Kevin Moriarty, Ardmore Studios M.D. Sets Sail Into The Sunset

Kevin Moriarty is to step down from his “consulting role” at Ardmore Studios within the next two months. He retired as Managing Director back in February before tax changes were were introduced for state pension. Ardmore Studios has recently sought €500,000 from the Irish Film Board to keep the studios open this year following the announcement that Morgan O’Sullivan would produce the new 10 part series of The Vikings at the nearby Ballyhenry Studios, Ashford.

Kevin, is also a member of The Irish Film Board, has been at the helm of Ardmore for over 20 years. During that time many large scale production use the sound stages over them years, such as Braveheart, Space Truckers, The Boxer, The Count of Monte Cristo, King Arthur, Ella Enchanted and The Honeymooners. Lack of investment and upgrading of the sound stages has resulted in many of the major Hollywood production house been critical of  the standards of  facilities at Ardmore. More recently with the arrival of The Tudors following the end of each series, Ardmore choose to turn the studios in to a storage facility leaving sets standing on the sound stages. So the studios were effectively closed to other production companies for over 5 years.

Given Ardmore now finds itself on the brink of closure its somewhat bizarre, Kevin’s unique position as both Managing Director of Ardmore and a member of The Irish Film Board the gravity of the situation must have been apparent some time ago. Kevin had also been chairman of some IFB steering committees.

The issue of proper leases for all the franchises working out of Ardmore is another issue which was never addressed during Kevin’s time in charge. While it should be noted that most do pay rent, some tenants have no agreement with Ardmore, and in one case no rent has been paid in over 20 years. Now with the fate of Ardmore hanging in the balance Ardmore Studios has contracted Linsey real estate to establish new contracts with all those franchises. It may have come a little too late in the case of some of those loyal tenants who have added value to Ardmore, they will most likely move to the new studios at Ballyhenry, Ashford.

As I mentioned in earlier posts with changes to U.K. tax laws to cover TV productions it has become increasing difficult for Ardmore to survive. It would need a massive cash injection and change in direction if it were to survive, but given current market conditions that unlikely to come from the private sector. That just leaves the Irish Government, why in such difficult time should it invest in a business that had a monopoly in the industry that failed to keep it facilities to the standard required for today film making. With hindsight perhaps a clause should have existed in section 481 which required a percentage of those tax incentives be reinvested in the infrastructure of Ardmore studios.

While Kevin Moriarty will be departing Ardmore Studios shortly he has given no indication that he intends to stand down from his role on the Irish Film Board.

TV3 has recently built a 5,000 sq foot studio (similar in size to A or B stage at Ardmore) which I presume it will seek business from independent television makers. One would surmise that this has been a calculated business decision from TV3 that it can attract business that Ardmore has ignored for years.  A daunting task awaits the new MD of Ardmore studios, the edge has gone off tax incentives and it’s becoming an increasingly competitive market for studio space.

Contrast my comments here with the sentiment of Kevin Moriarty’s Ardmore Studios, in a supplement section of The Sunday Times which appeared on the weekend of the Oscar’s, just 2 months ago.

© Tom Dowling 2012

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Trail blazing to Byzantium

“Were lucky in Ardmore”

This article appeared in the Sunday times supplement on the weekend of the Oscars.

Take a wrong turn in Ardmore and you never know where you might find yourself. Currently the studios are housing the production offices for Neil Jordan’s new vampire film Byzantium, which the local area doubling for an English coital town. Another wrong town and you happen upon Chris O’ Dowd ducking outside for a crafty cigarette during a break from shooting his new TV comedy for Sky Moon Boy where the Wicklow studios double for Roscommon.

It was ever thus here. Since Sean Lemass opened the studios in 1958 they bought various parts of the world to Bray, from the Scottish highlands of Braveheart, to The Spy who came in from the Cold, and the modern New York in Laws of Attraction.

All matter of movie magic can be transform the various sound stages at Ardmore into anywhere in the world, but Managing Director Kevin Moriarty explains the studios play’s its part well.

It’s important when you are trying to attract films from abroad that the exterior possibilities can accommodate a wide range of films, but if you want to bring that are based in Europe or America then you have to have a sort of locations that can double for that. Were lucky that in Ardmore, close to the sea and Dublin and the hills, valleys and the forests of the surrounding area that we can offer a wide range of possibilities within an half an hour of here.

As impressive as the facilities in Ardmore are, Moriarty points out that their purpose to serve the talent and creativity. “Adrmore has been here for over 50 years, and the industry has developed to a point where it is a much more mature and healthy industry than it was then.

“A studio is only as good or bad as the production environment in which it operates. Individual talent can go where the film is, a studio can’t pack up and move, so you’re as good as the films that are shooting in Ireland. That’s where its important to have a production environment attractive to filmmakers.

“It’s a rising tide scenario” Even with the expanding home grown market, foreign investment remains vital such  as cable channel ShowTime’s hugely successful The Tudors which shot in Ardmore for four seasons. “ For our won financial viability we still need on going big productions at least once a year from abroad”, says Moriarty.

“That’s where The Tudors were important to us for four years, and then Camelot after that. “last year was a financially challenging year as that was discontinued. We are actively seeking a series for this year; we’d like to get one in the second half of this year”

While there are still low and high budget movies out there, the middle ground has been moved in on by television series, which can offer a number of benefits to a studio such as Ardmore explains.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times.

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