Nostalgia: Capitol cinema was one of Cork city’s favourites

Nostalgia: Capitol cinema was one of Cork city’s favourites
The Capitol Cinema on Grand Parade prior to its demolition. Picture: Des Barry

On April 5, 1947, one of Cork’s best-loved buildings opened its doors for the first time. Seven decades later, the Capitol Cinema has become the Capitol office building and film buffs have to go elsewhere for the latest releases.

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

But Corkonians still have a soft spot for the building where they watched so many movies over the years.

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.

Work under way on the interior of the new Capitol Cinema in 1947.
Work under way on the interior of the new Capitol Cinema in 1947.

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.

Queing at The Capitol in 1947.
Queing at The Capitol in 1947.

It was opened formally by the Very Rev T O’Keeffe, the Administrator of the North Cathedral. Monsieur Beaucaire, a comedy starring Bob Hope, was the first film shown. The prices for admission ranged from one shilling to two shillings and sixpence.

Rory Gallagher pictured at the Capitol cinema in 1974.
Rory Gallagher pictured at the Capitol cinema in 1974.

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

The Capitol in 1987. Pic: Richard Mills
The Capitol in 1987. Pic: Richard Mills

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, the first multiplex cinema in Ireland outside Dublin. When it reopened it had six screens and much-improved sound quality and it continued to bring Hollywood blockbusters to the movie-lovers of Cork until 2005.

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 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.

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.

“It will be a sad moment for the people of Cork when the Capitol closes its doors,” general manager Patrick O’Brien said at the time. “The cinema has been a constant presence in the life of the city. People have been meeting outside its doors for decades.”

The redevelopment of the Capitol site was one of the most significant retail projects in Cork city in this decade and was completed in July 2017.

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