The cinema at the Excel Heritage Centre in Tipperary town is to close with the loss of up to nine jobs and will not re-open until funding to pay for the cost of converting to new digital technology is found.
On July I the worldwide film industry will switch to digital technology but considerable investment is required to make the change and the Board of Directors of the Excel said they were exploring all the options to enable the cinema to re-open.
The digital switch over would cost in the region of €30,000 to €40,000 per screen at the three screen Excel or an up front payment of €20,000 could be made with the remainder of the cost to be met through a leasing arrangement.
The Excel Board of Directors said this week that they had succeeded in obtaining another €40,000 funding from South Tipperary County Council and Tipperary Town Council in addition to the €20,000 approved at the start of the year and announced that next year just €40,000 would be allocated in financial support from the local authorities.
They said the cinema would be closed in the coming weeks to allow management and the Board of Directors to look at the feasibility of investing in new digital technology.
A spokesperson for the Board of Directors said that redundancies were unavoidable and that it would affect between five and nine jobs of the fifteen full time staff at the Excel.
“The Board of this community owned Arts Centre will be reviewing all aspects of the centre to ensure delivery of the numerous other services and activities it provides to the community. The board wish to thank all our customers and service users, lotto supporters and assure you that Tipperary Excel’s doors remain open providing Tipperary with an excellent theatre and artistic program,” went the statement.
Staff at the Excel were informed of the development last Friday.
A spokesperson said the cinema would close in two or three weeks time and that the options on digital technology were being explored with different companies.
The up front lump sum payment of €20,000 would be required by June 9 and the leasing option is also being investigated. The spokesperson said that the funding provided by the local authorities could not be used for the digital switch over as it was required to enable the Excel run its other operations.
“There is a danger it might not re-open but the Board of Directors are looking at every option. It would be a huge loss to the town. There is a very strong history of cinema in the town going back to 1912 when there were two cinemas in the town,” said the spokesperson.
At Monday night’s meeting of Tipperary Town Council members expressed disappointment at the proposed closure of the cinema and the loss of jobs.
Independent Cllr. Denis Leahy said he understood that the cinema was closing as the Excel Centre was experiencing ‘serious financial difficulties and that the cinema was one of the biggest losers’. He had been informed that their current technology is out of date and will become obsolete as of from July 1 when the world wide film industry will switch to digital technology. Cllr. Leahy said that he understood that the cost of upgrading was in the region of €100,000. However, he said, that management at the Excel are anxious to emphasise that the other facilities will continue to operate as normal.
Expressing her disappointment at this news, another Independent Cllr. Jacqui Finnan said that it was very unfortunate and would be very sad if the cinema was to close for the sake of €100,000. She said that she understood that €100,000 was a lot of money but that in the greater scheme of things was not that much.
Extending his sympathies to those workers who are to lose their jobs, Fianna Fail Cllr. John Hartnett also paid tribute to South Tipperary County Council and Tipperary Town Council for their continued financial support of the Excel Heritage Centre.
Councillors Billy Bourke and Mary Swords also expressed their disappointment at the Cinema closure and job losses.