HOUSING Minister Jan O’Sullivan said the government “will respond” to proposals to build a new cinema in Cecil Street this year.
The proposals to transform the former Theatre Royal building in Cecil Street are at “shovel ready” stage, having seen planning permission granted by the City Council.
And it is hoped the funding will be in place by May, through a mix of public and private sector contributions.
Meanwhile, one of the men behind the project says he expects it will show “four or five first-run 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.
Ms O’Sullivan has 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.
Mr Burns hopes the government is able to respond to his call for funding.
“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.
He 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.”
Ms O’Sullivan praised the initiative.
She said: “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.”