Saturday 21 October 2017

Eamon Delaney: Time and money running out for ailing film studio

Ardmore Studios, which gave birth to a film legend, seems doomed to close, says Eamon Delaney

Did you know that Francis Ford Coppola's first movie was made in Ardmore Studios in Wicklow? Yes, the legendary director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now had his first outing as a director in Ireland in 1961, when he directed a cheap horror movie called Dementia 13, which featured a dreamy sculptor in a country castle and an axe murderer.

I know this because my father, Edward Delaney, provided the sculptures. He also hoped for a big Hollywood pay-off, but instead he was given a "few bob" by Coppola and told to "buy himself a drink", a disappointment which rankled all the more as the director went on to ever greater things.

Ardmore also went on to greater things and became the main studio for a thriving Irish film scene. Opened in 1958, it played an integral part in the development of the Irish film industry over the decades, with more than 100 feature films produced. Productions include John Boorman's classic Excalibur and Braveheart starring Mel Gibson. However, the studio suffered from the cyclical nature of the film sector and by the end of 2010, it had accumulated total losses of €338,192. Now it is facing closure unless it gets a major investment, or an outright buyer, both of which are unlikely. Majority shareholders, U2 manager Paul McGuinness and accountant Ossie Kilkenny, had been seeking about €500,000 from the Irish Film Board to cover costs at the Bray studio while it searched for new productions, but even this is unlikely to keep it afloat.

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