Nostalgia: 30 years ago this week, the Capitol Cineplex reopened to fanfare

Nostalgia: 30 years ago this week, the Capitol Cineplex reopened to fanfare

The Capitol Cinema on Grand Parade prior to its demolition. Picture: Des Barry

It was 30 years ago this week, that Cork's Capitol Cineplex reopened to the public following a major refurbishment and became Ireland's first six-screen cinema.

It was also one of the first cinema complexes in Britain an Ireland to have Dolby stereo sound in all of its screens.

The landmark cinema had six screens and its biggest screen could seat 470 people.

Tim Burton's 'Batman' starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson was the first film to be screened at the complex. 'The Karate Kid 3', 'License to Kill' and 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' were also shown.

The cinema was immensely popular with locals, and during the opening week, Corkonians queued outside for two hours to get tickets before each showing.

The foyer of The Capitol just days before it was demolished. Picture: Denis Scannell
The foyer of The Capitol just days before it was demolished. Picture: Denis Scannell

Smaller cinemas in the city, such as the Palace, Lee, Pavilion and Classic closed to make way for the Capitol.

The Captol Cinema originally opened its doors in 1947 and its single screen could seat 1,300 people. It was officially opened by Very Rev T O’Keeffe, the Administrator of the North Cathedral. The first film shown was the comedy 'Monsieur Beaucaire', which starred Bob Hope.

Fighting a fire at Grants department store, Grand Parade in 1942.
Fighting a fire at Grants department store, Grand Parade in 1942.

The Capitol itself replaced what had been another city landmark, Grant’s furniture and clothes shop. It stood on the Grand Parade from the mid-1860s until March 11, 1942, when it was destroyed in the city’s worst fire since the 1920 burning of Cork.

Five years later Capitol and Allied Cinemas opened the new cinema at the site, the first to open in Cork since the Ritz in 1939.

The main screen at The Capitol prior to its demolition. Picture: Denis Scannell
The main screen at The Capitol prior to its demolition. Picture: Denis Scannell

The Sound of Music set the record at the cinema, running for three months in 1967.

In 1989, to fight back against the popularity of TV and videos, the cinema closed for six months for major reconstruction. It became the Capitol Cineplex, Ireland's first cinema with six screens and much-improved sound quality and it continued to bring Hollywood blockbusters to the movie-lovers of Cork.

However, the historical cinema closed its doors for good in 2005 and lay vacant until it was demolished in 2016.

Dr Gwenda Young, a lecturer from UCC's Film and Screen Media Department, said that over the years the Capitol Cinema has had mixed fortunes.

"In the research that [UCC film lecturer] Dan O'Connell and I have done on Cork cinemas... we've learned that ticket sales began to decline as early as the 1960s."

"Television was a major competition, but it probably also reflects changing demographics and movement of population out of city to the suburbs," Dr Young said.

"I think the Capitol did all it could to keep up with the changing trends, scheduling films that would have more appeal to younger audiences, investing in the conversion to new technologies like Dolby and following the trend of opening multiple screens."

"The Capitol was still a very viable business into the 1990s. After quite significant refurbishment and investment by its owners Ward Anderson in 1989, the Capitol reopened as an official multiplex, the first of its type in Cork."

"It did continue to attract cinemagoers throughout the 1990s, offering the usual franchise-type films, along with more critically acclaimed films directed by emerging ‘auteurs’ such as David Fincher and Baz Luhrmann."

"However, there’s no doubt that the rise of DVDs and later streaming service have had a significant impact. I think what’s also important to note is that Ward Anderson made the decision, in 2005, to focus their attention and investment on developing suburban omniplexes, probably in the understanding that populations were moving East to Douglas and Mahon Point and West to Ballincollig," Dr Young said.

The Capitol office development on Grand Parade which kept the name of the former cinema. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The Capitol office development on Grand Parade which kept the name of the former cinema. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The last public screenings in the Capitol were held on December 1 that year The films showing on that night included Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Constant Gardener.

In 2017 the site was reopened as a retail and office space, still bearing the old Capitol name. Homesense, Lifestyle Sports and the Oyster Tavern now occupy the space, and the offices are used by leading tech firms Facebook and Huawei.

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