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.