Sunday 23 October 2016

End of an era for Irish film as Ardmore Studios up for sale

Published 19/10/2016 | 02:30

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn in ‘The Tudors’
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn in ‘The Tudors’

It was home to hit movies and film series including 'The Tudors' and 'Braveheart' - but now Ardmore Studios has been put up for sale.

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Located on 18 acres in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ardmore has played host to a string of big-budget productions.

Chris O’Dowd and David Rawles in ‘Moone Boy’
Chris O’Dowd and David Rawles in ‘Moone Boy’

Majority-owned by former U2 manager Paul McGuinness and the band's one-time accountant, Ossie Kilkenny, Ardmore is being sold as it faces the prospect of increasing competition from rivals, particularly Limerick's new Troy Studios.

And while Ardmore is being sold as a going concern, the site in the capital's commuter belt could be of interest to home builders. However, securing rezoning for residential development could be problematic and put builders off.

Projects currently under way at Ardmore include filming of 'The Professor and the Madman', the movie starring Sean Penn and Mel Gibson. It tells the story of the compilation of the first Oxford English Dictionary. The hit show 'Moone Boy', which was written by and stars Chris O'Dowd, has also been filmed at Ardmore.

But Ardmore is facing stiff competition in Ireland's bustling film production sector.

Ardmore majority owners Ossie Kilkenny and Paul McGuinness pictured in 1995. Photo: Tom Burke
Ardmore majority owners Ossie Kilkenny and Paul McGuinness pictured in 1995. Photo: Tom Burke

Earlier this year, Ashford Studios, also in Co Wicklow, finalised plans for a huge €90m expansion that would open four new film studios at its base. That studio has been a base for the hugely successful TV show 'Vikings'. And in Limerick, Troy Studios has opened a new multi-million euro facility on the site of a former Dell building.

The directors of Troy Studios include Ossie Kilkenny and Ardmore chief executive Siún Ní Raghallaigh. Ms Ní Raghallaigh is also the chairwoman of TG4.

Mr McGuinness is not involved in that Limerick project. Last year, it was reported that he was considering legal action in relation to the establishment of Troy Studios, given the involvement of key Ardmore directors in the project.

Meanwhile, Bono has been supporting the creation of a new studio in Dublin on the former Irish Glass factory site. It is planned to build 3,000 homes on the site, as well as a "world class" production facility, apparently well-received by Hollywood studios.

Last year, Ardmore Studios made a profit of €1.3m, but had nearly collapsed during the recession due to a huge debt pile.

Founded in 1958, it has been owned for the last 30 years by Mr Kilkenny and Mr McGuinness, along with Enterprise Ireland.

They said they believe the "time is right" to sell the studio.

"Ardmore has recorded significant profitability over the last number of years whilst operating to almost full capacity," the studio said. "The favourable Section 481 tax incentive scheme is a key attractor for international productions and demand for fully-serviced studio space in Ireland remains buoyant."

"Ardmore Studios is witnessing significant demand for full studio services and has operated at an average annual capacity of 85-90pc since 2013. Over the past three years, the directors have invested over €2m into the studios to significantly enhance and upgrade its on-site facilities."

Irish Independent

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