Dublin’s Very Own Art House Cinema

‘We do everything from highbrow arts screenings to very lowbrow cult screenings and everything in between. It is a beautiful and comfortable cultural space filled with like-minded film lovers.’

Outdoor sign for Light House Cinema, Smithfield. Photo by Rachael Hussey
Outdoor sign for Light House Cinema, Smithfield. Photo by Rachael Hussey

Located in Smithfield, the Light House Cinema is an extraordinary space offering a special viewing experience. Whether you are a fan of Indie films and documentaries or you just want a new encounter, away from the generic, offerings of the ‘omniplexes’ scattered across the Dublin streets, this cinema is for you!

 Set up in 1988, originally this cinema was based in the city centre on Middle Abbey Street until 1996. In 2008 the cinema was re-established in Smithfield with the help of State funding for the area. It is based in the Market Square development, surrounded by office buildings, residents, cafes and shops.

 With four screens and a capacity of 614 seats this cinema offers an intimate and unusual experience. The building itself has an aura of a sizeable art gallery with stylish architecture and a minimalist interior design. The contemporary feel is developed further in its attention to detail such as lightings, the café, wine bar and table tennis set up. The whole atmosphere of the place encourages you to sit back and relax, take some time for yourself and expand your horizons. If cinema is a form of escapism, encouraging viewers to enter a different world for a few hours, then the surroundings at the Light House elevate this escape to the level of art.

Classic Film Posters in Light House Cinema, Smithfield. Photo by Rachael Hussey
Classic Film Posters in Light House Cinema, Smithfield. Photo by Rachael Hussey

 Apart from its relaxing atmosphere and interesting location, the film choices for the cinema only add to its charm. With a mixture of small, independent films and a few Hollywood movies, the cinema manages to cater to a wide audience. If there is an exciting new Irish film or a thought-provoking documentary, it is likely you can find it at the Light House. Paired with a slice of decadent chocolate biscuit cake and a glass of red, who can resist?

 The cinema is similar to the Irish Film Institute in the city centre where art house cinema is mixed with a cafe and film clubs. This approach, where love of film is paired with arts and culture and interactive participation through loyalty cards and membership is something that is appreciated by film buffs. The IFI has a two-tiered membership card from €25 (€15 concession price) to €99 http://www.ifi.ie/home/membership/ while the Light House offer a three-tier system including a free membership, a €25 membership and a €100 membership. http://www.lighthousecinema.ie/membership.php?PHPSESSID=k57kromja1j7dfathvav97k2v1

Sign for Light House Cafe, Smithfield. Photo by Rachael Hussey
Sign for Light House Cafe, Smithfield. Photo by Rachael Hussey

 Price wise the Light House fares competitively with bigger cinemas where the focus is on blockbusters and Hollywood movies. For an evening adult ticket in the Light House it is €9, while the Savoy Dublin charges €8.50 and Movies at Dundrum charge €10.20. For students an evening ticket will set you back €7.50 in the Light House and respectively it is €7 at the Savoy Dublin and €8 for Movies at Dundrum.




 As many cinema lovers know, the level of comfort while watching a great film is paramount to your experience (along with great snacks). The Light House seats are extremely comfortable and are en par with Movies at Dundrum which is definitely a good thing as both are large and cushy.

 Images from the Light House Cinema 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I spoke with the Light House Cinema’s programmer Charlene Lydon to get her take on what makes the cinema special and how they run their cinema compared with the competition.

What do you think draws viewers to the Light House cinema versus the regular ‘run of the mill’ cinemas around Dublin

C. I think the diversity of the programme that we offer is one of the main attractions to Light House. We do everything from highbrow arts screenings to very lowbrow cult screenings and everything in between. Also the fact that it is a beautiful and comfortable cultural space filled with like-minded film lovers. We aim to ensure that our customers feel at home and comfortable here. We also have a bar which serves wine and craft beer that you can take with you into the screening. That usually sits very well with people.

 Between Hollywood Babylon and The Cinema Book Club and art exhibitions, the Light House cinema provides a niche service to the customers. Does this encourage the build up of repeat and loyal customers, building a relationship with the patrons?

C. I believe that Light House can be everything to everyone. We reach out to all kinds of audiences and hopefully the focus that we have on niche films and groups makes the space feel like “theirs” when they come here. Our book club and various cult film nights create great memories for people and I absolutely think (hope!) that creates a very special relationship between the cinema and its audience.

Can you elaborate on the services: Cinema Book Club and Hollywood Babylon and what this provides to customers?

C. Cinema Book Club is both a cultural and a social initiative. We started it about two and a half years ago with the idea of making our space a social space, but also as a way of including some film-themed discourse in a very informal way. We encourage people to read a specific book each month, then we show the big-screen version and have a post-screening chat in the bar afterwards. We have a great group and the discussions are always very lively!

Hollywood Babylon is actually programmed separately to our regular programme. The club does regular monthly screenings of cult films, preceded by “Trailer Trash” which is a playlist of fun, silly, crazy videos so it gets the audience warmed up before the film begins. Always a bit raucous and always very fun!

Is it a priority of the Light House to include these alternative experiences along with just screening films?

C. Definitely! As the programmer of the cinema, I feel that it is really important to satisfy all the various crazy desires of the Dublin cinema-goer which includes the acclaimed films that are released each week, but also classic films, cult films, films that scare you, films that make you dance (of course, dancing is always encouraged, where appropriate) and we even do morning screening at half-volume for parents with babies to attend so they can keep up with the best new films. We also, on very special occasions, throw themed party nights, such as our Lebowski party and our Wes Anderson party and a The Shining-themed Halloween party! It all adds to the individual experience.

As your cinema screens many art house films, documentaries and small indie films, does this put added pressure financially as they are not as lucrative as big Hollywood blockbusters?

C. It certainly means that we have to work harder to promote the films we show. Many of them don’t have big marketing budgets so you won’t see posters on the sides of buses. However, our audience is made up of discerning film lovers who tend to keep their fingers on the pulse so we find that they do their research. We also bolster the programme with one-off event screenings, live arts screenings and film retrospectives.

A lot of people enjoy the differences provided even food wise, the addition of coffees, fresh cakes and wine is very popular. Why do you think this is?

C. The audience that comes here tends to enjoy the fact that we feel very different to the multiplexes. While we do serve the traditional popcorn (of course!) we also offer a selection of lovely cakes and coffees and a great selection of fine wines and craft beers at the bar so you feel that little bit fancier on your night out. AND we have a ping-pong table and board games in our bar for our customers to enjoy.

Are there any plans for the future to further develop the cinema?

C. No plans as yet but we always have something up our sleeve!

I highly recommend you check out the Light House if you have yet to visit this fascinating spot. Take the time to enjoy the experience, whether you go for a coffee before hand, have a glass of wine after the movie or just stopping for a game of ping pong and a stroll through the building, looking at the old movie posters.

 While the location may be slightly off the beaten track for some, with car park access available and the red-line Luas a stones throw from Market Square, no Dubliner has an excuse to avoid this cinema!

 For the latest film showings at The light House see programme below:


 By: Rachael Hussey

Leave a Reply