Monday 10 September 2007

State eyes up €40m Ardmore Studios buyout

ARTS Minister Seamus Brennan is understood to be considering buying out Ireland's only film studio -- Ardmore Studios -- from U2 manager Paul McGuinness and Ossie Kilkenny.

In the last week, Brennan has instructed civil servants in his Department to examine "all options" concerning Ardmore. This includes the possibility of buying out the owners of the studio.

The 20-acre site in Bray, Co Wicklow, is thought to be worth over €40m.

The State already holds a 32 per cent stake in the studio through Enterprise Ireland, which took equity in the facility some years ago. McGuinness and accountant Kilkenny own the rest.

It is believed that a number of options will be considered for the studio. Officials have looked at the possibility of building a brand new "greenfield" studio or redeveloping and refurbishing the existing facilities in Bray.

It is thought that funding for a major investment to buy or refurbish the studio is available under the National Development Plan.

Ardmore lost money last year during a production downturn. It received State funding as a result.

However, a busier filming schedule, including bodice ripping historical mini-series The Tudors is thought to have boosted the studio's finances this year.

Brennan is set to meet with officials from the Irish Film Board over the coming days.

The new Arts Minister has committed his Department to reinvigorating the Irish film industry which suffered a slowdown since the peaks of the 1990s, when such blockbusters as Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart were filmed here.

Along with the Ardmore situation, Brennan also faces a decision of extending the Section 481 tax break.

Indecon economic consultants are expected to hand over a report on the tax relief to the Department shortly.

Industry players are hoping that the tax break will be improved to make Ireland more attractive as a centre of movie-making excellence to attract Hollywood studios and other major film producers.

Irish Independent

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