Are we preferring cinema experience to film content?

The recent closure of the Lighthouse cinema has caused me to think about the current perception of cinema in Ireland. Why exactly did the Lighthouse close? Is it simply another casualty of the recession? Was it in an awkward place for people to get to? Or was there simply not a big enough market for such a niche cinema in Dublin?

The predominant multiplex cinema primarily shows typical Hollywood films. Convenience is of essence, providing parking, food and the guarantee of a relaxing evening. People go ‘to the cinema’ rather than go to see a specific film. So, is the overall multiplex experience more important than the quality of a film? If this is the case there is less of a mandate for innovative, non-Hollywood films as audience numbers are guaranteed by the very concept of the multiplex cinema.

The Lighthouse offered an alternative to this, the film itself being the most important factor. The stylish design of the cinema gave it an almost theatrical feel, but served to support the exhibition of the film rather than being an appealing factor in itself. Is its closure a reflection of people’s preference for the multiplex experience? Do people want to be intellectually or aesthetically challenged, or has cinema become a purely recreational activity?

The expansion of multiplex cinemas in Dublin to exhibit art house films as well as ballet and opera suggests that there is still a market for such niche categories. The continued success of the IFI in Temple Bar perhaps means that the Lighthouse was simply in the wrong place. Smithfield has not lived up to its pre-recession expectations so rather than being situated in a bustling and busy part of town, the Lighthouse ended up being in an inconvenient and awkward location.

However, it is possible that the marketing of the Lighthouse as an alternative, art house cinema put people off. In recent months the inclusion of films such as True Grit, Black Swan and the King’s Speech together with less main stream films such as Of Gods and Men were pulling in the numbers. So, is it possible to have the best of both worlds under the same roof? Art house films and the multiplex experience do not have to be a contradictory. Due to planning permission restrictions the building must remain an art house cinema. So, the question is, if it is taken over by new owners, what will be the best way to market the cinema?

Posted by Ruth 

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Comments
3 Responses to “Are we preferring cinema experience to film content?”
  1. John Gallen says:

    Hi Ruth,
    It was sad to see it close. I believe the main reason for the closure was the greed of the landlord, although, I heard he needed to pay NAMA too. Doubling the rent was still (insert expletive here) ridiculous.

    That said, many on Boards.ie believed it a ‘bit to far out of the way’ http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?threadid=2056216124

    Also, when it was built there was a big development project for the area planned which never materialised.

    I am so glad to have read here that “Due to planning permission restrictions the building must remain an art house cinema.” I didn’t know that 🙂

    I believe the location will come into favour with time, how long, I don’t know – how long will the recession last?
    I do believe you can have art house and commercial cinema under the one roof, why people separate them is beyond me. That stinks of snobbery, I’d say.

    The best way to market the cinema? Well, keep the name and push the comfort and dare I say, ‘exclusive’ and ‘rich’ environment that the cinema experience can be enjoyed in at this fine cinema.

    I don’t think it was around long enough to be seen as established or top of mind in enough peoples heads.

    It will be back but until it is, the cinema experience will be like queuing for an escalator to get into a barn.

    Cheers
    John

  2. the planners says:

    Hi John,

    Yes, I agree with you, doubling the rent was an absurd mandate given the economic environment.  If the cinema had been allowed to operate for the full duration of its lease I really think it could have established itself in public consciousness.

     

    The 5 year lease of the cinema began in 2008 so two more years remain for a new tenant to continue the premises as a cultural/ art house cinema. [ http://www.kildarestreet.com/debates/?id=2011-04-20.578.0 ]http://www.kildarestreet.com/debates/?id=2011-04-20.578.0 Given the continued repercussions of the economy, it will not be an easy feat for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge.  

     

    If such a tenant is found, I agree with you in pushing the ‘comfort’ and ‘excellence’ factors as its USP to differentiate it from the multiplexes. However, in order to build audience numbers they need to continue the balance the previous tenants were beginning to find prior to its closure, with the showing of both cultural and commercial films. (I completely agree with your view on the absurdity of segregating art house/ cultural films from their more commercial counterparts.)

    Thanks John,

    Ruth

  3. John Gallen says:

    Hi Ruth,

    Wish I had the few bob to take it on 🙂 Not that I have any experience in running a cinema. I did once work in Virgin on Parnell Street serving popcorn and hot dogs for about five or six weeks!

    Back then, jobs were a plenty, and I just did for the fun of it as I’d always wanted to work in a cinema as a kid. You should’ve seen the faces on the guys from Carlton Screen Advertising when they saw me in baseball cap and uniform, ha, ha! …seems so long ago now, nineteen ninety nine.

    Have a good weekend,
    John

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