[Fionnuala Sweeney Arts Council, James Hickey Irish Film Board, Andrew Lowe Element Pictures]
The Light House Cinema, Smithfield was officially relaunched this morning and will reopen for business on Friday, 20th January 2012.
The cinema, which closed in March 2011, will be run by Element Pictures and will screen the best of international art house and Irish cinema, as well as re-runs of classics and special events.
Films that will screen over the opening weekend include the highly-praised Shame, starring Irishman Michael Fassbender, Golden Globe winner, The Artist, Madonna’s new film, W.E and the Clint Eastwood-directed, J. Edgar with leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio.
Speaking this morning, the director of Element Pictures, Andrew Lowe, gave some of the background to the reopening, ‘The Irish Film Board and the Arts Council together with the Department [of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht] were a cultural consortium and had a big investment in the cinema when it first opened in 2007, contributing to the cost of fitting it out, so when it closed at the end of March 2011 they were very concerned to find an operator to retain the same ethos of the cinema.’
‘So they appointed a receiver who had a tender process and we were selected in June 2011 and we spent the last 6 months in negotiation with the landlord and NAMA. Those talks concluded and now we are delighted to be in a postition to reopen the cinema this Friday night.’
‘Our approach has been that having secured the deal is to get the cinema open as soon as possible. There has being a huge amount of good will from people towards the cinema, and we want to get feedback from customers and then over the coming months start to slowly make some changes. We do want to improve the interior but not in any radical way. We want to make it more comfortable, and broaden the range of facilities that are available in terms of the catering.’
‘Broadly speaking our strategy is to run the cinema as an art house cinema, it will show Irish movies and the best of independent cinema with an emphasis on marketing so that we get in as many people as possible. We are interested in also taking on films that are only playing on video-on-demand at the same time, which is not something that cinemas generally embrace. We will encourage launches, and exhibitions, both commercial and cultural, and are investing in satellite technology to bring live opera and other live events to the cinema.’
‘The original Light House opened in 2007 and the terms and conditions reflected the property bubble at the time which was ultimately unsustainable. We have had the opportunity in 2011 and 2012 to come up with a more realistic deal, that alone will help to ensure that we do survive. The Light House had built up quite a decent audience at the end and we hope to get them back in. One of the criticisms in the past was that people didn’t know where it was as it is quite hard to find, so we need to overcome that.’
‘We have managed to negotiate a lease at a more sensible level and reflects what is going on in the property world today, commercial rents today reflect what businesses can afford to pay. The landlord and NAMA have both been very constructive, and we appreciate that, and the Minister Jimmy Deenihan has worked tirelessly behind the scenes with NAMA to try and make this happen. He has put a lot of energy in general to see that buildings with a cultural remit that are in NAMA’s portfolio are exploited to their full potential. He was instrumental in encouraging NAMA to engage with us in a positive way and they did prioritise us and we are very grateful for that.’