Monday 20 January 2020

Film festival dedicates night to real-life 'Cinema Paradiso' owner

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

FOR more than three decades he brought the movies and the movie stars to his town of Dingle, Co Kerry.

Michael O'Sullivan grew up watching films in his local picture house.

And when the Phoenix Cinema faced closure, he personally took it over and continued to show films for more than three decades, until his death last November.

His introductions to screenings were the stuff of legend, as were his meetings with major movie figures.

His life has been likened to 'Cinema Paradiso' -- the Oscar winning 1988 Italian film by director Giuseppe Tornatore which celebrated the life of a projectionist who brought the movies to his Sicilian town.

Now Mr O'Sullivan's life and contribution to the local cinema scene will be celebrated with a special night at the Dingle Film Festival.

Festival organiser Maurice Galway told the Irish Independent how Mr O'Sullivan left an impression on everyone he met with his passion for film.

"The first year of the festival, we had director Alan Parker picking up an award.

"What Alan didn't expect was an introduction from Michael in which he went through all the films he liked by Parker but more unexpectedly, the films he hadn't liked. But Alan Parker just laughed."

Born on the Dingle Peninsula in 1931, Mr O'Sullivan first visited the local cinema in 1940, to watch 'The Sea Hawk', starring Errol Flynn.

Such was his love for the Phoenix Cinema, built in 1937, that when it came up for sale in 1979, Mr O'Sullivan decided to buy it.

"When Michael told his wife he had bought the cinema, she cried.

"He had a successful business as a fish exporter but had to put thousands of his own money into saving the cinema," said Mr Galway.

"Michael kept the films rolling every night. He never missed a night and the ticket prices were so reasonable that locals knew it was cheaper to go see a film rather than heat their homes mid-winter," Mr Galway added.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News