• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 15, 2011 @ 11:57 am

    Why this might not be the end for the Light House

    Laurence Mackin

    The High Court has ordered the Light House cinema in Smithfield to be wound up. As a brief recap, the cinema was disputing its rent with its landlord, which was doubled in line with its lease agreement. The cinema argued that it couldn’t afford the increased rent, as it was based on the area developing into a vibrant quarter with higher footfall, which has not happened. Mediation failed, and now the cinema will be wound up, after the landlord brought a petition to the High Court (for more details on this click here and here).

    So what now for the cinema space? First off, in order for a multiplex or any other business to move into the space, the developer would have to go back to Dublin City Council and get the planning permission changed – currently it is designated as “a cultural space” and it is difficult to imagine the council changing its mind.

    Secondly, given the ghost-town nature of the area, prospective tenants are hardly queuing around the hollow blocks to move in – although planning permission is being sought for a Tesco in an adjacent unit.

    Thirdly, it should be remembered that the State has sunk €1.75 million into this building and will no doubt want to see a return on its investment. To this end, the Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan has already said that the property could be run as an art-house cinema by the Cultural Cinema Consortium, which is made up of members of the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board. This seems to me the most likely outcome.

    The cinema in its current guise might be at an end, but I wouldn’t consider the lights to be doused just yet.

    • click here says:

      Does anyone know if the Light House can appeal the High Court’s decision?

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Off the top of my head, I think it could but anyone who knows better please do weigh in. An appeal, I think, would have to go to the Supreme Court and the money involved in such an action is astronomical. Given that the cinema already owes €157,000 in rent, I cannot imagine the cinema’s operators have the money to fund an appeal.

    • Diarmuid. says:

      It’s very hard to take positives out of a decision like this. Once again greed and stupidity prevails. With book shops and record shops closing down in Dublin and now the best arthouse cinema in the country gone, it’s an increasingly depressing place to live.

      City of culture? Yeah, right.

    • Buffalo says:

      The Lighthouse was for me the perfect cinema. Great selection of films, very comfortable screens with great sound and picture, always had a respectful crowd who were there to watch the films, not munch popcorn or talk on the phone.
      I certainly won’t be making the effort to go and see as many films in the cinema now as I used to. While I like the IFI it is inferior to the Lighthouse in terms of comfort and also I can’t stand Temple Bar. This is a very bleak day.

    • Esther says:

      This is a travesty. Instead of getting €100k in rent the landlord will now get nothing. The Lighthouse is a great cinema & a lovely place to be. Great selection of movies which run for a good length of time. The cafe was lovely and the clientele even nicer. My support & sympathy goes out to the people & staff behind the LIghthouse.

    • Paul says:

      I think it is a great shame that such a good cinema, well run and in my humble estimation a good programming policy should be would up. The debt they had was paltry – less one assumes than the Abbey Theatre or Wexford Opera Festival would spend on a main stage production and certainly considerably less than would be spent on a film production. Extraordinary in this context that the Arts Council or indeed the Film Board could not have furnished a once off grant and that some kind of sensible negotiation could take place between landlord, tenant and NAMA. It is a shame for the city and most particularly for the Smithfield area which is beginning to feel more and more like a ghost estate…

    • Roisin K. says:

      I too am very dissappointed. I live in the area and it was great to have such a place closeby – all we have now is… the Dice Bar, The Elbow Room and 1Escape… Oh, and the horse fair!
      Sympathies to the staff there from me too.

    • Yes, the closing of a decent cinema is travesty, I live in the States, and in many places we are overrun with the multiplex that show the same old shit that all cinemas show. So when we do get a decent cinema that shows art house type movies for some reason they are seldom profitable and are in often in danger closing. In the case of the Lighthouse Cinema, maybe due to the economic investment by the State, the government will interviene to try to recoup it’s investment and keep it a worthwhile cultural space.
      You know one thing I love about Dublin is that there are plently of things to do that do not involve shopping. Here in the States, in many cities that cannot be said unless you live in New York or San Francisco because there is just so little cultural investment. I have a friend who is a painter, he paints Andy Wahol type pictures of old hollywood celebrities such as Liz Taylor, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, etc and cannot find a venue to display his work. I suggested an Art house cinema maybe a good venue, he said, get this , “We don’t have one”. The shocking part is he lives in Washington, DC. I do have question concerning Smithfield, is Smithfield the area of the city behind Collins Baracks, the Four Courts, and Jameson or is it somewhere else ? While I am a little familar with Dublin as I have been many times, I am just making sure I am thinking of the right section if the city.

    • click here says:

      @ 5 (Esther) –

      No, no – the landlord doesn’t get nothing. He gets a state-of-the-art cinema (which presumably those behind the Light House worked their asses off to secure) for nothing, and (according to him) at least two big cinema companies lined up to bid against each other to get their hands on it.

      Nasty work by Fusano.

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Jennifer – you’re in the neighbourhood alright

      Esther, Paul and others – arts funding agencies have already funded the Light House to the tune of €1.7 million. Putting a “once off” grant in place would be no more than a stop gap and could be simply shoving money into a cinema that in its current incarnation would only close later rather than sooner. I cannot imagine anyone in any of the arts agencies making this decision or being able to defend this decision.

      I am disappointed the cinema has closed – but again I don’t think this is the end. This is a perfect opportunity for the new Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan to act quickly and decisively to put in place a team to manage the cinema and get it open again in the nearest future – as he has previously hinted.

      The landlord also broke cover recently to make a few points, here’s a link to the Irish Times piece:

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Click Here – The government has said that it will seek to get back the money it invested in the cinema should the cinema close altogether.

      Also where did the landlord say he had two big companies willing to move in? I’ve been looking for this and can’t find it, so would love to see it.

      Also, I believe the Light House is used by IFCO for its screenings (I think it even moved across the city to be closer to the Light House for this purpose) so there are revenue streams there that may not be immediately apparent. There could well be a viable business opportunity in place, even at the increased rents.

    • Sean Brody says:

      Laurence, your piece states that the space must remain a ‘cultural space’, while Ronan’s says that it “must remain as an arthouse cinema as a condition of its planning permission.”

      Can you clarify?


    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Sean – I checked the archives on this and I believe the exact phrase used in the planning permission was for a “cultural space” – so it would need to be an art gallery, art house cinema or such like. A multiplex would not fulfill this remit. Hope that clears it up.

    • Thanks Laurence for the conformation on the location, I may have passed it but sadly I have never been it. I have been in the area to visit friends who live in Smithfield and to see other Attractions such as St. Michans Church (mainly to see the vault with the mummies), Jameson, Four Courts, and Collins Baracks. It is ashame that this cinema went under, and that Smithfield has failed in its efforts to gentrify. Here in the States, efforts to improve rundown areas of our cities have gone belly up as well when our bubble burst. I was in Dublin 3 times from December 2009 to December 2010 (I also visited last April during the ash cloud) and I was struck by the increasing emptiness of the city, especially on the Four Courts side of the Liffy. There used to be more pubs, shops, restuarants, etc. It looked to me like they just folded up overnight. Are they really shuttng down the horse fair and moving the town sqaure?

    • I love the Light House, and I’ve loved every film I’ve seen there, the total number of which may be around five. I suspect I’m not the only one who “loves the Light House” but does not frequent; I would imagine, much like young Dylan Haskins, it is now cursed with popular-on-Facebook, deserted-in-real-life status.

      This is obviously a good thing, all told – now the hip ‘n’ happening Converse-wearing youth of our fair city not only have Block T for their sporadic, “pop-up” BYOB events, they have an arthouse cinema for their sporadic, “pop-up” BYOB movie screenings. A sad day for Dublin; a joyous day for hipsterkind.

    • Eoghan Nolan says:

      I never even made it to a single film in Smithfield, but I was glad that it was there for those who did, glad if my taxes had helped and glad that there are still people with energy and vision creating amenities like this for the rest of us.
      What a wonderful opportunity for the new government and new arts minister to show what they are made of, to demonstrate that they (unlike their predecessors)won’t let the remorseless cleaver of debt and development and moneylust cut down another beacon.

    • Ted says:

      Barring a successful appeal it IS the end for The Light House.
      It may not be the end for the use of the premises as a cinema provided the landlord’s rent demands, the state’s investment stake, and the Council’s ‘cultural use’ criteria are all met.
      The amount of state investment is actually €1.95m if one includes the more recent (post fit-out) €200,000 grant for digital projection equipment, presuming it has been installed.

    • aidybop says:

      I live close by and will miss not having this outstanding cinema on my doorstep any longer. Can the IFI not move their facility there? After all only one out of the three IFI cinemas comes any way close to the smallest of the four Lighthouse cinemas in terms of viewing comfort (anyone ever get the extreme right seats in IFI 2…and leave with a stiff neck??) On many of my frequent visits to the Lighthouse there were many empty seats. I often questioned its viability. It seems cinema goers weren’t willing to make the short Luas trip/ walk to Smithfield if the same pictures (as was often the case) were playing in IFI

    • click here says:

      @ 11 (Laurence):


      Okay, perhaps when I read that I inserted the word “big”.

      Nevertheless, none of the landlord’s actions really seem to make sense – I remain suspicious!

    • Buffalo says:

      From what I understand the cinema has been making a profit recently. Certainly it has been busy every time I have been there in the past year. So a profitable business with 20 employees has to go under because the landlord wants to increase the rent? And the courts side with the developers. Nice one.

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Clcike Here – I’m a complete toolbar, I must have read that piece 10 times and didn’t see that paragraph for some reason. Bizarre. I’d still be sceptical though if those two operators are really interested and would meet the cultural remit. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

      Buffalo – Although ticket sales had improved in the past year I don’t think it was in clear profit. Plus it hadn’t been paying its rent.

    • This is a silly question but, What is the name of the building with the Blue Facade in Temple Bar, I think it is some kind of theater? I think it is either right before or right past The Turks Head , the Purdy Kitchen, and I can see it as I sip my coffee in front of the Stage Door Cafe. Also what kind of space is the old church where they sometimes hold a flea market in Temple Bar? Is this also an artistic space? Maybe the Lighthouse can consolidate or expand, with one of the other venues as Temple Bar seems overrun. I would really hate to see a decent cultural venue go under. As I said above Dublin seems to be getting kind of empty, lately.

    • Graham says:

      Put this 21 century cinema any major city in the world and it will be successful . It is one of the best designed cinema’s in the world . So the landlord increases the rent astronomically and everyone in Ireland has to lose out on having this amazing attraction . Sorry but this makes no sense at all .
      As a country that is trying to attract new tourists we need to hold onto these important buildings that are cultural landmarks .

      The government or some wealthy business person (U2) should step up and stop us from losing this incredible cinema .

    • niall dunne says:

      If we can justify spending millions of Euro each year translating documents from English to Irish that nobody bar the translaters will ever read, then I think we can justify keeping the lighthouse – in it’s current form – open. I’ve watched dozens of films there over the last few years that weren’t playing anywhere else, and I’m a better person for it. This makes me quite sad.

    • Mary says:

      The landlords do not care whether the building is empty or not. The value of the building and thus the loan is based on the notional rent so the landlord would prefer to put out the view that the rent is 200.000 grand which values up his loan in NAMA. That is why so many shops are empty in shopping centres. The landlord can not be seen to drop the rent because it would devalue the whole centre and he would appear even more over borrowed . It is lets play pretend. The head of NAMA himself is going along with this PRETEND philosophy when he said to a meeting of chartered surveyors recently that he did not want to see the Upward Only Rent Review legislation brought in as it would devalue the NAMA portfolio. We have got to keep pretending that the property in Nama is worth x amount when in the real world it is worth 50% less then x. So much for our great white knight NAMA now part of the problem not the solution. These people are happy to shut good businesses down and lose jobs so that they can pretend that their debt is not quite as big as it actually is. The landlord in the lighthouse should be asked to return the 1.75 million that the state put into this facility.

    • Mary says:

      I am keeping a list of premises closed due to extortionate rents . Feel free to add to it . There are many more coming down the track.

      Adams Childrens Wear
      Alan Shoes
      Blacktie- Dawson Street and Blackrock
      Budget Travel
      Celtic Bookmakers
      Formes – maternity
      Golden Discs
      Henry Jermyn
      Harvest pub chain Galway
      Jay Bourke Restaurant
      Louis Mulcahy
      Mao Rerstaurant
      Mermaid Restaurant
      Monica John – ladies wear
      Motion Picture
      No Name
      O’Briens Sandwiches
      Pia Bang
      Pepe jeans
      Pulse Accessories
      4 Star Pizza
      Tie Rack
      Total Fitness Gyms
      Vera Moda
      Zavvi Records
      Zerep Shoes
      Zhivago, Galway
      Zumo Juice Bars
      AND NOW Lighthouse Cinema

      AND many many more small independent/family traders throughout Ireland

    • Rod says:


      While the higher footfall that the “Tesco in an adjacent unit” would bring might help a new arthouse cinema in the area, that unit is The Complex theatre, which would then close as a result. That venue has also worked hard in the last few years to try to bring visitors and a cultural boost to the area, so it’s closure and replacement with a Tesco would actually be another sad blow for the area.

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Rod – don’t get me wrong, I know where that Tesco is for and I’m not saying this is a good thing. I was using it as an example of how there are companies out there looking for units in the area and the nature of business they will bring – as you said, “another sad blow for the area”.

    • Ted says:

      On the wider point, the sooner the better that NAMA, local authorities, landlords and the relevant Government departments and agencies realise that they need to act like CIE did in the pre-recovery area now known as ‘Temple Bar’.
      Peppercorn rents for low-cost making, participation and enjoyment of cultural activity would go a very long way to revitalising empty areas and developments.

    • Jolien Hampson says:

      As usual,so called business people cant see the importance of places such as The Lighthouse cinema.Presently in Ireland movies and cinema are essential.In fact, I feel there could be more cinemas in Dublin as the demand is definately there.The government should not have let this cinema close…its a disgrace.And now 20 people have lost their jobs because of a landlord who thinks its still 2006!And all we have is an empty cinema.Time to think outside the box and start supporting hardworking people.If we dont change this approach soon then Dublin will be a ghost town.

Search Pursued by a Bear