The Irish Film Board investing in Ardmore Studios makes no sense, €3.3 million outstanding to Enterprise Ireland..

This week’s Bray People carries an article on the on-going problems at Ardmore studios, in which, Ardmore MD Kevin Moriarty makes some incredible comments.

The owners of Ardmore Kevin says, want to get out of the business but don’t want to shut it down just yet. However instead of the owners continuing to pay the bills they would like The Irish Film Board to fork out €500K to keep it going. What exactly would the return be on this money be for the Irish taxpayer?

Regardless whether you call this a loan or a grant from The Irish Film Board it amounts to the same thing. As reported in the media last year Ardmore has already racked up a debit of €8.4 million  over the past 20 years of which €3.3 million is payable to Enterprise Ireland (taxpayers money) what happens if Paul McGuinness and Ossie Kilkenny pull the plug a few months down the road after receiving another bailout from the IFB?  Would the taxpayer have any chance of recovering almost €4 million it would be owed?

Ardmore management has never been able to encourage productions into Ardmore, it has depended on Morgan O’Sullivan to do that on it behalf. Now that Morgan has moved on to the more fit for purpose Ballyhenry Studios the prospect of Ardmore creating it’s own work now remains unlikely.

Kevin Moriarty position on this is very interesting, MD of Ardmore Studios but he also sits on the Irish Film Board. We cannot seriously be expected to believe Kevin when he says he has removed himself from any decisions to be taken by the IFB with regards to Ardmore Studios; it is a clear conflict of interest.

No production of note has used a sound stage in Ardmore for more than 15 month. The fact is many TV productions in recent years chosen to avoid Ardmore altogether and convert warehouses into studio spaces. Blood and Steel the €20 million TV series on the Titanic, is a prime example the only large show that was produced in Ireland in 2011 it opted to work out of the former John Payer Factory on the South Circular Rd rather than use the vacant Ardmore.

Ardmore only finds itself in this position because it was poorly managed; money rolled in through the 90’s and up to the mid 00’s and little of that money was reinvested to keep the studios anywhere close to the standard expected. There are several franchises operating out of Ardmore some have not paid rent in more than 20 years while others have not had a contract with Ardmore in years. How could the management of Ardmore have allowed this situation to carry on? In recent weeks all franchise have contacted by Lindsay real estate  with a view to putting new contracts in place, a little too late I’m afraid. The vital franchise such as Cine Electric and Panavision have most likely made a decision to move to Ballyhenry.

Kevin Moriarty as MD must take responsibility for the shambolic way the studios have been run. If there was a business plan in place for Ardmore it was completely ineffective. Ardmore were aware for the past 6 years that Ballyhenry was coming on stream yet it did not do anything to ensure would it would remain competitive. Any injection of cash by the IFB under the current management would be insane, the owners have milked Ardmore dry and now they would like the state to bail it out.

Instead of Kevin withdrawing entirely from the process of funding for Ardmore, Kevin should resign from The IFB, as far as I am aware he has already retired as MD at Ardmore and has been reemployed in a “consulting capacity” probably so he continue to influence decision making at the IFB, it really is time for a major shake-up on the IFB.

Ardmore has  been demoted to play a secondary role as a studio space, if at all. To continue it needs to close the Restaurant and bar, reduce staff numbers, cut the rates of the sound studios by at least 50% and operate it like warehousing for rent, it may then be able to get low budget RTE shows to use the sound stage instead of using vacant army barracks and warehousing like they have been doing for years, because of the high rental charges at Ardmore.

With changes to tax laws in the U.K. it will become increasing difficult to keep Ardmore opened, particularly if its wealthy owners have no desire to invest.

Finally any loan or a grant given to Ardmore would surely be regraded as given unfair advantage to Ardmore unless a similar amount was to be provided to Ballyhenry.

© Tom Dowling 2012

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Question over Ardmore

NO MAJOR PRODUCTIONS IN PLACE

By MARY FOGARTY, Wednesday March 21 2012 – Bray People

Ardmore Studios Managing Director Kevin Moriarty has confirmed that there is ‘a serious question mark over the future of Ardmore Studios’ at the moment.

It emerged recently that the studios may be forced to close if funding is not secured to tide the facility over.

Mr. Moriarty explained that there are no major productions in place at the moment on the scale of The Tudors or Camelot in the past, or The Vikings which is going to Ballyhenry studios in Ashford.

Meanwhile, the running costs at Ardmore continue. He said that the owners, who have expressed a wish to get out of the film business entirely, do not wish to immediately pull the plug on Ardmore. They would prefer to get funding from the Irish Film Board to stay open while the studio sources productions and then consider selling at a later stage. This would be in the form of a repayable bridging loan rather than a grant.

Mr. Moriarty said that he is on the Film Board, but has withdrawn completely from the process on both sides because of an obvious conflict of interests. A decision could be forthcoming in the next two weeks or so. ‘If the funding does not materialise the studios would cease to operate imminently,’ he said.

He added that as long as there are enough productions available out there, the two studios in Wicklow could operate well side by side as they cater for a range of different production levels. He said that Ballyhenry was ‘good for the industry, and good for Wicklow’ but that in the case of a shortage of production they would be in competition, with a danger that one or both would close down.

‘ The clock is ticking now,’ said Mr. Moriarty, who is hopeful that the Film Board will provide the monies necessary to save Ardmore.

‘We are working hard and chasing possibilities,’ he added, on what is being done to secure productions. ‘ It won’t happen overnight and we need to buy some time.’

– Mary Fogarty

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Categories: Film and TV

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2 replies

  1. Tom, Thanks for ALL the up-to-date posts!

    Fair play…you are the only one ‘on the ball’!!!…seriously!

    I’ve been following the progress of Ballahenry these past 18/24 months, and visited the site, thanks to Joe – it is amazing – and I do very much hope that ‘The Vikings’ project goes in, goes ahead and marks a turn/change in the Irish Film making landscape…..with more to follow, to everyone’s benefit!

    But, unfortunately, as you have written, there are two variables which can and will alter that potentially new setting for the Irish Film Industry:

    1. The very……… very ‘boring’ attitude of certain sectors within the
    Irish Film Industry to grumble,gripe and moan about getting to their place of work….
    really beggers belief to be honest ….

    It seems to me they’d rather cut off their arms/legs and potential livelihoods in order to up-hold archaic agreements ….long deceased….and remain unemployed,and in uncertain circumstances versus embracing this new opportunity!

    They should be delighted that the new facility CAN draw new projects and employment!…….it again-Beggers belief!

    and

    2. The UK’s decisions this week re their new tv/film tax breaks …..those changes will impact and be evident here within 12 months for sure…..

    Why can’t ALL involved, in this small Irish arena come out in numbers and strength to support, what could be a last ditch effort of securing ‘An Industry’ and livelihoods…..

    If not, Ireland will, far soon, be very far too unattractive to shoot in by way of finances and personalities/attitudes!!

    Let’s see what’s in the gate!

    • Ross, thanks for your comments I am in totally agreement with you. Unfortunately this blinkered vision can be found across all sectors of the Irish film industry. Joe O’Connell is a man with vision and not infected by failures of those within, I wish him every a success of Ballyhenry. There is a real opportunity with the development of Ballyhenery, but only if best practices are employed. Unfortunately that is not within Joe O’Connell’s control. With the new studios built a real opportunity exists to make Ireland a world leader in film making, but only if the stakeholders bring about changes to current working practices.

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