Ivan Dunleavy, who ran legendary British studio Pinewood for seventeen years before leaving in a buyout in 2017, has a new studio venture, this time in Ireland.
Based on the 154-acre Borleagh Manor estate in County Wexford, less than an hour’s drive from Dublin (and, crucially, linked by motorway to the capital), Tara Studios is now open for on-location photo shoots. But there are plans to build seven studio stages that would provide a total of 150,000 square meters of space (the largest stage would be 30,000 square metres), plus a further 90,000 square meters of workshop and office space, with construction work taking place. Start-up will take place in spring 2024 and full completion is expected in July 2025.
The development – which Dunleavy says will cost “tens of millions of dollars” – would make Tara Studios Ireland’s largest film and TV production facility (a title currently held by Troy Studios, spanning 100,000 square meters across four stages and was home to the science fiction series Apple TV+ Foundation).
The project is being led by Dunleavy and veteran film financier John Gleeson, head of Saffery’s Dublin office, with the pair hoping to tap into the significant demand for stage space in Ireland. The country has long been a destination for major shoots that have taken advantage of its locations, including recent major productions Cocaine bear, Vikings: Valhalla, The Banshees of Inisherin And Bad sisters – but it lacked studio facilities.
“The most recent forecast is that about a million square feet of stage space is needed, and currently it’s about a quarter of a million,” Dunleavy explains.
Finding the location for Tara Studios – named after a nearby hill – took Dunleavy and Gleeson around two years, with the key factor being proximity to Dublin, airports and also four- and five-star hotels for crews. Dunleavy also notes that there is “complete privacy” on the estate, which is not visible from the road, providing the seclusion to build a rear lot away from prying eyes.
And in taking over Borleagh Manor – which was put up for sale in 2020 and includes walled gardens and a stable yard next to a grand country house – Dunleavy and Gleeson have also tapped into a bit of Hollywood folklore, with the 18th century estate once owned by Matinee 1950s idol star Richard Greene, best known for starring in British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood. It is said that Greene hosted the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant and Richard Burton there.
“There have been many reports of Hollywood celebrities showing up at the house and enjoying dinner parties,” notes Dunleavy, who adds that they have honored their film connections by displaying several images of the former owner.
The opening of Tara Studios comes at an anxious time for the industry, with streamers pulling back from the big content spends that had driven so much of the demand for studio space, and the actors’ strike that has brought many productions to a halt. But Dunleavy says he has little concern about attracting interest in his new venture.
“I think the global demand for new content has continued to rise. There have been some obvious impacts, but the consumption of new material during the pandemic has gotten people into the habit of watching more, and the ebb and flow of bigger projects versus smaller projects has been a factor in the television world for decades,” says he. say. “I don’t think this worries me. Certain players will go up and down at some point.”