Plans for a new multi-million euro film production hub in County Limerick have been set in motion. An agreement has been arranged between Limerick City and County Council and Ardmore Studios, which in the past has provided facilities for several popular film and television productions such as ‘Braveheart’, ‘Excalibur’, ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Camelot’, and more recently for ‘Frank’ and ‘Penny Dreadful’.
The proposed studio facilities are expected to cost €10m and would include the use of the 300,000 sq ft old Dell building in Castletroy, currently used as the Culture Factory for Limerick City of Culture 2014, and possibly the existing LEDP building in Roxboro.
Film Limerick envisages the city as a film production hub and a major source of employment in the region.
Two films have already been commissioned and will be screened at international film festivals in 2015 as part of the City of Culture legacy project.
The news follows a call from the Irish Film Board in conjunction with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for Expressions of Interest in relation to the provision in Ireland of dedicated audio visual content studio facilities including sound stages and related structures.
Limerick City and County Council chief executive Conn Murray said: “There is a clear and urgent demand for large scale studio space and support buildings in Ireland, and in our analysis many of the pre-conditions necessary for the creation of studios already exist in Limerick.
“There are a number of suitable sites and buildings in Limerick that can be upgraded and refurbished to the high spec standards that the industry requires and as the core infrastructure is in situ, this can happen over a short time period.”
Based in Co Wicklow, Ardmore Studios has been in operation for more than half a century. It is the largest and only studio in Ireland to offer five international standard sound stages with full support services on site.
Ardmore Studios chief executive Siún Ná Raghallaigh said that Limerick could gain substantially from the benefits of the newly enhanced film tax credit scheme. She said: “There is growing international interest in Ireland as a production location thanks to the positive tax incentives under Section 481. However, the missing piece of the jigsaw is the availability of appropriate full service studio space in the country.
“This is something that Limerick could potentially capitalise on. We ourselves have had to turn away business in the past year because we simply do not have the required capacity.
“Studios are the essential enablers for the industry to scale. The potential for our industry to scale up and create thousands of quality jobs is at our fingertips provided we look at the bigger picture and create the right infrastructure to grow the industry.”
Limerick City and County Council is proceeding with plans having examined the major success of the creation of such facilities in Belfast, which has had a marked impact on the local economy as major productions such of ‘Game of Thrones’ make it their base.
Conn Murray continued: “From our research in Northern Ireland, it is evident that success is based on government support, direct investment and commitment given to the vision of those involved. We can commence this project with the existing highly skilled craftspeople from inside and outside the mid-west region and tap into the rich resource of our graduates that are coming out of our third level institutions with film and media qualifications that will support the long term success of the industry.”
Limerick is Ireland’s City of Culture this year, thus the news marks a significant legacy for the audiovisual industry.