From Cinema to Sikh Temple

Sticking with the broad theme of blogging Dublin history in the age of Covid19, I noticed an uplifting report on The Irish Times about the Sikh community utilising their Temple on Serpentine Avenue, Dublin 4, to assist those in need during the crisis. The piece includes some beautiful words from Ravinder Singh Oberoi, expressing the desire of the communtiy to do what they can:

It comes with the tradition we follow that food is for the poor. It was started by our first Guru Nanak; it’s a free kitchen for anyone. Worldwide there are Sikh organisations providing free meals to the needy. It’s in our blood that we want to help. On this occasion with a lot of people suffering, we decided as Sikhs we can help in some shape or form.

The Irish Times

All across Dublin, former cinemas dot the built landscape – they became snooker halls, bingo halls, furntiture retailers and more besides. Only one went on to become a Sikh Temple.

Cinema in Dublin got off to a rocky start, with James Joyce’s Volta on Mary Street. A plaque now honours that failed institution on what is now a department shop. Joyce had a good idea too early – the idea of opening a cinema had been inspired by his European travels, but in the absence of an Irish or British film industry, he found himself showing imported reels to an unimpressed audience.

By the 1930s, things had changed. The cinema on Serpentime Avenue had first opened in 1936 under the name Astoria, later chanting to Ritz in 1947 and Oscar in the 1970s.

The Oscar, 1970s.

The cinema was significant in scale, with seating capacity for 700 people. While a one screen cinema, screenings were changed more frequently than was standard across the city, creating a repeat customer base.

Like clockwork, many of Dublin’s suburban cinemas closed their doors in the early 1970s, unable to survive in a changing world where visual entertainment could be obtained without stepping outside the front door. The Oscar Cinema became a performance venue for a period in the 1970s, but was eventually put up for sale. Acquired by the Sikh community in the 1980s, the interior of the building has been transformed beyond recognition, but there is still the feel of a suburban cinema in its 1930s exterior.

A great recollections piece on the cinema from Dublin City Council Culture Company remembers the building as it was, with local Muirne:

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