by Kathy Masterson
THE establishment of a major film studio in Limerick is one step closer following Limerick City and County Council’s announcement that it is to purchase the former Dell building in Plassey.
The local authority revealed on Monday that it is to purchase the 350,000 square foot building from businessman PJ Noonan for “in the region of €5-6 million as part of its strategy for infrastructural development”.
Discussions with Wicklow-based Ardmore Studios regarding the establishment of a film studio in the former warehouse building are still ongoing.
Limerick Film Festival director and film studies lecturer at Limerick Institute of Technology, Simon McGuire, said that Limerick is “a vibrant city” that is a very attractive location for filmmakers.
He told the Limerick Post: “It certainly is an attractive location, one reason for that is the ease of access to a major international airport such as Shannon, which is just a few kilometres up the road, that opens up a lot of doors. Access to an airport is important in terms of flying in actors, as well as props and equipment.
“Limerick is also a very vibrant city with a lot going for it in terms of infrastructure. There are good roads around the city, it’s very accessible, the streets are generally quite wide. If you’re moving props or heavy equipment around, there are not that many narrow streets.”
Mr McGuire said that if the project goes ahead, it will be a “massive development” for the local film industry.
“Having a film studio on this side of the country, whether it’s Ardmore or somebody else, is just unheard of. All of us in the film industry here are very excited, but at the same time we have to be realistic. If there are new jobs as a result of this, we have to apply like everyone else, it doesn’t mean everyone in the local film industry will be guaranteed a job.
“But the hope is that the studio will open up the area and attract other film production companies, so we would hope that that would create more new jobs, depending on the projects,” he explained.
Mr McGuire added that LIT would be “willing to talk to Ardmore” about possible opportunities for film students to undertake apprenticeships and training placements at the studio.
He remarked: “The door is very much open at LIT to talk about training or apprenticeships for students. If I was a film student in Limerick now I’d certainly be very excited about this.”
According to Mr McGuire, the local film industry is already growing, with five short films to be made in Limerick in the space of one year “on the back of Limerick City of Culture”.
A spokesperson for the Limerick City and County Council said that the former Dell warehouse “will house a major international media hub to facilitate the production of film and television content and to provide support services”.
The site, which is approximately 25 acres in size with 7.5 acres of development land and 750 car spaces, was previously used as ‘The Culture Factory’ event venue for Limerick City of Culture 2014.
It is hoped that the proposed film studio will create in the region of 700 new jobs for Limerick.
Limerick City and County Council chief executive Conn Murray said the purchase is “the first step in our strategy to create major studio facilities in Limerick. The next part of the process is to finalise our discussions with Ardmore Studios. We have been encouraged by the response to this initiative”.
Mr Murray said he is hopeful that the purchase of the building will lead to major sustainable employment and the creation of a new film industry in Limerick.
The Plassey Technology Park building is said to be particularly well suited for use as a film studio due to its size and ceiling height.
Limerick has also recently been visited by The Dark Knight and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon producer Philip Lee as a possible location for a $120m budget blockbuster.
“There is a clear and urgent demand for large scale studio space and support buildings in Ireland, and many of the pre-conditions necessary for the creation of studios already exist in Limerick. We hope that this is just the start of a project which will create a new industry and a huge number of jobs locally. It’s also a logical legacy of Limerick’s year as National City of Culture 2014 and its bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2020.”
Conn Murray, Chief Executive Limerick City and County Council
“This deal has the potential to provide a major boost for Limerick by bringing the international film industry here. It is a labour-intensive and potentially lucrative business, which we are ideally positioned to capitalise on. I hope that we are seeing the start of an era when Limerick’s name is put on the international map as a centre of creative excellence in the film industry, with all the benefits attached to this. People in the Castletroy area and across Limerick will be happy to see the former Dell facility put to productive use once more.”
Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell
“This is a much-needed investment for Limerick city where many people have experienced long term unemployment or have left in recent times in search of employment elsewhere and where many other people linger on the live register. I am particularly delighted that Ardmore Studies are looking at Limerick despite stiff competition from other local authorities as where to invest in and I am really pleased their company is thriving.”
City North councillor Maurice Quinlivan
“The Minister is fully supportive of the project and is delighted to see it up and running. To show support (for the film industry) he brought in a tax incentive in Budget 2015 and is now looking to expand the tax relief in Budget 2016 with a view to improving the scheme.”
Spokesperson for Finance Minister Michael Noonan