Ireland in the 1950s was a dark place and a grey time. There was very little colour in our lives, which at the time revolved around school (a strict and severe establishment) and Church (equally oppressive and often unsympathetic to children). The only colour came when we went to the cinema. And we went in droves to the matinee every Sunday after Mass (of course) and before Evening Devotions. We skipped along in anticipation, with our 4p clutched tightly in our fists, and joined the queue of other equally excited children. Of course we were in the timber benches in the pit (known as the flea pit) and we could only look back at the soft seats and dream that some day we could go there. The minute we entered the door the strong smell of urine filled our nostrils but we didn’t care because soon the big screen would light up and transport us to a fantasy world. The minute the beam of light from the projector aimed its dusty image at the screen we scrambled to our seats. The big golden shell opened to reveal what film was being shown and somehow it was nearly always cowboy films: the cowboys being the goodies and the Indians, the baddies.
It was only when the cold air hit our flushed faces on the way out that reality hit: would we be asked at school on Monday if we’d been at the pictures on Sunday? We went to Devotions on Sunday night and prayed that nobody would squeal, thus saving us from the slap of the ruler and the humiliation of a tongue-lashing. To this day, I cannot understand what was so wrong with bringing a bit of innocent colour into an otherwise dull and boring life, but then everything was a sin at that time. It puzzled me why my mother and father had no objection to us going to the cinema as they were devout and practicing Catholics; it was decades later that my father told me that it was the only private time my mother and he had together! It seems there was more romance in homes than in the cinema and, dare I say, that included the unspeakable word “SEX”! After all, these were the times of big families in small houses where privacy was limited. So, instead of chastising us, the Church should have been rewarding us for our contribution to procreation and keeping the Churches and Schools full!!
Alas, the Cosey Cinema is now closed and up for sale and what with Netflix and modern technology, the future looks bleak.
In an article published in The Corkman (7 Mar. 2013), it is stated that the origins of Kanturk’s Cosey Cinema can be traced back to 1930, when Jeremiah O’Sullivan built a cinema on lands that once had been under the ownership of the Earl of Desmond. The Earl had sold the land in 1913 to one Philip Archdeacon, who operated a carriage building enterprise on the site. Perhaps his business began to suffer as competition from automobiles came in (most notably the Model T, the brainchild of Henry Ford, whose ancestors hailed from Ballinascarthy); whatever the reason, he sold the land in the late 1920s. Though The Corkman puts 1930 as the date of opening, as early as 1928 there’s mention of a “Cosey Cinema Hall” in Kanturk, in The Kerryman newspaper. Although information is scant, there seems to have been two cinema businesses operating in the town in the 1920s, but with the advent of sound pictures, and the expensive refitting of cinemas that that necessitated, the two halls amalgamated.
American moviegoers may have been treated to the first sound film in 1927, with the release of Warner brothers’ The Jazz Singer, but it took a little while longer for the “talkies” to come to Kanturk. The Irish Examiner reported that the much-heralded arrival took place on Easter Sunday 1931, with a screening of Devil May Care, a feature starring heartthrob Ramon Novarro. So excited were the locals by the prospect of hearing Novarro speak and watching the antics of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (who were the second feature on the double-bill), that the house was packed to capacity and a repeat screening was hastily arranged.
The Cosey seems to have done a thriving business in the next two decades, though it appears to have changed owners a couple of times. It was put up for sale in 1936, and its advertisement boasted that it was the “only cinema in the town and district”, and that it was well-equipped with British Acoustic Talkie equipment, two Gaumont Projectors, a Rectifier, and an 8hp Crossley Engine. In 1946 the cinema got a new owner, James Joseph Kavanagh, and he operated it as an independent cinema for a decade and a half. In 1960 the business was taken over by the Ormonde Cinema group, who ran a number of cinemas in Cork and beyond, and the Cosey name was abandoned (it became The Ormonde).
However, in 1976 Michael and Mary O’Riordan acquired it and they restored the historic Cosey name. They welcomed patrons for the first time on 2 Oct. 1977 and, according to The Corkman, the box office charged 60p and 70p, depending on seats. Over the years, the O’Riordans proved to be dynamic cinema owners, constantly looking for innovative ways to bring in business, including running screenings of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins and James Cameron’s Titanic for visually-impaired patrons. In 1993, following a refurbishment that added a second screen, the Cosey was selected as one of only four cinemas in all Ireland to play host to a programme of films for European Film Week.
Despite all the efforts made to keep the business going, including its rebranding as a “Midiplex”, the Cosey was unable to compete against the might of multiplexes (including one in nearby Mallow) and the changeover to digital. In an interview with The Irish Times, Michael O’Riordan complained that the odds were stacked against independent cinemas: “The multiplexes seem to be allocated product whereas we have to fight for it. The terms that the multiplexes get are probably far favourable than we would get in the country. It’s often Monday before you know what you’re showing the following Friday night …You live from week to week”. It appears that those odds were simply too great and in March 2013 the Cosey screened its last film. Kanturk has not had a cinema since.
In the piece below, Kanturk woman Mary Crowley recalls matinees at the Cosey in the 1950s.
“Dunhallow Camogie Dance”, The Kerryman, 4 Aug. 1928
“Talkies in Kanturk”, Irish Examiner, 8 Apr. 1931
“For Sale as a Going Concern” (advertisement), The Irish Examiner, 3 Oct. 1936
Casey, Mike. “No Cinema Paradiso”, The Irish Times, 17 Apr. 1996
“Jer O’Sullivan opened first cinema”, The Corkman, 7 Mar. 2013