Ivan Dunleavy, who ran legendary U.K. studio Pinewood for 17 years before departing in 2017 following a buyout, has a new studio venture, this time in Ireland.
Tara Studios, based at the 154-acre Borleagh Manor estate in County Wexford less than an hour’s drive from Dublin (and, crucially, connected via a motorway to the capital), is now open for business for location shoots. But there are plans to build seven studio stages that would provide a total of 150,000 square-foot of space (the biggest stage coming in at 30,000 square-feet), plus a further 90,000 square-feet of workshop and office space, with construction work set to start in spring 2024 and full completion anticipated by July 2025.
The development — which Dunleavy says will cost “tens of millions of dollars” — would make Tara Studios Ireland’s largest facility for film and TV productions (a title currently held by Troy Studios, which boasts 100,000 square-foot across four stages and was the home of Apple TV+ sci-fi series Foundation).
The project is being fronted Dunleavy and veteran film financier John Gleeson, who heads up the Dublin office of Saffery, with the two hoping to tap into the significant demand for stage space in Ireland. The country has has long been a destination for major shoots that have taken advantage of its locations — recent significant productions include Cocaine Bear, Vikings: Valhalla, The Banshees of Inisherin and Bad Sisters — but has lacked in studio facilities.
“The most recent projection is that around one million square feet of stage space is needed, and currently there’s about a quarter of a million,” explains Dunleavy.
Finding the location for Tara Studios — named after a nearby hill — took Dunleavy and Gleeson around two years, with a key factor being its proximity to Dublin, to airports, and also to four- and five-star hotels for crews. Dunleavy also notes that there’s “complete privacy” on the estate, which isn’t visible from the road, offering the seclusion to build a backlot away from prying eyes.
And in taking over Borleagh Manor — which went up for sale in 2020 and contains walled gardens and a stable yard alongside a grand manor house — Dunleavy and Gleeson have also tapped into a slice of Hollywood folklore, with the 18th-century estate once owned by 1950s matinee idol star Richard Greene, best known for playing the lead in British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood. It’s said that Greene hosted the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant and Richard Burton there.
“There are lots of reports of Hollywood celebrities turning up at the house and enjoying dinners,” notes Dunleavy, who adds that they’ve honored its film connections by putting various images of its former owner on display.
The opening of Tara Studios comes at an anxious time for the industry, with streamers pulling back from the major spending on content that had driven so much of the demand for studio space and the actors strike having brought many productions to a standstill. But Dunleavy says he has little concern about attracting interest in his new venture.
“I thin the global demand for new content has continued to rise. There have been a couple of obvious impacts, but the consumption of new material in the pandemic has got people in the habit of watching more, and the ebb and flow of larger projects versus smaller projects has been a factor in TV for decades,” he says. “I don’t think that would cause me any concern. Particular players will be up and down at any particular moment in time.”
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