Yep, Greystones’ one and only bona fide cinema, The Ormonde was a true palace of dreams, where you could escape from the black and white world outside for two hours and go live in a technicolour wonderland.
And if you were lucky, you might get to sit near that hot ticket tearaway. From Nancy Fee to Mary Mitchell, from Caroline Molloy to Danny Hatton, they were all made even more gorgeous in the heady, flickering lights of Hollywood heavy petting.
When it closed its doors for the very last time on Thursday, July 26th, 2007, The Ormonde left the whole of Wicklow county without a single-screen cinema. The multiplex had taken over, and the business of surviving on just one screen was proving too tough for many cinema owners.
The Bray Cineplex had closed just the month before, whilst The Abbey Cinema in Wicklow town had been gone five years earlier. Arklow’s own Alps Cinema had vanished years before that, whilst in Baltinglass, their cinema went dark in 1984, and Blessington hasn’t seen the flicker of a projector since the 1960s.
At the time of its closure, The Ormonde was known as The Screen By The Sea, and the very last film shown was Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix. Having been taken over by the Spurling family in 1978, the cinema first opened its doors, reckons Graham Spurling (who now co-owns Movies@Dundrum), during World War II. It was actually May 5th, 1947.
Made famous by its starring role in the Father Tedepisode The Passion Of St. Tibulus, The Ormonde reportedly also turned up in the short-lived 2001 sitcom Custer’s Last Stand Up.
Another tragi-comic moment occurred in May 1970 when Bozo The Clown (actor Max King) did an incredible somersault from the stage, sparking a huge round of applause and uncontrollable laughter from the kids. Only Bozo had actually fallen six feet from the stage, landing on his head, an injury that later required seven stitches. Ever the professional though, Bozo had simply jumped back up onstage and finished his act.
Oh, and then there was the day that Michael Jacksonrented it outso he could spend the entire afternoon there with his kids.
Back in April 2014, hearts around Greystones fair skipped a beat when they saw The Ormonde being returned to its former glory by a truckload of busy construction workers one afternoon [right], but it turned out just to be a quick facelift for a TV commercial.
Jaws on The Cove 16SEPT16
With theGreystones Outdoor Cinema Club and the free-membershipGreystones Film Club in The Whaleproving that there are more than enough people in this little town of ours who still like a night out in front of a big screen, there’s light in the old projector yet…
In the meantime, share your memories of The Ormonde below. And if you’re over 10 years of age, it might be worth checking to see if you were conceived in the back row…
The building of The Ormonde 1947. Colourised by GG.
St Patrick’s School get an Ormonde matinee 1968. Colourised by GG.
Ormonde Cinema interior. Pic Gerry Sandford
Ormonde Programme 1968. Source: Shona Murphy
Ormonde by Gary Acheson
Ormonde by James Mongey
Ormonde by nivnivrin
Here come the shops…
A second act…
Craggy Island takes over…
Ormonde 1990s with Mr Bean
Shelter from the storm…
Cracks being to show…
You can catch up with Graham Spurling’s stardust memories here, check out Greystones’ many appearances on film righthere, and find out about when Michael Jackson and his kids took over the place for the dayhere.
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