Light House goes dark


THE Light House, which has provided Dublin audiences with a wealth of, quality international cinema over the past eight years, is to close down its two-screen Middle Abbey Street cinema on Thursday, September 26th. The news will come as a major blow to the dedicated audiences cultivated by the Light House since its inception and the closure, will reduce significantly the range of cinema available in Dublin.

The Light House directors, Neil Connolly and Maretta Dillon, have been leasing the present location from Arnotts, who own the building and are expanding their Henry Street premises back on to Middle Abbey Street, taking in the sites of the Light House and the former Adelphi cinema complex.

"We talked to Arnotts long and hard about getting space in their development, but it didn't work out," Maretta Dillon told Reel News. "We have to look for somewhere else now, again in the north inner city. We feel there's a future for the Light House and we want to build a new cinema which will have three screens and will continue the programming commitment we have demonstrated."

The Light House will be applying to the Department of Arts and Culture for partial funding of the new venture, she said, acknowledging that the whole process may take from 12 to 18 months. This will create a gaping chasm in the selection of international cinema available in Dublin - a chasm which cannot possibly be filled by the city's other art-house outlets, the Irish Film Centre and the Screen at D'Olier Street.

Since it opened its doors on the site of the former Curzon cinema on Middle Abbey Street, the Light House has carved a rich and distinctive niche for itself and has provided an invaluable contribution to the artistic life of the city. The tone of the programming was set with the very first presentations on November 11th, 1988 when one screen showed the work of a veteran French film-maker - Eric Rohmer's 4 Adventures Of Reinette & Mirabelle - while "the other presented the work of a precocious rising talent from Spain - Pedro Almodovar's The Law Of Desire.

Just as the Light House was, the first Irish cinema to put an Almodovar movie on release, so, too, did it introduce Irish audiences to the work of such diverse talents as Terence Davies, Ang Lee, Vincent Ward, Patrice Leconte, Jane Campion, Zhang Yimou, Denys Arcand, Julio Medem and Jeunet & Caro. One of the cinema's most notable commercial successes was Thaddeus O'Sullivan's first feature film, December Bride.

REFLECTING the programming policy established on its opening night, the Light House presented side by side with these emerging talents the work of more established but nonetheless imaginative film-makers as Peter Greenaway, Spike Lee, Bertrand Tavernier, John Sayles, Jacques Rivette, Derek Jarman and the great Krzysztof Kieslowski whose magnificent Three Colours trilogy was one of the unforgettable highlights of the cinema's later years. And the Light House paid tribute to cinema's history with such welcome re-releases as L'Atalante and Smiles Of A Summer Night.

This unique level of ambitious and adventurous programming has been to the forefront of a risk-taking and commendably thoughtful cinema operation, the lack of which the city can ill afford. I am sure that I speak for very many peopled when I express great regret for the passing of the light House and great enthusiasm - and great impatience - for its reincarnation.