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I first visited the Stella Theatre in Rathmines in 1989, at the tender age of four, for a screening of All Dogs Go to Heaven in what was then just a good old-fashioned cinema. I remember it better than most of my childhood memories because my cousin had to remove me before the film ended so that I could cry hysterically in the foyer.
The foyer – along with the rest of the Stella Theatre – looks really different to how I remember it looking in 1989 (although that may have been due to the fog of tears). It reopened on October 31st, 2017, having been lovingly (slash strategically) restored to its 1920s glory by the Press Up group, which is responsible for The Dean, Angelina’s, Roberta’s, Dollard & Co and Sophie’s, among others.
The Stella Theatre’s current iteration is that of a cinema-cum-restaurant. Comfy armchairs are separated by little tables, on which food is served during the film. I’ve been to a dine-in cinema before, in Dallas, Texas; it was a pretty similar experience except, in its Texan cousin, you ordered your meal during the film by writing on Counter Burger-style order slips, and the cinema itself had a specific walkway for the wait staff to walk between rows of punters. At the Stella Theatre, you order in the foyer before you go into the screen – if you want to get more drinks, you need to pop out, mid-film, to order and pay for them.
The ordering experience at the Stella Theatre is, honestly, a bit of a mess – but that might be to do with the fact that, on the Friday night we went along, it was incredibly busy. You queue at the refreshments bar (above) to make your food order, then toddle off to your seat and wait for your waiter to bring your nourishment.
My Dad had got a €100 PressUp voucher for Christmas, so Stephen and I went along with him to see Star Wars (for the second time) – for two regular tickets, one senior and food for all three of us, we paid €105.30. Standard tickets are €19 apiece, while seniors pay €15.
The food is really tasty, and not bad value for such a swish venue. Chilli hot dogs cost €6.95 and chips are €2.95. I had buttermilk chicken tenders (€5.95) and Parmesan fries (€3.95), which came with a really generous heap of Parmesan on top. I also ordered risotto balls (€4.95) because I am destined to forever fear my food order will come out and be tiny.
The Stella Theatre seats are incredibly comfortable – we went for standard and sat on the balcony, which was actually lovely and kind of perfect (I was afraid the view would be rubbish but, when I ordered by phone, Lovely David said he’d go for the balcony seats, so I deferred to his expertise). The place looks great, from the outer facade to the foyer, refreshments bar and the restored original ceiling details in the theatre itself.
The thing is: how could any cinema visit be worth €30-plus? And this is coming from an avid cinemagoer – I have Cineworld membership, on which note, if you sign up using my promo code (RAF-17AZ-71XH-28SX-32WB) we’ll both get a month free! – who genuinely enjoys each and every aspect of the big-screen movie-viewing experience.
Of course, I did really enjoy my Stella Theatre experience. The decor is gorgeous, the food was really good (and affordable), the seats were comfy and I genuinely adored having my food served to my cinema seat. But I just don’t know if I would consider it, as a cinema experience, three times better than my usual Cineworld visits.
Maybe the issue is that I’m not a huge, er, socialising person – and I don’t really drink very much. I think that, for those who love a tipple, the Stella Theatre’s cocktail bar – along with the possibility of sipping wine during the movie – might be enough to make a trip worthwhile.
I would 100% go back to the Stella Theatre for a special occasion, or to view one of the myriad classic movies they’re screening (The Goonies, which I’ve never seen, sold out in record time, or that would’ve been top of my list!), but I just couldn’t justify spending the cash on going for your average Friday-night cinema date. Then again, at €19 a ticket, I don’t think that’s quite the idea they’re going for.