Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Solas makes the news

People are beginning to ask questions publicly about the status of the Solas Picture Palace arthouse cinema development in Galway.

The questions are being asked of Galway City Council due to ongoing traffic problems caused by the development's postion on a tight hairpin bend. The road is the only westward route past the docks towards the Salthill area.

The sod was turned on the site in July 2009 but relatively little work seems to have taken place over the last twelve months. The group promoting the cinema have been asked to attend a meeting of the City Council to explain the delay.

I have heard anecdotally that flooding of the site had created difficulties after heavy rainfall in late 2009. Any possibility of ongoing flooding would be a major concern since a 176-seat cinema is to be built undergound in the complex.

Other (perhaps related) matters that have reportedly arisen are damage to neigbouring property, and unforeseen difficulties encountered with the pile-driving for the building's structural supports. Health and safety concerns have also been mentioned as as a possible factor.

I took these pictures in June of last year and I don't believe there has been much progress on the site since then. Meanwhile the Eye Cinema received planning permission in July 2009 to open four additional screens (500 seats), a development that might cause competitive/supply problems for Solas.

[click photos to enlarge]

With the closure of the Kino Cinema in Cork, apparently due to debt of around €100,000 incurred in trying to redevelop the cinema, it seems that prospects for cinema diversity, or 'cultural cinema' as it is officially called, are taking a bit of a hit.

The sources of funding I am aware of for the Galway project include, so far -
€2,000,000 ACCESS II (Dept Tourism Culture & Sport, 2007)
€ 1,960,000 Site value, 15 Lr Merchants Rd (Galway City Council, 2009)
€ 750,000 Cultural Cinema Consortium (Film Board/Arts Council, 2005)
€ 650,000 (loan) Western Development Commission, Investment Fund
€ 75,000 Irish Film Board (2007)
€6.5m (approx total)

(i) As of Nov. 2010 Solas had been paid €720,468 in 2009 and €143,642 in 2010 by the Dept. TC&S, presumably as instalments of the €2m ACCESS II capital grant;
(ii) the Arts Council annual accounts for 2008 show capital development grants under the Cultural Cinema heading of €70,000 for Solas Galway Picture Palace and €672,500 for Galway City Council.
(iii) An EC MEDIA Consultation (Oct/Dec 2009) on cinema digitisation states: For example, in Galway, the local authority invested €2m in the purchase of a site to facilitate the building of a 3 screen arthouse cinema. The Arts Council and the Irish Film Board invested €1.25m; and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism invested €2m. These investments were for the development of the cinema including fit-out and digital projection equipment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One thing that does not appear to be public knowledge is that this project appears to be legally structured as a subsidiary undertaking of the Irish Film Institute / IFI.

The Memorandum of Association of Solas - Galway Picture Palace Teoranta was Amended on June 6th 2008 and lodged with the Companies Registration Office / CRO on September 10th 2008.

This Amended Memorandum is essentially that of the Irish Film Institute, with the IFI and its premises in Dublin referred to in several Articles, and with additional clauses relating to Solas (deemed to be Subsidiary Objects) inserted after Article 9.

Why this apparent connection has not been divulged or publicised is curious.