Nostalgia: Glory days of Savoy Cinema remembered

Nostalgia: Glory days of Savoy Cinema remembered
The opening night of the first Cork Film Festival in 1956. A large crowd gathers outside the Savoy Cinema on Patrick Street to welcome the stars, Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch, who were arriving for the Irish premiere of 'A Town Like Alice'. 

CORK cinema-goers could be flocking to a new venue, with the news earlier this week that a new 250-seater Savoy Cinema might be developed. 

The iconic Patrick Street location might soon get a new lease of life as developers Clarendon Properties are proposing the boutique cinema, as well as a small number of residential units.

The former Savoy Cinema heralded a new era of entertainment for Corkonians when it opened its doors to the public on May 12, 1932. 

Interior views of the Savoy Cinema Cork in 1973.
Interior views of the Savoy Cinema Cork in 1973.

It was officially opened by the then Lord Mayor, Frank Daly. 

The front page of The Echo the following day captured the excitement of the inaugural opening, stating: 

"The whole proceedings were marked by wonderful enthusiasm, coupled with very apparent manifestations of civic pride in this latest acquisition to the city’s attributes."

Large numbers of people descended onto Patrick Street hours before the opening in great anticipation of the historic event. 

The atrium of the Savoy Cinema Cork in 1973. 
The atrium of the Savoy Cinema Cork in 1973. 

"Crowds of people collected before the new cinema as long as two hours before the opening was due to take place, and by the time the doors were opened there was such a gathering on the street as impeded traffic and numerous Civic Guards had a busy time regulating the numbers seeking admission."

The new theatre, which seated almost 2,250 patrons cost £148,000 to construct and in his address to the assembled crowd on that first night, the Lord Mayor noted that the development was worthy of the capital of Ireland - adding to great applause that it was not too much to hope that Cork might one day become the new capital. 

It was through the collaborative efforts of several Cork companies that the new theatre was brought to fruition - most notably Meagher & Hayes and Horgan & Sons. 

Crowds flock to the steps of the Savoy Cinema, Cork during Cork Film Festival. Supplied through Cork Film Festival. 
Crowds flock to the steps of the Savoy Cinema, Cork during Cork Film Festival. Supplied through Cork Film Festival. 

One of the most iconic features of the new cinema was the Crompton organ, which is now housed in the University Concert Hall in Limerick. 

Fred Bridgeman played the organ before the screening of the main feature on Sunday nights during which audiences would sing to the music as the lyrics were projected on the cinema screen.

The Savoy Cinema became a leading venue for the Cork Film Festival when it started in the 1950s.

Throughout the decades, the festival has seen a number of famous faces arrive in Cork, including Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch for the Irish premiere of A Town Like Alice

Notably, Jean Seberg and June Thorburn also made an appearance at the festival in 1959 and 1960, respectively.

Attendees of the Cork Film Festival at the Savoy Cinema in May 1956. Included are Noel Purcell and Liam Cosgrave, former Taoiseach. 
Attendees of the Cork Film Festival at the Savoy Cinema in May 1956. Included are Noel Purcell and Liam Cosgrave, former Taoiseach. 

Corkonians flocked to the Savoy Cinema in their droves during the annual event in the hopes of catching a glimpse of such stars.

The glory days of the Savoy Cinema began to decline in the 1970s, however, as television became more popular. 

1975 marked the end of an era as the cinema closed its door on Friday, January 31 after the final screening of Cops and Robbers.

A special gala was arranged for the following night, which presented the Irish premiere of The Towering Inferno

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