Early Irish Cinema explores what cinema was in Ireland a century ago. Its  regular updates mark the centenaries in the early development of cinema in Ireland. The country experienced revolutionary social and political change during the 1910s at the same time as the new medium of cinema came to dominate popular entertainment. Although few social movements or political leaders of the period saw cinema as central to the changes taking place, cinemas did far more than merely show moving pictures of a changing Ireland.

Between 1911 and the outbreak of World War I, Ireland experienced the same cinema building boom that was common in many developed countries at this time. As a result, in a very short period after 1910, the way that many Irish people spent their leisure time changed fundamentally. Dozens of cinemas sprang up in the centres and suburbs of the large Irish cities of Dublin and Belfast to meet the burgeoning demand for moving pictures, but the changes to the way people spent their leisure time were particularly clear in provincial towns. The larger populations of the cities supported many types of entertainment activity that could be enjoyed any night of the week, but in towns and rural areas, professional and even amateur entertainment was typically sporadic and did not encroach very significantly on the business of provincial Ireland’s main leisure provider: the pub. By 1914, however, an extraordinary transformation had taken place not only in the cities but also in Irish towns of any size, where for the first time ever, people could, if they could afford it, attend a nightly, professionally made entertainment, and in many places, they could choose to which of the town’s moving-picture shows they would go.

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  1. Enjoyed your ‘Sherlock’ post of January 6. To add to the knowledge: The first film in the Éclair series to be shown here in Belfast was at the Picture House (Royal Avenue) on 27 October 1913.
    I cannot unfortunately find any sign of a complete run of the series at this cinema. Number 5 (The Reygate Squires) and number 8 (The Copper Beeches) appear to have been missed out. The nearby Alhambra (Lower North Street), approximately three weeks after the Picture House screenings also ran the series. The Alhambra did include number 5 but it too ignored number 8.
    I help to run the Belfast based Sherlock Holmes Society. I am also engaged in a long-term project to record all the Sherlock Holmes films ever shown in the city (plus live stage performances).

  2. Thanks for the reference to the Brewster cartoon in your post of 7 March 2014. I am chasing up Brewster at the moment in connection with a talk I will be giving in the National Library in November.

  3. Thanks for following The Immortal Jukebox. I hope you have found lots to entertain you and perhaps made some discoveries. If you haven’t visited for some time check it out again! Good luck with your fascinating and well informed blog. Regards Thom.

  4. Just discovered this fascinating, informative site as I was researching pics of cinemas in the 20s and 30s for a documentary project. If there is any way of making contact, I’d be grateful for any pointers on that. Keep up the great blog. Regards, KC.

  5. Just came across your excellent website. I noticed you mentioned Annette Kellerman gave a talk on physical culture in Ireland in 1912. Currently doing my PhD on physical culture in Ireland and would love to chat about crosscurrents regarding cinema if you’re interested?

  6. I found your website this morning – so comprehensive and detailed. I am the Granddaughter of Brian Magowan – who’s real name was James Joseph Smyth. I’ve spent my retirement years researching him and his truly amazing story. After a nearly 50 year schism in family relationships – we his cousins found each other – and I discovered that he was an actor and singer with a documented association with General Michael Collins, playing his part In the establishment of Ireland’s Free State. Knowing none of this, my career flourished in the entertainment business flourished – as a singer and BBC radio producer,,,it must have been in my genes!!

    • Hello Carolyn, it would be nice to connect, I am the grandson of the Frances Alexander who played opposite Brian in the film Willie Reilly and my mother often wondered what became of him!

  7. I’m the grandson of Frances Alexander who played opposite Brian Magowan mentioned above – it would be nice to connect with Carolyn,

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