Art Deco Ireland, Dublin: Art Deco Cinemas

Cinema going in Ireland was very popular before the arrival of television nationwide. This was at the relatively late date of 1961 in the Irish Republic, although Dublin viewers had access to the UK channels long before that. In the 1930's Cork had enough cinema places to seat over 10% of the total population at any one time. The spread of television eventually lead to the demise of many cinemas.

The overall plan for rebuilding O'Connell Street in the 1920's - it had been substantially destroyed in the Easter Rising and Civil War, also imposed conservative exterior design constraints on the cinemas built there, the Savoy and the Carlton. Only in the night glow of neon did the Savoy exterior look moderne, with the glass brick of this long altered shop facade in evidence here in this night shot.Savoy, associated shop facade, c1936  

Savoy,  Dublin, shop facade, now altered


Two art deco cinemas - at least on the outside

royal and regal rooms logoThe huge Theatre Royal Dublin, and the smaller Regal Rooms, which was next door, both had deco exteriors.  Both, by London architect Leslie Norton, opened in 1935, and both were demolished in 1962 to be replaced by an office block, Hawkins House.Theatre Royal, Dublin, exterior

In the Royal the contrast between the austere, tall rather PWA style exterior, which dominated the narrow street (Hawkins Street) and the elaborate 3,850 seat interior was very pronounced. The Regal Rooms, also by Norton, was less tall and was better suited to the scale of the streetscape.

The Adelphi, (now a multi-story car park with part of the facade remaining) and the Carlton ( closed but still there), also in Dublin, had deco touches, some on the outside, some in the interior finish.

While the deco facade of the Royal led to a moorish interior, the rather conservative exterior of the Carlton, fitting in to the overall architectural scheme of O'Connell Street, led to a more deco inspired interior, which featured two large panels, one on each side of the screen, these contained smaller panels in gold relief showing musical instruments. The Adelphi, by ABC house architect W R Glen, had a nice exterior mixing deco and classical elements. The over large and relatively plain deep foyer led to a large open interior.

The Green or Stephens Green Cinema on St Stephens Green by Jones & Kelly (1935) has also vanished. With an international style facade, with three large windows one above the other running almost full width across the facade and set on what was then mainly a Georgian square, it certainly drew attention to itself. As the auditorium was offset from the building line, cinemagoers passed down a long entrance hall before taking their seats in the cinema which was much more deco in style, with strong original deco colours. Originally these were tangerine, with celestial blue and primrose.

Particularly absent in Dublin were suburban cinemas in the deco style. 

In other countries super cinemas in affluent areas often adopted the deco style, with lavish interiors, organs and car parking. Not in Ireland where smaller cinemas were usually modest buildings. Among the smaller cinemas the Theatre De Luxe in Camden Street in Dublin did however live up to the name in that it was de luxe. It was never a conventional theatre with stage shows, just a relatively large second-run cinema. This 1,500 seater cinema, first built in 1912, but was apparently altered in 1936 to a more egyptian style (by Jones & Kelly?). Long closed as a cinema, it was then used as a snooker club for a time. Indeed it featured as such in the film "The Commitments". More recently it was adapted for use as a hotel and club complex.Theatre de Luxe, Dublin, front view

The facade still remained in fairly good condition at the time this photo was taken in 1998 and even the Rank logo was then visible on the marquee.The large UK chains of cinema operators such as Odeon / Rank and ABC, who had strong design styles, were relatively late into the Irish market, - so uniformity and an emphasis on overall house design was not such a pronounced feature in Ireland.

More about Dublin Cinemas

Cinemas outside Dublin

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