Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The Light House is no more

The sad, if expected, news reached us today that The Light House, the gorgeous arthouse cinema in Dublin’s Smithfield, is to close following the granting of a winding-up order to the site’s landlords. The rent — as detailed in the …

Fri, Apr 15, 2011, 18:43

   

The sad, if expected, news reached us today that The Light House, the gorgeous arthouse cinema in Dublin’s Smithfield, is to close following the granting of a winding-up order to the site’s landlords. The rent — as detailed in the initial contract — had recently risen from €100,000 to €200,000 per annum. I have just talked to Neil Connolly, who co-managed the cinema with Maretta Dillon, and, while not disputing that rent was due, he has expressed surprise that no arrangement could be made with Fusano Properties.

Neil also acknowledged that, in recent months, following hits such as The King’s Speech, True Grit and Black Swan, the cinema had seen a significant increase in ticket sales. “Things have been getting much better,” he says. “We’ve cut costs steadily. We’ve been growing the audience. The first months of 2011 were a lot better than 2010. The financial position was improving, but we could never get to point where we would be able to pay €200,000 in 2011.”

There are a great many ins and outs surrounding The Light House’s demise. But it’s hard to avoid depressing considerations of the failure of Smithfield to take off as a bustling, up-market Bohemian quarter. Seven or eight years ago, it did seem just about possible that the area might evolve in that direction. But now empty business spaces yawn gloomily at the massive Albert Speeresque gas lamps which — to the surprise of absolutely nobody — were never maintained and stand as one of many urban monuments to planning hubris. I mean no disrespect to long-term residents. I’m sure it’s still a fine place to live. But the current situation is certainly not what the men with wrecking balls originally intended.

What of the cinema itself? It would be a disgrace if the facility failed to rise again. Most Dublin-based readers of this “blog”  will have memories of enjoying some Russian epic or mumblecore masterpiece from the brightly coloured seats. Well, the landlord claims that he has had interest from two cinema operators and, as we understand it, the planning permission dictates that the space be used for “cultural cinema”. But it seems that any such operator would still be required to fork out €200,000 per year. See if there’s any change down the back of the sofa.

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