You would be forgiven for not realising what a rich social and architectural heritage Dublin has in the cinema stakes considering the current infrastructure, which mainly consists of very large multiplexes.

In 2006 there were just twelve full-time cinemas operating in Dublin - and with the exception of the Ormonde in Stillorgan, the Screen and the Savoy in the city centre, all had opened since 1990.

Marc Zimmermann is the founding chair of the Cinema Heritage Group and his new book 'The History of Dublin Cinemas' will bring you up to date on this rich history, starting in 1896 when the very first 'living pictures' were shown in the city.

The fact that only a few historical cinema buildings survive today, most without any protection, and some - such as the Gala in Ballyfermot and the Tivoli on Francis Street - under immediate threat, will hit you on your first dip into this detailed and attractive account.

The book is divided into chapters starting with early film exhibition, moving through the golden age from 1929 to 1955 and the decline brought on by the advent of television which lasted right up to the revival of the multiplex era in 1990. The Main Feature section details the history and current status of the 120 distinct cinemas which have operated between 1986 and today, with a bunch of mystery ones thrown in.

There are plenty of black and white photographs of the elegant old cinemas, and also current photographs of the sites which will make you take a closer look at these buildings when you pass them by today. Pictures from the 1930s of the lavish interior of the Savoy, the vast elegant auditorium of the Theatre Royal in the 1940s, the proud Sutton Grand in 1936 all rub shoulders with the flashy multiplexes of today, with their giant popcorn tubs and neon lights.

Unlike last year's 'A to Z of All Old Dublin Cinemas' by George Kearns and Patrick Maguire which had a 1974 cut off, this book takes us right up to 2006 with proposed developments discussed.

According to Screen Digest 2006, Dublin currently accounts for 48% of cinema attendance in Ireland and it seems sad that most of the active cinema-going population will not have a clue about the fast disappearing rich history of what is again a popular pastime. In fact, since this book was published the Classic (previously the Kenilworth) in Harold's Cross has been pulled down.

Yet this book is not only a history of the city's cinemas, but also of Dublin itself. It has changed so much and yet, as the pictures show, some buildings have remained almost unchanged.

James Joyce founded Dublin's first dedicated cinema in 1909 (the Volta on Mary Street) and what lies on the site today? Well it's the Penny's Department Store on Mary's Street. Bet Joyce would be pleased with that one.

Mary McCarthy