Comments from Torchlight

Showing 1 - 25 of 70 comments

Torchlight commented about Alhambra Theatre on Feb 6, 2024 at 2:13 am

Only a few years after the Alhambra had closed, the Belfast Telegraph (6 April 1964) reported that Belfast City Council had rejected plans to build a cinema, dance hall and bowling alley complex on a site at 30/36 North Street, almost opposite the Alhambra. The applicant was Compton Cinemas, London. Could this possibly have been the same company which operated an adult cinema in the heart of London’s Soho from 1960 to the 1970s?

Torchlight commented about Imperial Picture House on Feb 6, 2024 at 2:09 am

A year before the Imperial opened its doors, the possibility of another cinema opening nearby was being contemplated. Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT), having opened their Picture House in Royal Avenue in 1911, were looking at a second house in the city centre. To this end they had their eyes set on a site at 5/7 High Street (occupied by Hyams, clothiers and outfitters); the plan would have involved linking the rear of that building to an adjacent site which had its frontage at 12 Cornmarket (occupied by Linden’s “High class confectionery and pastry”) only a few doors away from the Imperial. Irish cinema historian and author Kevin Rockett says the project was considered too ambitious as it wouldn’t have produced an adequate return. It did not proceed.

Torchlight commented about Avenue Cinema on Jan 29, 2024 at 5:20 am

Continuing with super cinemas which didn’t happen. In July 1946 it was reported that Rank had acquired the Picture House in Royal Avenue and adjoining property so a 5,000-seater cinema (the largest in the UK!), ballroom and café could be erected. A sum of £600,000 was said to be involved in the project. In August the same year, Kine Weekly gave the seating capacity as 3,000. However, the deal was not completed; reasons must surely have included post-WW2 restrictions on new building construction.

In March 1947 Curran Theatres acquired the Picture House; it was the local chain’s first incursion into the city centre. It’s been suggested that Curran’s subsequent refit, renovation and rebranding as the Regent was but stage 1 of a project which would eventually lead to demolishing the building and replacing it with a 3,000-seater. Stage 2, however, did not happen.

Frustrated with the lack of progress over the Picture House site, Rank cast its eye over other city centre sites. In 1948 planners, apparently, gave them permission to build a 3,000-seater cinema on an unnamed bomb-damaged site; this report proved to be unfounded. Nevertheless, in 1954 the Belfast Telegraph reported that construction of a 1,750-seater in Fountain Street (same site as 1948?) would commence in the autumn. This didn’t happen either! (Sources include ‘Cinemas and Cinema-Going in the United Kingdom Decades in Decline, 1945-65’ by Sam Manning, 2020 and ‘Standing Room Only’ by James Doherty, 1997.)

During the mid-1950s Rank’s acquisitions of the two leading local chains, Curran and Irish Theatres, changed their perspective on super-cinemas in the city centre. Instead of turning their attention back to the Picture House (by then the Regent) site, at the start of the Sixties Rank bought the Hippodrome and Grand Opera House which sat side-by-side in Great Victoria Street. These were turned into their flagship venues in the city centre. The outcome was that the Regent was, to some extent, sidelined. That said, they did spend money on it and changed its name to the Avenue in 1965.

Torchlight commented about Avenue Cinema on Jan 29, 2024 at 5:04 am

Following-up on the last Comment, Irish film historian and writer Kevin Rockett said that Paramount’s attempt to enter the Belfast market in 1931 was unsuccessful. He quoted from a press report stating that its proposed super cinema was postponed due to the economic depression. Rockett didn’t give any details about the intended site and so it’s unclear if this was the same plan he was referring to in the following paragraph.

Rockett also writes that Paramount seemed to have become involved with the Picture House in Royal Avenue, with a view to erecting a super cinema there; this development would stretch onto an adjacent site. Progress on this plan was postponed. (Source: ‘Film Exhibition and Distribution in Ireland, 1909 - 2010’ by Kevin Rockett, Four Courts Press, 2011).

Further back, on 19 May 1925, the Belfast Telegraph, in a brief report, said that the Grand Central Hotel (the city’s premier hotel, which was close by the Picture House) was to be turned into a super cinema and restaurant. Nothing further came of that.

Torchlight commented about Strand Arts Centre on Oct 28, 2023 at 5:09 am

Belatedly responding to the comments of July 2, which I’ve only just seen - The idea of a cinema on this site was conceived by Strand Cinemas (Belfast) Ltd., a locally owned company. One of their directors, Harry Wilton, was already well-known in local cinema circles. The company purchased the site and plans drawn up by architect Thomas Guthrie were submitted to the City Surveyor on March 26, 1935. Around this time Union Cinemas took over the project. McBride Neil, who was already making a name for himself as a cinema designer, was appointed and his new plans were submitted and approved. Tt seems unlikely that McBride Neil would have borrowed from Guthrie’s ideas, but we shall probably never know as no trace of the latter’s plans have been seen. Harry Wilton was appointed as the new cinema’s first managing director.

Torchlight commented about IMC Newtownards on Jun 8, 2023 at 1:05 am

By June 2023 the building had been been rebranded as IMC.

Torchlight commented about IMC Omagh 9 on Nov 6, 2022 at 2:36 am

The cinema closed in April 2022. No official statement was made by IMC at the time but in reply to a tweet (29 April) the company said ‘it was closed for the foreseeable future’. The cinema is now on the market and still ‘fitted out for immediate use’. The commercial estate agent Osborne King states that ‘The front building is of modern construction with older original commercial buildings to the rear.’ The sale brochure also says that the buildings and car park run to 17,039sq.ft. (Source BelfastLive.Co.UK, 25 May 2022)

Torchlight commented about Movies @ The Square Tallaght on Nov 3, 2022 at 6:43 am

Following substantial refurbishment, this cinema was reopened by Christmas 2021 by the Movie@ cinema chain. It is now known as Movies@TheSquare.

Torchlight commented about Avenue Cinema on Mar 3, 2022 at 6:51 am

Belfast City Council has given the green light for a new multiplex cinema, entertainment and retail complex on the 120,00 sq ft site formerly occupied by Catsle Court’s anchor store Debenham’s, which closed in 2021. The 9 luxury screens alongside a licenced bar would be operated by Omniplex, Ireland’s largest cinema chain, using its new luxury cinema brand, The Avenue. It’s no coincidence that is also the site where the original Avenue cinema (closed 1982) stood on. The new cinema is scheduled to open in December 2022.

Torchlight commented about Omniplex Nenagh on Dec 17, 2021 at 2:54 am

As previously noted by popcorn_pete, the Ormond was taken over by Omniplex in January 2021 and rebranded. Since then there has been a prolonged period of what was referred to on their website as temporary closure. That’s all in the past now - the Omniplex Nenagh opened for business on 17th December 2021.

Torchlight commented about Omniplex Cinema on Oct 17, 2021 at 2:50 am

According to the Roscommon Herald, the C & L Plex was taken over by Omniplex on 8th August 2019. On 5th August the previous owners had announced that they were closing the doors with immediate effect. The paper also reported that Omniplex planned to reopen the cinema on 9th August.

Torchlight commented about Cineworld Belfast on Sep 27, 2021 at 7:18 am

In a press release on 27 September 2021, Cineworld announced that it was now recruiting staff for its first Northern Ireland cinema. The 13-screen (one more screen than previously) is due to open in November. The cinema has remained closed since 17 March 2020, initially as a result of the pandemic, while the fit-out takes place.

Torchlight commented about Strand Arts Centre on Aug 8, 2020 at 6:06 am

The conversion of the Strand from a single screen to a 4-screen in 1988 reduced the number of seats to 642 (see Overview for details). The current total is 608: Screen 1 – 250, Screen 2 – 180, Screen 3 – 98 and Screen 4 – 80.

Torchlight commented about Movie House Dublin Road on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:36 am

In a post published on their website today, Movie House Cinemas has confirmed that the cinema will close on Sunday 26 April 2020. Michael McAdam, Managing Director of Movie House, said: “It’s the end of an era on the Dublin Road and we want to thank all our customers and staff teams for their support over the years."

Torchlight commented about Movie House City Side on Dec 9, 2019 at 9:23 am

Screens 1, 2, 3, 8 and 14 now have VIP seating (at no extra fee).

Torchlight commented about Cineworld Belfast on Oct 18, 2019 at 1:14 am

A £17m redevelopment of the Odyssey Pavilion, aimed at making it the “biggest leisure attraction” in Ireland, was announced on 17 October 2019 (sources: Belfast Telegraph and Belfast Live). The 12-screen cinema will change hands (date not yet made public), becoming the first Cineworld in Northern Ireland. The new owners intend to spend £4m on a rolling fit-out, providing “minimal disruption to visitors".

Torchlight commented about Movie House Dublin Road on Aug 17, 2019 at 12:50 am

In a statement posted on its website on 14 August 2019, Movie House Cinemas said that Dublin Road will remain open in the autumn and possibly well beyond. The update revealed that Movie House Cinemas didn’t have an exact date for the cinema’s closure but further information would be posted when this was known.

Torchlight commented about Regal Cinema on Aug 11, 2019 at 1:52 am

The opening advertisement, which appeared in the Newtownards Chronicle, 21 March 1914, included the following line – ‘Whenever you come to Donaghadee, “Dinna forget” the wee “Picture Hoosie” down by the sea’. The opening report in the same paper on 28 March was essentially brief. It noted that a new and up to date projector had been installed but no seating details were given. The proprietor was named as Bob Evans but the first entry seen in the Belfast and Ulster Street Directory (1916) shows E. J. Evans as proprietor.

The KYB for 1927 shows D. Frazier as the lessee of the cinema although the street directory for 1930 still shows E. J. Evans as the proprietor. Perhaps Evans was the owner of premises and Frazier was the cinema operator (lessee). A period of closure followed in the early 1930s (dates not known). The Brevitees column in the County Down Spectator, 15 April 1933, in a couple of lines under the heading ‘Just think of it’, bemoans that ‘There is no cinema licence in Donaghadee. Our picture house requires a lessee. Anyone game?’ The KYB for 1934 shows T. Duffy as lessee so it appears that the cinema had reopened.

This new situation only persisted for a time because on 15 February 1936 the County Down Spectator announced that a new picture house will open on Monday next – 17 February 1936. The old name had been dropped and it was now called the Regal Cinema. The owners were Solar Cinemas, whose offices were in Corporation Street, Belfast. The cinema had been newly equipped with ‘the most up to date sound and talkie equipment in the country’. A new manager, Mr William McDonald, had also been appointed. Seating was given as 300, the same as previous.

The Regal may have closed around 6 April 1968. The last press advert seen was in the Newtownards Chronicle, 28 March 1968, which detailed the programme to 6 April. There was no indication of any closure pending and no editorial coverage has been found.

In February 2019 it was announced that Copeland Gin are to transform the building on the former cinema site. The new premises will include a visitor centre, events space and fully-operational gin and whiskey distillery. Copeland Gin takes its name from the Copelands Islands, a group of three small islands north of Donaghadee.

Torchlight commented about Regal Cinema on Aug 4, 2019 at 3:41 am

The Picture House opened on 25 March 1914; the proprietor was named as Bob Evans.

Torchlight commented about Ritz Cinema on Jul 15, 2019 at 11:57 am

The original cinema on this site was The Palace Unity De-Luxe which opened on 8 January 1921. It was a replacement for The Palace, also in Frances Street which had opened on 18 October 1913 as Our Picture House. Within a few weeks it had become Your Picture House. Then around 15 January 1916 it changed its name, again, to The Palace (possibly because the town’s other cinema was called The Picture House). The Palace (a wooden building) was destroyed by fire on 2 November 1918.

Robert Morrison, the owner of The Palace was determined to find a new, more suitable, building and purchased the former Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church premises at 15 Frances Street (the congregation had relocated). Members of this denomination were often referred to as Unitarians and this may have been the reason why Morrison initially included Unity in the name of his new cinema. He died in 1925 and the business was subsequently run by his son Campbell, who had been managing the cinema.

Torchlight commented about Movie House Dublin Road on Jun 3, 2019 at 1:45 pm

In an update posted on their website today, Movie House Cinemas announced that their Dublin Road cinema (due to close this month) will remain open until the end of August at least.

Torchlight commented about Tonic Cinema on Apr 10, 2019 at 3:41 am

Within a few months of opening the Tonic, John O'Neill got into financial difficulties and had to sell his beloved cinema. The new owner, from November 1936, was Curran Theatres, one of the leading locally owned chains. By December 1956 it had become part of Odeon (Northern Ireland) Ltd. It was not until 3rd March 1969, however, that the Tonic name was dropped in favour of Odeon. In November 1974 it passed into local ownership again, this time as part of Belfast Cinemas Ltd. Around 7th March 1975 it reverted to the Tonic name and it remained that way until its closure on 29th October 1983.

Torchlight commented about Odeon Stillorgan on Apr 7, 2019 at 9:22 am

On 1 June 2011 the Odeon/UCI group announced the acquisition of nine existing cinemas and two pipeline cinemas from Enterprises Enterprises (EE). Apart from three UCI cinemas and five Storm cinemas, the deal included the “recently acquired” Ormonde cinema at Stillorgan, according to the press release.

The previous owners of the Ormonde (prior to the sale to EE) were the O’Gorman family, who at that time, in partnership with the Spurling family, also owned two multiplexes in the Dublin area – Movies @ Dundrum and Movies @ Swords.

Regarding the claim that it was operated by Movies @ prior to the sale to EE; perhaps there was a level of management involvement by or co-operation with Movies @ in the period in question. For instance, the press ads in the Irish Times in the months prior to the sale to Odeon/UCI placed the Ormonde displays alongside the Movies @ displays, although they were not joint ads.

The Ormonde closed in early May 2011. It reopened on 12 July 2011 as a UCI; it was fully digital and able to show 3D features.

Torchlight commented about Odeon Cavan on Apr 7, 2019 at 9:09 am

Odeon’s acquisition of the cinemas owned by Entertainment Enterprises (EE) took place in 2011, not 2010. The rebrand of Cavan would have taken place in 2012 at the earliest. See also entry on this website for Odeon, Point Square, Dublin which was the first Odeon in Ireland to officially carry the name there; it was rebranded in March 2012.

Torchlight commented about Regent Cinema on Mar 26, 2019 at 4:53 am

The Regent was opened on Christmas Eve 1938 by Solar Cinemas Ltd of Belfast. It was a new building designed by architect T. R. Eagar; the first manager was Harris Percy. The building was destroyed in an incendiary bomb attack on Sunday 9 October 1977; the final films shown were screened the day before. See also entry on Cinema Treasures for Ritz Cinema, Newtownards, which in its final years was also owned by Solar Cinemas Ltd.