A campaign to save an iconic cinema is gathering momentum in Dingle, Co Kerry.

The Phoenix Cinema, which has been operating in the town for over 100 years, has been put up for sale but a local community group is hoping to raise funds to purchase the much-loved venue.

The group wants to secure the future of the cinema but also develop a multi-purpose arts centre on the 1/3 acre site which is situated in the heart of the town.

The Phoenix Cinema was first opened in 1919 but two years later it was destroyed by a fire.

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The Houlihan family managed to rebuild the cinema and during the following decades it became the social hub of the town, hosting drama, concerts and dances, as well as screening films.

The Phoenix has been owned by the O'Sullivan family since 1979 but the onset of the pandemic brought extended closure to one of Ireland’s last family-run cinemas.

Last November, the O’Sullivans announced that the cinema would not be reopening.

The Phoenix and the land surrounding it is now for sale.

The cinema burned down in 1919

Given its central location in the heart of Dingle there are growing concerns in the tourist town that the site could be earmarked for alternative development.

Aoife Ní Ghrainbhéil, from the Ionad Phoenix Committee, said there was tremendous fondness for the Phoenix and that every effort is being made to save the cinema.

"We would love to open it again as a cinema but also as a multipurpose cultural and arts centre for the community," she said.

There were different plans for art centres in the town over the years which didn’t come to fruition, unfortunately. A centre that can cater for drama, can offer artists a place to work and exhibit is badly needed here. We feel the cinema has huge potential," she added.

The group said up to €1.5m would be needed to purchase and develop the site.

A major crowdfunding campaign will launch next week.

Potential private investors have been approached and the group is also examining various avenues through which it could secure state funding for the project.

Filmmaker and a former employee at the Phoenix Aodh Ó Coileáin said the cinema holds tremendous historical, cultural and social significance in the town.

"I think people realise, now that it is closed, how important a part this building played in the life and fabric of this town," he said.

"There were dances, there were feiseanna, there were music competitions, there was drama – I saw my first play here, The Playboy of the Western World in 1978 . And of course there was great cinema," he added.

"It really was a vibrant meeting place. All the fishing folk, the farming folk came in from the country and it was also a place where romance blossomed as well, especially when the ballroom dances were held," Mr Ó Coileáin said.

"here is a very sentimental attachment to the Phoenix Cinema, it's a place full of nostalgia, and that's why people want to maintain it for the community."