Eight years after the sod was turned, numerous missed deadlines for completion and controversy over misspent public funds, the arthouse cinema is now tipped to be open to the public by the end of this year according to the new operators.
Andrew Lowe, director of Element Pictures, opened the building site up to the Galway Chamber of Commerce and Galway City Councillors on Wednesday, presenting an overview of how it will look and what will be scheduled in its programme when it finally opens its doors.
In a briefing to the Galway City Tribune, Mr Lowe said he could not comment on any previous agreements reached over the three-screen building, which has so far cost the taxpayer in the region of €9 million.
Filmmaker Leila Dolan, who spearheaded the project from the beginning, approached Element Pictures to run the arthouse cinema in a similar vein to its Light House Cinema in Dublin in 2013.
Following concerns over how the project was being managed, the public funders including Galway City Council, the Irish Film Board and the Department of the Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs asked Element Pictures last year to take over management and oversee its completion.
Mr Lowe said under the new contract, the company increased their investment to nearly €900,000 in a bid to complete the fit-out, with their final funding likely to run to nearly €1m.
They will have a 30-year lease to run the facility, which will have a bar and cafe. They will have to repay Solas’ debt of €650,000 to the Western Development Commission over the next 25 years and will start to pay commercial rent to Galway City Council which still owns the site from 2026.
“We’re here to get the cinema open and completed and to run the thing. Galway will have a state-of-the art arthouse cinema with a significant level of outside funding.”
In response to criticism that the facility would be a white elephant in a city with two cinemas already, Mr Lowe said he was confident it would be a success.
“Galway has a very developed film culture. It’s very vibrant culturally. Given the population of the city and the hinterland and the significant level of third level students, we’re satisfied there is a sufficient demographic to support it,” he insisted.
He pointed out that not one of the top 20 films of 2016 in mainstream cinemas had appeared in the top 20 films of the Lighthouse. Their top films were Room, Sing Street and A Date For Mad Mary.
“We draw a very different audience. We’ve built the Lighthouse Cinema audience and doubled it in five years. We have a very active schools programme, we have showings of recorded theatre like Shakespeare.
“Our event cinema shows opera, ballet, we do a lot of curated seasons around actors and directors and retrospectives of film you’d want your kids to see on the big screen. We recently had a Wes Anderson party where everyone dressed up as characters from the movie, the Grand Budapest Hotel.”
While they will not be showing the Disney blockbusters, there will be a parent and baby morning and classic screenings geared for kids.
Pushed about an exact opening date, Mr Lowe said it would be “definitely finished this year”.
“We expect it to be open by Christmas. We need to get it open by Christmas. It’s the busiest time of the year.”
€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms
Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.
The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.
A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.