Leading film producers Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe (Room, The Lobster, The Guard) of Element Pictures have opened a new independent cinema in Galway, Ireland, incorporating a Georgian merchant house into a contemporary concrete “castle” in the city centre.
Element has offices in Dublin and London and its activities encompass production, distribution, and exhibition (the company operates the 4 screen The Light House Cinema, Dublin’s premiere art house as well as Road House Cinema and Volta.ie. Fourteen years after the project was first proposed, Pálás (or Palace) has finally opened its doors. It is a unique and intriguing architectural space, right in the heart of the Latin Quarter in Galway.
This striking and world-class specialist cinema is committed to programming the best of new and classic films, along with the best of Irish and international independent films within a moulded concrete tower awash in natural light. The playful space, setting intimate nooks against soaring voids, delivers a cinema experience “with the same level of care,” says Lowe, “as with the films we produce.”
Inspired by cinemas of the early 20th century, Pálás features elaborate red-velvet curtains, theatrical lighting and plush seating from 70-year-old French manufacturer Quinette Gallay. Angular poured-concrete staircases criss-cross through the seven-storey building, leaving stepped silhouettes in the negative space underneath. “You get lost in there, which is the trick,” says architect Tom dePaor of County Wicklow practice dePaor.
He says he designed the space “as a monument to a gregarious town that thrives on festivals,” like July’s Galway Film Fleadh. “I wanted to make the sort of plain, powerful building well known to this side of Ireland, and then to sweeten the pill with beautiful, decorative elements.” Those elements take the form of 24 resin-coated glass windows donated by local artist Patrick
Scott, taking visual cues from the gel filters used in stage lighting. “They’re like little projectors that play off the concrete and colour the rooms red, amber and purple,” says dePaor. “And at night they project outwards onto the city.”
The new structure looms behind the preserved Georgian façade, with the foyer in a courtyard space between them. Three screening rooms in the contemporary building stack one atop the other, with a contemporary bar, and light filled restaurant. “That was our vision,” says Lowe, “a grown-up experience, where you can eat before or after, take a glass of wine into your film… and no sticky floors.”
Lowe says the programme will include feature films, shorts, classics, foreign language and animated films, feature length documentaries, filmmaker Q&A’s, festivals and inventive special events like Elfeoke and The Rocky Horror Picture Show where dressing up is encouraged.