Re: Re: well what about the developments popping up in the shannonside ?

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Royal to be cinema again

By Marie Hobbins

THE glamour of going to the cinema in the city centre and emerging after the film into the buzz of urban streets is set to become a reality for Limerick in the very near future.

Hopes are very high this week that the old Royal Cinema on Cecil Street will soon reopen as a filmhouse.

Hugely optimistic that a development plan submitted to the Arts Council is about to get the green light is arts officer with Limerick City Council, Sheila Deegan, who has confirmed to the Limerick Post that the reopened Royal will show films seven nights a week as well as arthouse films during the day.

“We will not be competing with the bigger cinemas. The Royal, which was part of the Athenaeum Building that now houses the City VEC, was originally used as a lecture hall, school of art and library before it was handed over to the Limerick Corporation with a proviso that they used it to advance education in Limerick.

“As a cinema it will be a two-screener, one cinema seating 120 people and the other seating 60. We will provide “world cinema” – we might, for example run a season of Polish or Russian films, or Limerick Film Archive screenings and it will also act as an impetus to local film makers who could access it. The cinema will become a revenue client of the Arts Council and the Irish Film Institute.”

The arts officer said that with the cinema utilising just half of the building there is potential for further development.

“Once we get the go-ahead from the Arts Council we are ready to progress onto site,” she said.

Delighted with progress of the project so far, Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon who is chairman of Limerick VEC, explained that while 1.2 million euro is required to relaunch the building as a cinema, an allocation of 750 000 euro from the Arts Council and 150,000 euro from Limerick City Council are in place.

“As well as having two cinemas, a lift, coffee shop and equipment will have to be installed but there are some lovely marble features in the interior which will be retained.

“I welcome the return of the cinema to Cecil Street, it will be a boon to the city and hopefully will encourage developers to provide more inner-city cinemas, theatres and concert venues.”

Not so enthusiastic in his reaction to the news is former owner of the Royal, city businessman, Seamus Flynn.

“There are 720 seats in the Royal, it has three dressing rooms, a kitchen and sitting room backstage as well as a full sound system. I think it’s a pity to limit it’s potential. It could accommodate 1,000 for a stand-up concert – it has exits to three streets. As it is we have less theatre capacity in Limerick than there is in Tralee and Ennis. I’m not too impressed that just half of the Royal will be used – I feel this is a grab money and spend it manoeuvre.”

With the disappearance of the familiar sight of queues outside Limerick city cinemas, the Belltable Film Club, founded by Declan McLoughlan over 20 years ago has been the only city centre cinema venue. While Mr McLoughlan’s film archive as well as other cultural/educational film will be shown in the Royal in the mornings and afternoons, the Belltable’s chairman, John Gleeson says: “At night we can be as varied in our programmes as we like – there is great scope for variety.”

Welcoming the development, Mayor Diarmuid Scully said that as the only cultural cinema outside of Dublin and Belfast it is “a great boost for Limerick”.

The mayor said that the new Royal Filmhouse could also act as a catalyst for further development of inner city cinemas.

“Perhaps the major Ellen Street/Michael Street development due to come on stream would also be an ideal location for a beautiful new city cinema,” he suggested.

Mr Flynn said that among the legendary stars who appeared at the old Athenaeum building were John McCormack, Percy French, the international soprano, Catherine Hayes, The Cranberries, Boyzone and Helen Shapiro. The first talking picture, the Jazz Singer which starred Al Jolson was shown there in 1930.

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