New doors open for director with a cinematic background
The 1950s were the heyday of the silver screen here but with upgrades around the country Paul Anderson may be looking at a sequel
“In the early days, films were shown in Dublin first. Then they want on to Cork, Galway and Limerick. By the time the film reel got to towns such as Skibbereen it would be really worn and parts would be missing.
“The Sound of Music played in Irish cinemas for three years. If you wanted to see it in the year it came out, you had to go to Dublin. The cinema on Talbot Street screened it for a year before it went to cinemas around the rest of the country.”
Back then, different cinemas showed different movies, and tough negotiations had to be done between film distributors and cinemas.
“We owned the Ambassador cinema on O’Connell Street... if the Savoy or Carlton got a film, then the Ambassador couldn’t have it. Thus we were trying to survive on a few big movies per year.
“There used to be huge politics in trying to get film rights. Since the Competition Authority came in, that has all changed because everyone has to get the film. It’s good and bad as it’s harder to have a unique selling point. It wouldn’t work in the fashion industry. Imagine if everyone was able to sell Louis Vuitton.”
While competition among cinema owners for the rights to screen a particular film may have gone, the distributors still get a huge portion of the box office.
“The distributors always get a percentage of the box office and reap their money from ticket sales. They take the lion’s share of the ticket price, which sometimes could be over 60 per cent, and we make our money on concessions.”
As well as showing the latest blockbuster films, the Omniplex group has also moved into screening alternative content, such as the Bolshoi Ballet live from Moscow, the opera live from the Met in New York, live concerts and sporting events.
“Live streaming is beginning to take a foothold and get very popular. We show live at the Met [live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York] every Saturday and it’s always booked out in advance. The opera has brought us a new audience every week – the grey-haired brigade – who might not be regular cinema goers ordinarily.”
“Last night we had the Robbie Williams concert beamed in from Tallinn. Everyone in the cinema was swaying their hands in the air like they were actually at the concert.”
Multi-million euro revamp
The Omniplex group is in the midst of a multi-million euro revamp of four of its cinemas, with €3 million being spent on the Omniplex in Newry, €2.5 million in Limerick and €4 million in Cork.
The group got final approval to build an additional four screens at the Swan Centre in Rathmines in July of this year, with construction beginning this week.
“We have been trying to put cinema screens in there ever since we bought the Swan Centre in 1999. It took over 10 years just to get the first four screens in as there were a lot of objections from residents.”