OmniplexMAXX screen to capitalise on Irish hunger for cinema

The Republic’s first giant screen OmniplexMAXX format cinema is to be sited at Mahon Point in Cork.

Henry Cavill as Superman in 'Man of Steel'. The summer blockbuster hits Irish screens next week.

It will be operated by Omniplex, the biggest cinema chain on the island. Omniplex already run two giant format screens north of the border, in Antrim and Newry.

The company, owned by businessman Paul Anderson, is investing €4m in upgrading the Mahon Point cinema complex, which will be converted to digital screening, the latest in cinema technology.

Full refurbishment and digitisation of all 13 screens at Mahon will take place and work is expected to begin in the next few months, once a fire certificate and other safety certificates have been secured.

“The Omniplex-MAXX plan is being finalised but we are renovating all screens at Mahon, including digitisation, and that is going to be done within the next six months,” said operations director Mark Anderson, son of the owner.

“Digitisation is already well advanced in Cork and, as we renovate our 22 cinemas nationwide, they will be fully converted to digital with at least one ‘Omniplex-MAXX’ cinema. Galway is next on the list.”

When completed, the Mahon screen will be 21m wide and 8m high making it the biggest by far in the Republic.

The move is part of further investment by the Anderson family in cinemas they operate in Dublin and elsewhere. This investment follows the completion of a long and tortuous High Court dispute with their former cinema partners, the Ward family.

Ward Anderson was the largest chain in Ireland until this year and operated cinemas north and south of the border.

The Ward and Anderson families agreed to split their cinema empire in January to conclude a legal struggle that lasted from 1999 to 2013.

Paul Ward and Paul Anderson, who are the sons of the co-founders of the Ward Anderson Group, Leo Ward and Kevin Anderson, now operate each of the cinema chains separately.

Mark Anderson yesterday outlined his group’s investment plans, saying that while the cinema industry in Ireland has not been immune from recession and immigration, it is still a good business.

“That is largely because the shared cinema experience cannot be replicated by home viewing,” he said

Although admissions have fallen each year since 2007, cinema attendances per head of population in Ireland remain among the highest in the world.

The group has also recently agreed to buy the Quayside cinema in Balbriggan in Co Dublin from Nama for €1.5m.

“Balbriggan is an exciting project from an investment and acquisition point of view and it demonstrates our commitment to the industry,” he said. “We are keen on keeping rural cinemas and, although Balbriggan is in Dublin, it is north of the city and, if it had closed, people would either have had to go to Drogheda or Swords.”

He added that conversion to digital is essential in any cinema, although not all cinema owners can afford it. “The digital cinema format is being pushed by both exhibitors and distributors and is the way forward as it opens up a whole new line of alternative content, like live productions from the Met in New York and the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.”

Summer is one of the busiest times of the year for cinemas, with After Earth with Will Smith, the new Superman film Man of Steel, and Despicable Me 2 among the slate of blockbusters coming to Irish cinemas in time for the school holidays.

FIVE OF THE BEST SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS:

The Hangover: Part 3

The Lone Ranger

After Earth

Man of Steel

Despicable Me 2

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