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The Lighthouse Cinema In Smithfield

The Lighthouse Cinema, Smithfield, Dublin 7, Ireland

Cinemas were closing almost everywhere in Dublin, in the seventies especially: to take only our own area, there was the Lyric in James’ St, overlooking the Fountain; the Rialto and its companion round the corner, the Leinster; the Phoenix on the quays, not far from Collins Barracks; the Tivoli in Francis St. Though television sets had grainy and snowy little screens, people – not us real film-lovers, though – preferred to sit at home and watch, rather than go out into the weather and spend the few bob to get into a cinema. And to think that for that measly few bob, you got the new film that was (usually) the main feature, another full length film, cartoons, a travelogue, an Edgar Lustgarten half-hour retelling of the solving of some British crime (dull, predictable, always in black-and-white, and never a corrupt or incompetent police officer to be seen, but I enjoyed them) and the newsreel!

Who’d have thought back then that in 2010, with huge colour screens at home and surround sound available, there would be more screens in Dublin than ever before, and four of them in our vicinity alone, with a choice of six or seven new features every day of the week? They are in the wonderful Lighthouse Cinema, in Smithfield.

Beautifully designed, with a superb café that serves main dishes and soup as well as cakes and scones, all at very reasonable prices, it lacks some of the characteristics of the beloved picturehouses of times past, which some people no doubt still miss. There is no fog of smoke between you and the screen; no ashtray on the back of the seat in front of you, to the side, with the residue of past smokes clinging to the brass even when the usherette had cleaned it out; you can’t buy smokes even in packets, let alone in ones and twos; no woodeners – wooden benches up the front; no sticky feel to the floor; no smell of ancient wallpaper and ancient carpet and ancient curtain.

Even if you have with you children under fourteen, they won’t be obliged to sit two-to-a-seat at busy times, as we were in the Tivo in the good old days. Not even one of the four screens has the sound effects that were added by the dodgy amplifier and speakers in the Green cinema. The toilets don’t have the exotic scents of old. An usherette doesn’t position herself during the ads under the screen with a tray of ice-cream tubs and chocolate and little wooden spatulas for the ice-cream suspended from her neck. Horses were common in the centre city in the old days, but nowadays, not even as you cross Smithfield to get to the Lighthouse can you hope to smell horses or horse-manure. During the films there are none of the sudden jumps in the story that alerted you to the fact that the censor had cut a dirty bit at that point.

Relaxing, spacious, the Lighthouse is a delight to visit. Even more of a delight is its continuation of the policies of the old Lighthouse (situated beside the Adelphi and closed since the mid-nineties) and Astor: not to let the quality of movie fall below a certain standard (do you remember that if you went to the Carlton on spec, you could find yourself watching an Audie Murphy western or one of those Charles Bronson revenge pictures?); find quality movies that are not necessarily in English. If a film is good, subtitles are no obstacle to enjoyment.

A million thanks to Dublin City Council and the Irish Film Board and, above all, to the management and courteous, helpful staff of the cinema, for this great amenity.

You can find times of showing at or simply by typing ‘lighthouse cinema Dublin’ into Google or another search tool.

IMAGE: The Lighthouse Cinema, Smithfield, Dublin 7, Ireland – image credit: Katherine Kenny/Flickr

Fountain News DigitalThis article was originally published in:
Fountain News Digital – November 2010 (Issue 1)

We are re-publishing all articles from our past newsletter, Fountain News Digital, and you can view all completed newsletters here. There were nine issues published in total between 2010 and 2012.

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