The prospect for Ardmore Studios long-term survival has become increasingly difficult.

Last week Ardmore Studio’s hit the headlines seeking a “bailout” of €500k from the Irish Film Board which followed on from the announcement that Morgan O’Sullivan would be taking the new €30 million series of  ‘The Vikings’, South to the new studios in Ashford. Since 1958 Ardmore studios have held the cosy position of been the only studios in Ireland. The problem with any monopoly is without competition they become complacent, and Ardmore studios are a classic example. In the last 2 decades the studios have earned substantial fees primarily because the generous  Irish tax breaks bought productions into Ireland and they (Ardmore) were the only show in town. With the arrival of the Ballyhenry Studios a very quick recce of both studios would leave no international producer in doubt, which facilities offered him the best return for his money?

In recent years TV series have been the life blood of the Irish film industry, no major Hollywood feature film has used the sound stages at Ardmore in over 6 years. The problems for Ardmore got worse this weekend, when articles appeared in UK newspapers reporting that the UK Chancellor George Osborne may be about to introduce tax breaks for the production of TV dramas not currently available in the UK. Ireland offers tax relief on 28% of production costs on both film and TV productions. In the first 3 months of this year there are currently 4 UK TV dramas that have availed of Irish tax breaks, three from the BBC ‘Vexed, ‘Ripper Street’ and 13 Steps Down and ITV2’s ‘Loving Miss Hatto’

The real issue for Ireland is not only will it reduce our ability to attract smaller UK productions here, but it makes the proposition of encouraging US companies such a Showtime and HBO and Starz that do create hundreds of jobs over longer periods even harder. The importance of such tax breaks can be measured by the fact going back 5 years HBO produced only 10% of its production outside the US that had risen to 85% by 2010.

The problem for Ardmore studios is not just about the tax breaks, the bar has been raised with the arrival of Ballyhenry Studios offering superior facilities to meet the demands of a rapidly changing film industry. The main cause for Ardmore’s demise can be put down to lack of investment in upgrading the sound stages and very poor management and business plan. The prospect for Ardmore studios long-term survival has become increasingly difficult.

© Tom Dowling

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Categories: Film and TV

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