Cinema of Ireland

Cinema of Ireland

The Irish film industry has grown somewhat in recent years thanks partly to the promotion of the sector by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (Irish Film Board) and the introduction of heavy tax breaks. According to the Irish Audiovisual Content Production Sector Review carried out by the Irish Film Board and PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008 this sector, has gone from 1,000 people employed six or seven years ago, to well over 6,000 people in that sector now and is valued at over €557.3 million and represents 0.3% of GDP.[1]

According to an article in Variety magazine spotlighting Irish cinema, a decade ago Ireland had only two filmmakers anyone had heard of: Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan. Now though in 2010, Ireland can boast more than a dozen directors and writers with significant and growing international reputations. Ireland is now achieving critical mass of filmmaking talent to match the kind of influence, disproportionate to its small size, that it has always enjoyed in the fields of literature and theatre. Following in the footsteps of Sheridan and Jordan comes a generation that includes such directors as Lenny Abrahamson, Conor McPherson, John Crowley, Martin McDonagh, John Carney, Kirsten Sheridan, Lance Daly, Paddy Breathnach and Damien O'Donnell and writers such as Mark O'Rowe, Enda Walsh and Mark O'Halloran.[2]

Former Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen (2008–2010) said that “the film industry is the cornerstone of a smart and creative digital economy”.[3] But as well as the concrete economic benefits that the Irish film industry brings in by way of cash investment from overseas and the associated VAT, PAYE and PRSI receipts, it has been noted that there are the soft benefits in terms of the development and projection of the Irish culture and the promotion of tourism.[4]

While big-budget international productions keep crews working and are enormously valuable to the country, it is the indigenous industry that is at the heart of creating opportunity and giving skills and experience to Irish producers, directors, writers and crew, telling the stories that emerge from Irish-based talent.[5] Some of the most successful Irish films include The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), Intermission (2003), Man About Dog (2004), Michael Collins (1996), Angela's Ashes (1999), The Commitments (1991) and Once (2007).

In the past many films were censored or banned, owing largely to the influence of the Catholic Church, although virtually no cuts or bans have been issued in recent years, one as of August 2006. The Irish Film Censor's Office policy is that of personal choice for the viewer, considering his job to examine and classify films rather than censor them.[6][7]


Ireland as a location

Ireland has also proved a popular location for shooting films, largely due to the tax-breaks, with The Quiet Man (1952), Braveheart (1995), Reign of Fire (2002) and King Arthur (2004) all being shot in Ireland. The first film shot in Ireland was The Lad from Old Ireland (1910), which was advertised as "The first ever film recorded on two continents". The film was a short silent story about a young Irishman who went to the USA to find riches, before returning home to save his family home from the bailiffs.

The Irish government was one of the first in Europe to see the potential benefit to the exchequer of having a competitive tax incentive for investment in film and television. Other countries have recognized the success of Ireland’s incentive scheme and matched it or introduced a more competitive tax incentive. After a long lobbying process, significant improvements were introduced to the Section 481 relief for investment in film projects in 2009 to boost employment in the industry and help re-establish Ireland as an attractive global location for film and television production.[8]

Kevin Moriarty, managing director of Ardmore Studios believes Ireland is an attractive film location as there is now recognition for the quality of the output of the Irish film industry and a perception that Ireland is a viable film destination.[9]

Cinema houses in Ireland

The first cinema in Ireland (the Volta) was opened in 1909.

Ireland has a high rate of cinema admissions (the highest in Europe). The biggest multiplex chain in the country is Ward Anderson (owners of the Cineplex, Omniplex, and Savoy brands), with other cinemas being owned by United Cinemas International, Cineworld (formerly UGC Cinemas), and Vue (formerly Ster Century). One of the largest Irish owned independent cinema chains is Storm Cinemas, with cinemas in Belfast, Limerick, Waterford, Navan, Naas, Portlaoise and Cavan. In Autumn 2005, a new multiplex cinema chain, Movies@, entered the market, opening its first cinema in Dundrum, with Galway and Swords sites to come. There is also a large movie rental market, dominated by Xtravision.[10]


Ardmore Studios was the first Irish studio, opening in 1958 in Bray, County Wicklow.


The Film Act of 1970 set the foundation for an expanding Irish-based film industry. It provided, among other things, very advantageous tax advantages for film productions and resident foreign creative individuals. A number of world-renown writers, including Len Deighton, Frederick Forsyth, and Richard Condon took advantage of the allowances, residing in Ireland for a number of years. The Film Act of 1970 was the result of an initial collaboration between Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Lynn Garrison, an aerial film director who shared a semi-detached with the Prime Minister. The Film Act of 1970 became the basis for other national film acts throughout Europe and America.

Irish Film Board

Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB) is the national development agency for the Irish film industry investing in talent, creativity and enterprise. The agency supports and promotes the Irish film industry and the use of Ireland as a location for international production.[11]

The Irish Film Board was set up in 1981 to boost the local industry. After the infamous closure of the Irish Film Board in 1987, Irish stories and filmmakers continued to break through with considerable international success ‘My Left Foot’ (Jim Sheridan), ‘The Crying Game’ (Neil Jordan), ‘The Commitments’ (Alan Parker) all made with non-Irish finance. The success of these projects coupled with intensive local lobbying led to the re-establishment of the Irish Film Board in 1993.

Many film critics point to the fact that the Irish Film Board's output has been poor, as most films which are chosen for funding do little or no business outside of the country, and are rarely popular in Ireland. However, IFB funded films like Intermission, I Went Down, Man About Dog, The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Adam & Paul have proved popular with domestic audiences and have all done respectable business in Irish cinemas.[12] And both the Oscar-winning film Once and the Palme d'Or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley have experienced international success over the last couple of years. Once which was made on a shoestring budget took over $10 million at the US box office and over $20 million in worldwide ticket sales while The Wind That Shakes the Barley was distributed theatrically in 40 territories worldwide.[13]

Over the last four years Irish films have screened and won awards at the top international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, Venice, London, Tribeca, Edinburgh and Pusan.[14]

The Wind That Shakes The Barley won the prestigious Palme d'Or award for Best Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, while Garage directed by Lenny Abrahamson picked up the CICEA Award at the Directors Fortnight at the festival in 2007. After winning the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, Once went on to win the Best Foreign Film prize at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2008 and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The Irish short film Six Shooter won the Academy Award for Best Short Film in 2006 while the short film New Boy was nominated for the same award in 2009.[15]

In 2009 a record seven IFB funded films (Ondine, Perrier’s Bounty, Triage, A Shine of Rainbows, Eamon, Cracks and Colony) have officially been selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.[16] However unlike Toronto, Irish film distributors are less reluctant to screen homegrown movies.

Tony Keily has criticised the board's insistence on funding "uncommercial commercial cinema".[17] Paul Melia has also criticised the IFB over its slowness in awarding funding.[18]

The Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen addressed the issue of commercial success recently saying that “The film board offers the chance to make films for a small audience and not necessarily for big commercial success but which have real quality. That offers opportunity to people who can go on to make their mark. Whether that is the actors, the director or crew, many of the people who work on those films wouldn’t go on to success unless they had been given their first chance here. People can only get experience by giving them the opportunity”.[9]

2005 Top 10 poll

In 2005 a Jameson Whiskey-sponsored poll selected the top 10 Irish films: the results are below.[19]

  1. The Commitments (1991)
  2. My Left Foot (1989)
  3. In the Name of the Father (1993)
  4. The Quiet Man (1952)
  5. The Snapper (1993)
  6. Michael Collins (1996)
  7. The Field (1990)
  8. Intermission (2003)
  9. Veronica Guerin (2003)
  10. Inside I'm Dancing (2004)

Critically acclaimed Irish films released since this poll was taken include The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Once, The Secret of Kells and Garage.

Irish Film & Television Awards

The Irish Film and Television Awards have been awarded since 1999, and in their current form since 2003. The "Best Irish Film" winners have been:

See also


  1. ^ "Irish Audiovisual Content Production Sector Review". Irish Film Board. Irish Film Board. 2009. 
  2. ^ Dawtry, Adam (2009-05-15). "Variety Spotlight: Irish Film Soars Past Old Limitations". Variety. Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  3. ^ O’Flanagan, Kate (2009-04-26). "Projecting a Positive Image". Sunday Business Post. Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  4. ^ "Lured by the Gift of Storytelling". Sunday Business Post. Sunday Business Post. 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  5. ^ "Distribution is Key to Success". Sunday Business Post. Sunday Business Post. 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Breda Heffernan (Monday January 07 2008). "Censor calls 'cut' on moral guardian role". The Irish Independent. 
  8. ^ O’Flanagan, Mary Kate (2009-04-26). "Incentive Scheme is Good for Growth". Sunday Business Post. Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  9. ^ a b O’Flanagan, Kate (2009-04-26). "Projecting a Positive Image". Sunday Business Post. Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  10. ^ "About Us". Xtravision. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "About the Irish Film Board". Irish Film Board website. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  12. ^ "Distribution is Key to Success". Sunday Business Post. Sunday Business Post. 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  13. ^ "Irish Film Industry Review 2005-2009". Irish Film Board. 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  14. ^ "Irish Film Industry Review 2005-2009". Irish Film Board. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  15. ^ "Irish Film Industry Review 2005-2009". Irish Film Board. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  16. ^ Battles, Jan (2009-08-16). "Record Number of Irish Films at Festival". London: Sunday Times. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  17. ^ "What do you mean when you say "initiative"?". Film Ireland. Film Ireland. 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  18. ^ "Aspiring directors 'not making the cut for funding'". Paul Melia. Irish Independent. 2005-07-11. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  19. ^ "Top 10 Best Irish Films of All Time" (pdf). Press release: 2005 Jameson Whiskey poll. Irish Distillers. 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 

External links

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