Tax breaks secure third Disney film

Category: Reign of Fire News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 11, 2001 | Publication: Sunday Times (London) | Author: Jan Battles
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DISNEY is planning to shoot a $ 50m blockbuster movie in Ireland, its third feature film here in 18 months.

The studio hopes to begin pre-production on Shanghai Knights, starring martial arts expert Jackie Chan, once Reign of Fire, its current project, is completed at Ardmore studios in Co Wicklow this summer. Disney made The Count of Monte Cristo in Ireland last autumn.

Shooting is likely to begin early next year on Shanghai Knights, a sequel to last summer's kung-fu cowboy hit, Shanghai Noon.

Disney is shooting a third film in Ireland because of the favourable experience it had on both previous productions. Studio executives told Sile de Valera, the arts minister, in Hollywood last month, that they were impressed by how well the Irish government's film tax incentives worked.

"They told us they felt section 481 was the most effective film incentive scheme worldwide," said Roger Greene, chief executive of the Screen Commission of Ireland, who met executives of eight major Hollywood studios along with the minister.

Shanghai Knights will be made by the Disney-based company, Spyglass Entertainment, which made both The Count of Monte Cristo and Reign of Fire for the studio. Ned Dowd of Spyglass, who is executive producer on Reign of Fire, said: "The tax incentives in Ireland, as well as the crews and locations, make it a very competitive player in the world film market."

Shanghai Noon took $ 56m at the American box office last year. The action comedy starred Chan as a disgraced Chinese imperial guard searching for the kidnapped Princess Pei Pei, played by Lucy Liu, the actress from Ally McBeal. His quest takes him from Beijing's Forbidden City to America's Wild West, where he teams up with an endearing outlaw, played by Owen Wilson.

The decision to film the sequel in Ireland is a blow to Calgary in Canada, where the first film was made. Many local actors and crew were employed on the production.

Reign of Fire, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale, is the biggest production ever shot in Ireland. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, it is the tale of a fireman's battle against dragons who are taking over the earth, and is costing $ 80m. The Count of Monte Cristo, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas and starring Guy Pearce, had a $ 40m budget. Shanghai Knights's budget is believed to be similar to Shanghai Noon's $ 55m.

Another big production is also due in Ireland later this year. HBO, an American television network, is making The Hungry Earth, a $ 30m fictionalised account of the Great Famine based on a novel by Sean Kenny. Set in modern times, it tells the tale of a rich yuppie accountant in Dublin who inherits a rural stone cottage in the west of Ireland which is haunted by ghosts.

One day the accountant falls through the open door of the cottage and stumbles through a hole in time, into the middle of the famine. He meets people suffering from starvation and begins to re-examine himself. Two 90-minute episodes will be shot in Dublin and Galway in a 10 to 12-week shoot.

The renewal of section 481 and the weakness of the punt against the dollar are credited with Ireland's current popularity as a film location with foreign film-makers. The film industry in Ireland slumped in 1999 when there was uncertainty over the tax incentive's future. With section 481 in place until 2005 at least, American producers are interested in coming back to the republic. Greene said: "The studios were very positive about making films in Ireland in the long-term as a result."

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Limited