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Thursday 21 November 2019

Savoy firm takes court action to block rival cinema

The Savoy Cinema has been a mainstay of Dublin life
The Savoy Cinema has been a mainstay of Dublin life

The owners of Dublin's Savoy Cinema fear a company which bought the Screen Cinema will use it as a cinema or theatre, despite a contractual restriction.

The Dublin Cinema Group (DCG) is seeking a High Court injunction preventing Balark Trading GP and Balark Investments from using the Screen building and neighbouring College House, just off D'Olier Street, as a cinema/theatre. The Savoy, as a competitor, is located on nearby O'Connell Street.

DCG says when it sold its leasehold interest to Balark in 2016, there was a restriction in the sale agreement that the two buildings would not be used as a cinema/theatre for 20 years.

In 2018, planning permission was granted for redevelopment to include a 500-seat "entertainment venue". The previous year, Balark Investments transferred its interest in the properties to Balark Trading.

Separate

DCG sought undertakings from Balark that the use would not be for a cinema and that planning permission would not be implemented if the "entertainment venue" aspect was part of it.

Balark Trading was prepared to not use it for a cinema but refused to scrap the planning.

It also disputed that it was bound by the sale contract, as it was with a technically separate company, Balark Investments.

As of January 2018, Balark's solicitors indicated the firm had not finalised its intended use.

DCG suspected plans may include a cinema, and brought proceedings seeking to prevent such a use for the 20 years under the sale agreement.

Lorcan Ward, a DCG director, said last January that "surrounding evidence" indicated that 18 months earlier negotiations were at an advanced staged with Paddy McKillen Jr's Press Up Entertainment leisure and hospitality group over use.

Arising out of this dispute, both parties asked the High Court to order discovery of related documents. Mr Justice Michael Twomey refused both applications, saying the documents were not necessary for fair disposal of the dispute.

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