The movie man

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 26th October, 2011 4:59pm

The movie man

A man who has roots in Athlone cinema has seen many changes in the industry, from the time when his family run the popular Adelphi cinema in the 70s right through to modern cinema and its near perfect digital imagery.

Louis O'Sullivan, who comes from Dalkey, has lived in Athlone for almost twenty years.

He bridged a gap in Athlone cinema in 1992, following a time when the town had been seven years without a cinema following the closure of the Ritz.

Louis's father, also called Louis had been proprietor of the Adelphi Cinema in Garden Vale in the 1970s, and the family also ran almost 20 other cinemas throughout the country.

"My family was very entrepreneurial and in the 70s and 80s, my father was the biggest independent cinema owner in Ireland,

Louis has two brothers, and one sister. One brother, Patrick is now working on Antiques and Craft Fair exhibitions in Dublin and Cork, and another brother, Feargal works at the New York Stock exchange in software development. Louis has a sister, Niamh who works for the Mines Advisory Group (MAGS), and is currently based in the Congo.

He recalls in those early days of Athlone cinema that there were two projectors in the projection box, and the films came in about eight cans.

"There was a reel on projector one, and a reel on projector two, and you had a projectionist there who kept changing the reels roughly every twenty minutes. The sound was done mainly through an amplifier and a couple of speakers behind the screen."

At the time, Louis travelled around the different cinemas owned by his family, including that in Athlone.

The Adelphi closed in the late 1970s, and the Ritz, in which the O'Sullivans were not involved in, closed in 1985.

Athlone was seven years without a cinema, and throughout the early 80s, it was a topic of local concern in the urban district council, and in public opinion at the time.

"I always had the cinema in my blood, and when I left college in the 1980s, there weren't much opportunities around, but I saw an opportunity in Athlone, because there was no cinema here," said Louis. "I opened the Showcase cinema in the old shopping centre, and it remained open for about five years. There was four screens, and it was a small cinema, but it was an instant success. But I always knew it would be temporary, because multi-plexes were coming in all over the country, but Golden Island still hadn't materialised."

Cinemagoers in the early 90s had to ascend the steps of Showcase at the old shopping centre, and many movies were screened there in its few years of existence.

The first movie screened there when the cinema opened in May 1992, was 'Basic Instinct' starring Sharon Stone, and Michael Douglas. Throughout the following years, many big box-office movies such as 'Independence Day', 'In the Name of the Father', 'Twelve Monkeys' and 'Michael Collins', which ran for 10 weeks, were all screened at Showcase.

In October 1997, Golden Island came on the scene, and around six months later, a new cinema, Athlone IMC opened, with Louis at the helm, a role he retains to this day.

"Through contacts in the cinema business, I went into partnership with the IMC cinema group in 1998, and we opened the multiplex in Golden Island," said Louis.

Through the decades that followed Louis O'Sullivan has experienced cinema in Ireland, technology has changed many things in the industry.

"There have been huge changes, and everything is getting bigger and bigger, and the sound has changed from amplifier and speakers to a system where mainly the voices come out of the centre speaker in the cinema, and music and other sound effects comes out the left and right channel speakers," he said.

He talks passionately about how digital imagery will revolutionise the enjoyment of cinema, and will complement the new technology of the 1950s fad, 3D. Digital simply comes on an external hard drive which is loaded onto a computer and projector.

"The quality of the digital picture is that bit sharper, because it is a digital image coming out onto the screen," said Louis. "You do notice a difference in quality with digital."

Louis also said that independent production companies now have more of a chance of getting their movies onto cinema screens throughout Ireland, because of digital.

"It makes things cheaper," he explained. "The eight can movies are on the way out, and most new cinemas are digital, and others are transferring to digital, and maybe just the odd movie will remain on 35mm."

Louis said IMC are in the process of completely changing over to digital, which is expected to happen within the coming year.

Since it opened more than thirteen years ago, Athlone IMC has shown hundreds of popular movies, and hosted many shows starring Athlone actors over the years. Fair City star, Sam Peter Corry, who comes from Garnafailagh, Athlone, had his movie, 'Situations Vacant' premiered there in July 2009, before an invited local audience. Also actress Lisa Dwan, who comes from Coosan, Athlone, had her feature film, 'The Tailor of Panama' screened to local audiences at the IMC in 2001. Two years ago, award winning documentary, 'His and Hers', was screened at the IMC, and featured Athlone woman, Pauline Downey, among others.

"I'm a 'Lord of the Rings' man, and I loved the nine hours of escapism in those movies, and overall I love properly made movies, like Avatar," said the IMC manager.

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