The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Rex Cinema, Berkhamsted, Photo: By Wikidwitch

40 Buildings Saved

21. The Rex Cinema, Berkhamsted

Status: Listed Grade II
Architect: David Evelyn Nye
Owners: Rex Cinema
Location: High Street, Berkhamsted


This classic Art Deco cinema was designed by David Evelyn Nye and opened in 1938, with a curved concrete canopy and tall vertical windows illuminating a double-height entrance foyer, complete with large Art Deco chandelier and staircase. Much survives within, including an Art Deco proscenium arch with plaster decorations including wave motifs and shells and floral stucco friezes in the dining room.


The cinema declined, became a bingo hall, and closed in 1988 on its 50th anniversary, becoming derelict. In the mid-90s a developer planned to demolish it and plans were drawn up to  create offices and flats and even a spa in its place, despite the efforts of a local entrepreneur who hoped to restore it but was unable to raise funds.  It looked likely that the Rex would become a residential development.


Despite being discussed in the House of Commons the Rex was declined government subsidy. Then, after campaigning by the C20 Society – and supported by actors and personalities including Joan Bakewell, Hugh Grant, Hayley Mills and Ian Richardson – the cinema was spot-listed Grade II by Historic England.


The building re-opened to the public in 2004 as a 350-seat single-screen cinema. Its first screening was The Third Man: made during the Rex’s earlier heyday with screenplay by Graham Greene who grew up in Berkhamsted. It now shows films 362 days a year.

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