The Ambassador Cinema
This Article was first published by Box
Office Magazine in August 1997 and is about The Ambassador
Cinema - The Oldest Running Cinema in Europe.
In the heart of Dublin lies a building called 'The Rotunda'
originally set up as a maternity hospital built for the poor of the
city by Bartholomew Mosse in 1745. To raise funds to keep the
building going he hit on the idea of a pleasure garden where the
gentry could spend their evenings strolling . Some marsh land to the
east of the building was landscaped and a series of decorative
fountains , waterways, pavilions and a bandstand was also erected.
They strolled and chatted and finished their nights with a firework
display which was frequently terminated due to the inclemency of the
Faced with a large drop in revenue Mosse commissioned an
architect to create a permanent shelter which was to be called
'The Rotunda'. It was a miracle building for it's time rising
fifthly feet from the ground , it's ceiling had an uninterrupted
span of eighty feet without central support... a feat of
engineering. Throughout the eighteen century the building was added
to and like it's London counterpart 'the Vauxhall' was to be
known as the place to be seen by the nobility and gentry of the
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The Round Room as it was called then was the scene of many
functions and some of the luminaries who played there were Handel,
Paganini and Charles Dickens. Dickens who gave readings was the
cause of a near riot when over 3,000 people turned up to hear him
and half of them were unable to gain admission. In 1784 a ballroom
and the world famous Gate Theatre was added to provide other
amenities. The removal of Parliament from Dublin to London at the
start of the 19th century almost brought the glittering concerts and
parties to a standstill , the fate of the building looked doomed.
It became a meeting place for religious revivals , temperance
rallies and public meetings,most of which were to become part of the
history of the state. The men who were to fashion the state were to
appear in the early part of the century, Daniel O'Connell, Charles
Stewart Parnell and the founder of one of the largest unions in the
country'Big' Jim Larkin were but a few and these all played
their part in the early days.
Cinema had not hit the city but Dublins first cinema 'The
Volta' was to change all that and along with it's most famous
manager writer James Joyce it became the most popular past time in
the city. The Round Room was turned into a cinema and like so many
other entertainment halls a slew of cinemas were to follow.
Affectionately most of the cinemas had an abbreviated names 'The
Roxy' formally the' round room' was to be called 'The Roc'
& Cine Variety was to be the order of the day for the hall that
has seen many a famous person grace it's stage. Popular singers of
the day Count John McCormac & Joseph Locke were but two of the
warm up acts for the movies that were to follow.
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In the forties it changed it's title to 'The Ambassador'
which was an apt name for the film's that were to be shown. Ten
years later saw movies like 'Ben Hur' , 'Oliver' and 'My
Fair Lady' play to packed houses. It had several problems as a
cinema one being the seating capacity. Because of the angle of the
building patrons who had acquired side seats used to leave the
cinema with a crick in their neck due to the sharp angle and to this
day at least 130 seats are not used. With the change in name it
became known as the cinema with the stereophonic sound and most
Dubliners had no idea about the difference it made to a movie.
Towards the eighties the cinema became a less attractive place to
go for the average cinema-goer. Changes had happened and cinemas
were becoming smaller and more intimate but as as there was a
government preservation on the building changes were not allowed. No
longer viable it shut it's doors and was turned into a financial
services centre, where there once was long rows of seats which
accommodated thousand's of people , in their place was banks of
computer terminals and a deafening silence. Fortunately in 1994 the
Ward/Anderson group took the building back and refurbished it . A
cinema once more it continues to be the only unchanged building in
the country, the public love to look at the building that was around
during their great grandparent's time. It also reminds us that
while the multiplexes and other large establishments might be in the
best interest of to-day's cinema , but there are still some
buildings where the ghost's of the old day's still ride the
Copyright ©1997 Tony
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