The Tivoli was built in 1934 and with 1,700 seats it was the third largest cinema in Dublin. It was owned by Associated Picture Houses Ltd which also eventually owned 6 other cinemas in the Dublin and Wicklow area.
On October 20th 1934 during the building of this cinema some of the scaffolding collapsed and 5 workmen were injured. Fortunately they were not too seriously injured and after spending a night in hospital they were released next day. The cost of building the cinema was £8,000. The official opening took place on December 21st 1934 in the presence of the Lord Mayor.
The takings for the first night were handed over to the local Parish Priest to help reduce the Parish debt that stood at £2,000. The manager on the opening night was George Kerins and he remained there until 1940 when he was transferred as manager to the Royal Cinema in Bray Co Wicklow that was owned by the same company. In July 1944 APH Ltd sold the 6 cinemas to the Rank Organisation which eventually set up a separate company named Odeon [Ireland] Ltd.
The Tivoli continued in business until 1964 and when it ceased as a cinema it became a Bingo Hall. Eventually the building suffered a serious fire and was then left derelict for a number of years. In its heyday as a cinema the Tivoli had 3 programme changes each week and one of the local kids who attended regularly was Tony Byrne.
Tony became a successful businessman and also a gifted footballer who played in the League of Ireland for several years and at one time he actually owned Shelbourne Football Club. Finally in 1986 when Tony was in his 40's he bought the Tivoli and set about refurbishing it.
This was a massive task but it was a labour of love for Tony. In a reversal of the usual procedure in those days when theatres were being turned into cinemas Tony did the opposite. The Tivoli became a Theatre. The theatre was constructed on the first floor and a music venue on the ground floor. In this way the building could accommodate two different shows each night. The music venue has 1,000 seats and the theatre has 560 seats. The official opening took place in 1988 starring Brendan Gleeson in a play called "Bouncers".
Some famous names have appeared at the Tivoli since its conversion to a theatre namely: - Jeremy Irons, Cyril Cusack, Geoffrey Rush, Sinead Cusack, Michael Praed, Tom Conti and Dermot Morgan. In the music venue we have seen Sinead O'Connor, Oasis and Blur in concert and many others.
Above - The Tivoli Cinema / Theatre, Francis Street, Dublin during the run of 'Mum's The Word' in May 2009 - Courtesy Des Kerins
From 2005 this popular theatre went into decline and in recent times there have been few productions there. However this elegant old lady still stands proudly in a busy street in a very historic part of Dublin and I feel sure that there are more glory days ahead.
This Theatre should not be confused with the Tivoli Theatre in Burgh Quay, Dublin.
Text and Images Courtesy Des Kerins, whose father, George Kerins was manager of the Tivoli on the opening night and remained there until 1940.
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