Tuesday 21 November 2017

Cash spin-off from Star Wars a force to be reckoned with

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in a scene from Star Wars: Episode VII – parts of the movie were shot in Ireland
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in a scene from Star Wars: Episode VII – parts of the movie were shot in Ireland

Simon Rowe

Location filming in Ireland for two blockbuster Star Wars movies has generated more than €4m for the local economy, apart from the millions of euro the franchise has generated in publicity for Irish tourism.

Accounts filed in recent days for Irish-registered Space Bear Ir Designated Activity Company, a firm owned by Pinewood Studios, shows trading activity of €3.6m last year.

In addition, staff costs, including three company directors and five production staff. totalled €517,000,

'Space Bear' was the working title given to movie director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, which is due for release next Christmas.

Star Wars movies are often given working titles by film studios to keep their production shrouded in secrecy.

Space Bear Ir DAC was incorporated in July 2015 ahead of scheduled location shooting by Pinewood Films in Skellig Michael in Kerry and in Donegal for two episodes of the blockbuster sci-fi franchise, on The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Filming took place on the World Heritage site of Skellig Michael and in Malin Head - the most northerly point in Ireland - on Inishowen Peninsula, Co Donegal.

Film crews later reconstructed the island's 6th century monastic site - which was used in The Force Awakens as Luke Skywalker's hideaway - on the rocky headland of Ceann Sibéal further north. Filming moved to this location after concerns were raised over heritage protection on Skelling Michael and as logistical costs soared for film-makers looking to shoot on the craggy outcrop located 7.2 miles west of the Iveragh Peninsula.

Tourism Ireland said a 13pc increase in the number of overseas visitors to Ireland in the first six months of last year was driven by "screen tourism success" on the back of films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

"The fact that the next episode [The Last Jedi] was also shot on location along the Wild Atlantic Way is another fantastic coup for Irish tourism. Tourism Ireland will continue to maximise the Star Wars connection with Ireland," said a spokesperson. Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke multiple box office records and grossed more than $2bn worldwide.

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