In parallel with the UK Film Council's ongoing plans to fund a so-called virtual circuit of art house cinemas around the country, and in contrast to continental European efforts to access EU support for similar purposes, the Irish Arts Council has formed a Cultural Cinema Consortium with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), the Northern Irish Film and Television Commission (NIFTC) and The Irish Film Board to 'enhance access to art house cinema on the island of Ireland".

The Arts Council is motivated by a desire to promote a vibrant art house cinema exhibition sector, in order to improve audience enjoyment and participation, while the Irish Film Board is involved in the Consortium as part of its determination to increase the range of Irish films available to Irish audiences.

Intending to promote a bricks and mortar implementation of their 1999-2001 report 'Developing Cultural Cinema in Ireland', the consortium is seeking initial expressions of interest in 'capital development in art house cinemas in urban centres.' There will also be provision for upgrading existing facilities, including general refurbishment and technical facilities.

Seeing itself as 'a catalyst rather than the main funder' of these new developments, the consortium will invest Euros 8m over five years from January 2003, with the proviso that 'local authorities be involved from the outset.'

Initial expressions of interest should be with the Irish Arts Council by 5pm on July 19.