, he ran a successful community arts project at Boxmoor Arts Centre from 1982 to 1994. His concern for the local area, its conservation and well-being, led him to become involved in the rescue and eventual restoration of the Rex. He claims none of it was planned. His driving aspiration was to save the old 1938, derelict Rex building from the usual predators. Film was secondary, but as it was an old cinema, it seemed only reasonable to restore it as one. It seemed hopeless for many years, but now after nearly six years, selling out five nights out of seven, week in, week out, it’s hard to remember it as a broken and neglected shadow on Berkhamsted High Street for sixteen years.
It took ten years from his first tentative involvement, to re-opening The Rex – one of the last exquisite art deco, single screen cinemas in Britain to be restored and brought back to life.
From the day it opened on 5th December 2004, in every gathering in the foyer, for every screening over six years, someone would ask about St. Albans – every single show!
He swore he’d never do it again. Now look at “another fine mess” you’ve got him into…
[Visiting The Rex is] the cinematic equivalent of turning left on a long-haul flight… Walking through the Rex’s discreet side-street entrance is like stepping instantly back into the golden age of film.
(Jasper Rees, writing in the Daily Telegraph)