Limerick's Royal cinema to reopen as arthouse venue

 

The historic old Royal cinema in Limerick, which staged performances by John McCormack and Percy French, is set to reopen as the city's first dedicated arthouse cinema.

A plan has been submitted to the Arts Council for a 180-seat twin-screen cinema showing films from around the world.

A total of €1.2 million is needed to relaunch the Royal as an arthouse venue, with funding of €750,000 from the Arts Council and €150,000 from Limerick City Council already in place. It is understood the shortfall would be obtained through a bank loan, with the local authority acting as guarantor.

The original Athenaeum building first opened as a theatre in 1845 and became the Royal cinema in 1947. The decline in cinema audiences and the growth of the video rental market sparked the closure of the cinema in 1985 and it was later used as an occasional live music venue.

Down through the years, the building witnessed performances from operatic star Catherine Hayes, tenor John McCormack, entertainer Percy French and more recently rock band the Cranberries.

The proposal to reopen the venue as an arthouse cinema is currently before the Arts Council, and Limerick city arts officer Sheila Deegan said she was optimistic of a favourable decision early in the New Year.

"We are certainly very passionate about getting it up and running and we are trying to enhance the cultural infrastructure of the city by supporting an arthouse cinema," she said.

It is understood the proposed cinema will screen films to cater for Limerick's growing non-national population.

It will also screen footage from the Limerick Film Archive compiled by the Belltable film club, which has been running for more than 20 years.