Irish film industry now finds itself at a critical crossroads

The sale of Ardmore Studios underlines the Irish film industry’s development into the vibrant entity it is today.
Irish film industry now finds itself at a critical crossroads

The Bray studios — famous for The Tudors TV show and Braveheart film — have experienced significant demand, operating at up to 90% of capacity and delivering a fourfold rise in profits to €1.35m.

The company credits Ireland’s favourable, section 481 tax incentive as “a key attractor for international productions”, and bids in excess of €15m are expected.

The sale comes weeks after Britain’s iconic Pinewood Studios was sold for £323.3m.

The recent 25th anniversary celebrations of the release of The Commitments highlight the growth of the Irish film industry.

From a fledgling and often haphazard business in the early 1990s, it has transformed into an industry that consistently punches above its weight, with a vibrant production schedule throughout the year.

Having accrued nine Oscar nominations, in various categories, at the last Academy Awards, Ireland’s love affair with the camera continued last month at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, where an unprecedented eight Irish productions received top billing in the official programme.

The recent launch of Troy Studios, in Limerick, is another chapter in the Irish film success story. The new, 340,000 sq ft complex, at Castleroy, is one of four sites to which the company aims to attract €500m of investment.

“The availability of appropriate, full-service studio space in the country is a restraining factor for Ireland’s audio-visual sector’s growth,” said Siún Ní Raghallaigh, Ardmore Studios’ CEO.

A further measure of the industry’s confidence was the announcement, earlier this year, of proposals to build a major studio on the former Irish Glass Bottle site, at Dublin’s Ringsend.

“Ireland is now a very attractive location to produce television series and movie. It needs the infrastructure to capitalise on the growth of the film and digital industries, and the growing international success of Irish filmmaking talent,” says co-planner and Windmill Lane Studios founder, James Morris.

Irish tourism has long reaped the benefit of Ireland on screen, dating back to the international drawing power of classic films like The Quiet Man, Ryan’s Daughter and, more recently, the Star Wars franchise, which used the Blasket Islands as a recurring location.

Tourism in 2017 is again set for a boost — this time from a pair of low-budget documentaries, both directed and edited by Kerry-based filmmaker, Alex Fegan.

The Irish Pub, which features a number of venerable establishments and their colourful characters, launched on Netflix in July, and immediately garnered a huge social-media response from people who want to vacation here.

The other documentary, Older Than Ireland, featuring thirty Irish centenarians, has already won critical and popular acclaim across the US and Canada.

Brendan O’Carroll recently voiced a note of caution on the potential problems resulting from the UK’s Brexit decision to exit the European Union.

“Budgets that were set for movies in sterling are now worth 20% less, and you can’t get cast and crew to work for 20% less, just because Britain has decided to leave.”

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