It closed in 2004 after 81 years.
Then, in January, it was reported by TheJournal.ie that Press Up Entertainment Group had bought it over and intended to restore it, possibly reopening it this summer as a cinema once more, with a cocktail bar.
(Press Up is the group which is also restoring the old Aungier House pub on the corner of Digges Street and Aungier Street.)
Last week, construction at the Stella site caught the eye of architect Ciarán Ferrie. On Sunday, it looked like the facade of the old cinema had been removed.
This was the day before councillors of the South East Area Committee were due to meet and discuss whether to place the Stella Cinema on the Record of Protected Structures.
At Monday’s meeting, the Green Party’s Patrick Costello pointed out that it was public knowledge that the councillors intended to make the Stella a protected structure. Once it is a protected structure, it limits the works a developer or owner is allowed carry out on a building.
“I think it’s disappointing that they removed it [the facade] certainly when it was about to be on the RPF [Record of Protected Structures],” Costello says.
The facade was a new addition, though, according to Labour Councillor Mary Freehill. “[That] was a block frieze at the front that was only put up about 15 years ago,” she said.
“I’m old enough to remember what the Stella looked like and, let me tell you, it was quite elegant,” Freehill said. “That horrible old block, the frieze at the front, that was added and was certainly not part of the original.”
As well as the facade, Costello says, “the inside is really important, and we can’t see that and God only knows what’s happening on the inside … I don’t want to suggest any impropriety by the developer, though.”
The Way It Was
A spokesperson for Press Up said that the plan still is for the building to re-open in its original format as a cinema this summer.
“The original facade is being restored and the cavity blocks were removed to enable this. The original interiors are also being restored including the beautiful ceiling which was covered up for decades,” she said, by email.
On Tuesday Sandra Cardiff and Gerry Crowley stood chatting nearby. Cardiff recalls her trips to the old cinema.
“I was a child and there was a sweet shop inside and we’d go in there,” says Cardiff. “It was one a level up and downstairs and that was it, not like nowadays.”
“It wasn’t huge but it was pretty popular,” she says. “It would be nice for it to go back to the way it was. I think he [the developer] is keeping a few features there.”
That’s something councillors wanted to know at their meeting on Monday. They didn’t find out, but they did initiate the process of placing the Stella on the Record of Protected Structures.
However, it won’t officially be protected until a notice is put in the paper and the relevant parties are informed, said Dublin City Council Senior Planner Paraic Fallon.
Fallon said the council’s planning department has carried out a legal search, “so we know who the parties are that need to be informed … We’ll be doing that as quickly as we can as, and from, your decision as approved today.”
“In relation to the works, they only come into effect once the notification is issued,” said Fallon. “Then we have significant powers to enforce.”
Councillors will keep an eye on developments, says Labour’s Freehill.
“I’m satisfied that we have commenced the listing process,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to assess and make sure that it will be protected.”
[UPDATED: This article was updated on Wednesday 10 May at 22.35 pm, to include a response from Press Up.]