Ardmore days away from action on Limerick studio
Ardmore Studios is understood to be as little as days away from striking a deal to lease a massive new film studio in Limerick.
Plans for a multi-million euro film production hub in Limerick took a massive step forward yesterday after the local council agreed to buy a 350,000 sq ft former Dell factory.
It is now expected that the facility, bought by Limerick City and County Council for between €5m and €6m, will be leased out to Ardmore Studios, Ireland's biggest film and television production company. The facility at Plassey Technological Park, near the University of Limerick, is twice the size of Ardmore's Bray, Co Wicklow, studio.
Development of the Limerick studio could create an estimated 700 to 1,000 jobs over the long term. A formal deal between Ardmore and Limerick Council is hoped to be completed in the coming days, the Irish Independent understands.
Ardmore Studios' chief executive' Siún Ní Raghallaigh' declined to say what stage talks are at, only that Ardmore "has been working with Limerick with the idea of trying to do something for a while".
"We are in discussions which are going well, and I can't comment further," she said.
Ardmore Studios has been "assisting the city in its endeavours to make Limerick the centre for growth in the film and television sector", a spokeswoman for the studio said.
"They have cemented their commitment by acquiring the building. We are in discussions with them and expect to announce further details in the coming weeks."
However it is understood that both sides are eager to reach a deal as soon as possible and an agreement to lease the former Dell site could be reached within the next number of days.
Ardmore has been on the lookout for additional studio space for the last number of months after being forced to turn away work in the past year because of capacity constraints.
Cinema executives, including Philip Lee, who produced Batman movie 'The Dark Knight', pictured far right, recently visited Limerick, scouting a number of locations for a new €130m science fiction movie entitled 'Inversion' which is currently in pre-production.
A spokesman for Finance Minister and Limerick TD Michael Noonan said he "fully supports" the project, and will push to expand Ireland's Section 481 tax credit in the upcoming Budget. Section 481 created a tax credit programme for film and television productions worth up to 32pc of eligible Irish expenditure, based on the cost of all cast and crew working in Ireland. This compared to its previous value of 28pc. It was also expanded in last year's budget to include non-EU nationals.
It was recently cited by industry giant Pinewood Studios as one of the most important factors in opening a production company in Ireland. The UK production studio, which has facilitated the filming of blockbusters such as the James Bond movies, opened up an Irish office earlier this month.
Mr Noonan's spokesman said: "The Minister is fully supportive of the project and is delighted to see it up and running. "To show support [for the film industry] he brought in a tax incentive in Budget 2015 and is now looking to expand the tax relief in Budget 2016 with a view to improving the scheme." He declined to give specific detail of how Minister Noonan may seek to improve the scheme.
Limerick City and Council CEO Conn Murray said the purchase of the former industrial building is "an important step in the local authority's plan to create an international film centre and major sustainable employment in Limerick".
He added that the the next step is to "finalise our discussions with Ardmore Studios. "We have been encouraged by the response to this initiative," he said. The building was bought 12 years ago by Limerick businessman PJ Noonan who leased it to Limerick City of Culture last year. It is around 25 acres in size with 7.5 acres of development land available and 750 car spaces.
The news comes as a major boost to the mid west, which was devastated in early 2009 when Dell announced it was shifting 1,900 jobs to Poland.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, James Hickey, the chief executive of the Irish Film Board, said the board "welcomed the addition of any studio space". He said there was a serious need for additional space in the industry.