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The Savoy Cinema, Upper O'Connell Street, Dublin

Dublin Theatres Index

The Savoy Cinema, Dublin - Courtesy Des Kerins

Above - The Savoy Cinema, Dublin - Courtesy Des Kerins

The Savoy Cinema was opened on November 29th 1929 on the east side of upper O'Connell Street in Dublin. Most of the street had been destroyed in the Civil War of 1921/22 and the city planners seized the opportunity of modernising the buildings in this historic old street. Associated British Cinemas Ltd under the Chairmanship of John Maxwell were granted planning permission to build a cinema on the site of the old Granville Hotel.

The new cinema with stage facilities had 3,000 seats and cost £200,000 of which £10,000 was spent on 3 Ross projectors which were the most up-to-date at that time. It was fitted with elevators to all floors, had a cloakroom for cinemagoers to leave parcels and outerwear, telephone kiosks and a restaurant. The exterior was built in a classical style, as were many of the newly built neighbouring buildings.

On entering one was immediately struck by the immense size of the interior and the fact that it was like being in a Theatre. The appearance was Venetian in style with mock Venetian windows on the sidewalls and the proscenium arch was modelled on the bridges of Venice. The safety curtain had a painting of the Doges Palace printed on it. Settling into your large comfortable seat you almost expected that when the curtain parted you would see a live stage show.

There was a concert organ and the organist Gordon Spicer gave regular recitals before the show started and also during the interval. Yes there was an interval because it was important to have an opportunity of selling sweets, chocolate and ice cream. The opening movie was "On with the Show" directed by the great Busby Berkeley and it was totally booked out for the first performance. One of the greatest successes for the Savoy was the showing of "Gone with the Wind" in 1942. It ran for 8 weeks and was seen by 300,000 people.

The first modernisation took place in 1969 when the cinema was divided into two screens which took 24 weeks and cost £400,000. Further reconstruction which entailed the installation of extra screens took place over the following years until finally by 1996 the original Savoy Cinema had been changed into a 6-screen complex. Finally in 2005 yet another refurbishment took place to the amount of €2 million. At that time many of the original architectural features that had been lost down through the years were restored and the old building regained some of its original grandeur.

The Savoy today is as busy as it ever was in the past and is used for film premieres complete with red carpet and Hollywood movie stars.

Above text and image Courtesy Des Kerins 2009. (Des Kerin's Uncle, Harry Kerins, worked as an usher at the Savoy Cinema for many years. His work at the Savoy was interrupted in 1939 when he was recalled to service as a cavalry soldier in the British Army. He served in France with the British Expeditionary Force and was wounded on the beach at Dunkirk. Following his recovery here in Dublin he returned to service and was sent to India and eventually to Burma [Myanmar] where he fought the Japanese invaders and was lost in the Burmese jungle for 7 days. Eventually he was found by some of his comrades and was hospitalised again. Following his recovery he was honourably discharged and returned home. His job in the Savoy was waiting for him and at the earliest opportunity he returned to work.)

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