Have we forgotten how to experience?

Alan Kelly

By Alan Kelly

Chief Creative Officer

Date: 14 November, 2017

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“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Not my words, but the words of the world’s greatest philosopher – Ferris Bueller. And there’s no better phrase to sum up my experience of Dublin’s newest movie theatre opening.

Now admittedly I only get to leave the house to put out the bins most weeks, so the bar is low when it comes to me going out. But last Wednesday I went out… ‘out out’. I went to the newly refurbished Stella Theatre in Rathmines to see Murder on the Orient Express (Bueller & The Princess Bride are coming soon). Murder on the Orient Express was grand, but to be honest I was looking at the cinema itself rather than the screen. Which begs the question – could how you see a movie be as important as what you see?


The Stella is like the private cinema the Great Gatsby would have commissioned. Could this really be the same place where in the ‘80s someone felt a sharp pain in their ankle only to look down at the floor to see a manky rat scurrying away? Surely not. The job they’ve done on the Stella to restore it to its 1920’s art deco glory has been nothing short of amazing. The cinema’s 1980s facade was removed and the original was uncovered. The foyer has wooden dark grey panelling, and a white and black mosaic floor. This, and another similar floor area outside the main auditorium door, is a careful reproduction of an original floor upstairs at balcony level.

The Stella in the 1920’s had a capacity of 1,283, making it Ireland’s largest cinema at the time. But the refurb will have a capacity of just 216. My mum grew up in Rathmines and she used to go to the Stella to catch the latest episode of Flash Gordon. She would have a hard time recognising the place now with its rows of deep leather armchairs and couches, with small circular snack tables, topped by lamps, beside them. In front of each seat is a leather ottoman to stretch the legs on to, and inside it a cashmere blanket for cosiness, and space to stow coats or bags. And they have beds! Perfect if you want to bunk in with your kids to watch a matinee on a Saturday morning.

Did I mention the table service? “A waitress will deliver your wild mushroom risotto balls 15 minutes into the show”. And get this: the drinks, from IPAs to an array of cocktails, in crystal glasses, would you be able? Upstairs is what was once a dance studio, is the Stella Cocktail Bar, a decadent, velvet interior with a new roof light, over bar mirror and small outdoor terrace – the whole bar just oozes opulence. Give yourself a treat and pop in before or after the movie… or both.


The Stella is a timely reminder of how to experience an experience and if the movie industry wants to stop the illegal downloading of movies they would be as well to take a stroll down Rathmines and soak up the charm of the Stella and then invest in similar cinema experiences around the world. Because anyone who experiences the Stella experience – won’t want to experience another movie in another way again.


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