Save this cinema, and some lunchtime theatre
The landlord, John Flynn, has issued a wind-up petition against the cinema, following a dispute over rent. The petition will be heard in the High Court on Monday. According to Slattery’s piece, “the landlord doubled the annual rent from €100,000 to €200,000 last May. The directors have withheld a portion of the rent charged.”
This would be little short of a disaster for many reasons. The Light House is, for my money, the finest cinema space with the most eclectic offering in the country. It is a joy to visit and it seems nonsense to think that a city the size of Dublin, with a population that goes to the cinema far more frequently than many of its European counterparts, cannot support two quality arthouse cinemas. I have not heard a bad word spoken about the Light House, and although it struggled financially, ticket receipts were on the up this year. The fact that it had a proper cafe space was another reason to choose it ahead of the multiplex – although there is little doubt which is more profitable: a cafe serving wine and bites, or a popcorn and bags-of-sweets concession.
For the landlord to take this move seems illogical. When Smithfield was developed, Dublin City Council made the inclusion of a cultural space a condition of the planning permission – it will be interesting to see what could be offered in its stead.
Secondly, it’s hard to imagine that there are prospective tenants queuing around the empty blocks of Smithfield square to move into a basement cinema space (unless, of course, one of the multiplex operators has already made moves in this direction). The commercial property market is awash with landlords negotiating concessions and downward rent reviews, with the overriding view that it is better to keep a sitting tenant than try to hike the rent and go into a threadbare market looking for new occupiers – and nowhere is this more true than in Smithfield. It almost encapsulates what has gone wrong with Dublin development, a vacant square lined with empty retail units and little signs of life. There is plenty of artistic activity in Smithfield but it is all taking place in temporary spaces with little or no rent changing hands. The Light House is the exception to this rule.
The cinema’s board of management is currently deciding on its next move, and the cinema is hoping to continue trading. It would be a crying shame if its demise was allowed to pass. The city would be all the poorer for it.
Last week, I decided to start making a recommendation at the beginning of each week for a show, exhibition, gig or event that you can squeeze in during a lunchtime, or perhaps before catching a bus home from work. This week it’s theatre’s turn.
Until April 23rd, you can catch 47 Roses at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre on Dublin’s Grafton Street. This is Peter Sheridan’s adaptation of his memoir of growing up in 1960s Dublin. This, though, is no maudlin tale of rats for pillows and stealing coal – it is complex, mysterious and deftly funny, with disarming characters weaving their way through betrayal and politics (don’t take my word for it – Peter Crawley’s review can be found over here). And you don’t even have to miss your lunch to see it – €4 more gets you a light lunch. Tickets are €8-12 and it’s bound to be more fun that queuing up at the canteen.