Warning over funds for planned Limerick city cinema

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Paul Patton, CEO, City of Limerick VEC and David Burns, who has facilitated the project, outside the site where development is hoped to take place
ONE of the men behind a proposed new cinema at the old Theatre Royal in Cecil Street expects it will show “four or five” blockbuster films a year.

ONE of the men behind a proposed new cinema at the old Theatre Royal in Cecil Street expects it will show “four or five” blockbuster films a year.

Former university lecturer David Burns said the €5m facility will concentrate on the second run of movies, as well as arthouse films not seen in mainstream cinemas.

Plans to transform the currently-derelict building are effectively at the ‘shovel-ready’ stage.

Planning has been granted, architects impressions are in, and this week, Minister Jan O’Sullivan set up meetings with the City VEC chief executive Paul Patton, who is heading the project, and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, in the hope of government funding.

Funding is being sought from both the public and private sectors for the project, which the developers claim could bring 2,000 extra people into the city each week.

Mr Burns has warned however, that if funding is not in place by May, it could “jeopardise” the opening of the facility, scheduled for September 2014.

“I think everybody in the cabinet is aware of how Limerick has become run-down, and it really needs something to stimulate the city centre,” he added.

Mr Burns revealed the centre –which will incorporate a multiplex cinema and education centre –will be run as a social enterprise, with any surplus income used to facilitate training for young film makers at primary and secondary level.

Software development will also take place in the complex, he added.

In order to ensure the centre remains financially viable, Mr Burns says it will be necessary to put some first run films on show, particularly in the summer months, when cinema-going is at its peak.

“I would expect we will have to take four first run films a year: it has to be a commercially successful business, and there are some films people want to see, for example Skyfall. But our main emphasis will be taking second-run films,” he confirmed.

However, he said there is a 20% price differential between showing a film on its first run, as opposed to its second run, which can be just two to three weeks later.

“If you train your audience to accept films on the second run, which can be two to three weeks after the first run, you can rent the film for 40% of the cost,” he said.

As well as an influx of new people into the city each week, Mr Burns - who has pushed for a city centre cinema for ten years - hopes the centre will “lead to the development of a media and audiovisual industry in the city.”

Mr Burns says he remains confident of government support, adding: “The truth of the matter is we have never had any setbacks, except through our own faults. There has been a lot of encouragement out there. Now we are at a stage where we are shovel ready, I think there is a lot more belief in us.”

Ms O’Sullivan, who facilitated the meeting with Mr Deenihan, praised the initiative, and said the government would respond to the plans.

“I think they are going to be looking for funding from a variety of sources. I cannot give a definitive answer on behalf of government at this stage. We have to make sure it is a success, and the government will respond during the course of the year in terms of the kind of support which is needed,” she said.