Ireland and the Oscars

The IDA wants to bring more international film companies to Ireland. Here are nine things about Ireland’s film industry and the Oscars that may surprise you.  

  1. The Volta was the name of Ireland’s first cinema, founded by James Joyce on Mary Street, Dublin in 1909. It screened mostly films from Europe (Joyce’s business partners were Italian), but the 420 seat venue struggled to find an audience in Dublin. The Volta was sold in 1910 and stayed open for some years without success. The building is now a Penneys. 
  1. Cedric Gibbons has the most Oscar wins of any Irish person, with a haul of 11 gongs. He won Ireland’s first Oscar in 1930 for his art direction on the film The Bridge of San Luis Rey. He’s even credited with the design of the Oscar statuette. Peter O’Toole, on the other hand, had eight nominations but never won until 2003 when he received an honorary award. Director Jim Sheridan meanwhile has six nominations; however, he too has never taken home the prize. Daniel Day-Lewis, who has shared British and Irish passports and lives in Wicklow, has five nominations for Best Actor, including three wins.
  1. In 2008, the Irish Film Censor’s Office dropped censorship from its remit and was renamed the Irish Film Classification Office. The Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said at the time, “The role of the film censor has evolved to reflect changed times. I think most of us believe that adults should be free to decide for themselves what they may see”. Some of the movies it banned over the years included Monty Python’s classic The Life of Brian (for its portrayal of religion), Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece A Clockwork Orange (for its depiction of ultra-violence and totalitarianism) and Disney’s Fantasia (for its portrait of a cartoon mouse with magical powers).
  1. Liam Neeson is [currently] the highest paid Irish actor in the world. He was the only Irish star to make Forbes’ highest paid actors list in 2015, making €18 million from hit films such as Taken 3. Estimates of Neeson’s net worth vary (some put it as high as $75 million), but there’s little doubt that the man from Ballymena is doing quite well for himself.
  1. Braveheart was filmed in Ireland, not Scotland. Mel Gibson’s William Wallace epic filmed its famous battle scenes on the Curragh, County Kildare while other scenes, supposedly set in London and York, were recorded at Trim Castle and Bective Abbey in Meath. However, it was the Scottish tourism industry that enjoyed a significant bounce in business after the film’s release, with most fans of the movie not being able to tell the difference.
  1. The Lad from Old Ireland was the first American film ever set in Ireland, the first movie by an American studio to be filmed on location outside of the US and one of the first films shot in Ireland. In 1910 three employees of New York’s Kalem production company arrived in Cobh by boat, carrying with them a cine-camera; a device which had only been in existence for 15 years at the time. Telling the story of an Irish emigrant who returns to Ireland, the production paved the way for the Irish-American blockbusters that would come after, such as John Ford’s classic The Quiet Man.
  1. Dubliner Barry Fitzgerald was the first Irish actor to win an Oscar in 1944, for his performance as Father Fitzgerald in Going My Way. He won for Best Supporting Actor, but was also nominated for Best Actor; the first and last time an actor has been nominated for both for the same role (the Academy changed its rules afterwards to make sure it didn’t happen again).
  1. More Irish films were made during the 1990s than the previous nine decades put together. Following a reorganisation of the Irish Film Board and changes in Irish tax laws, Irish cinema went through something of a boom in the 90s as filmmakers attempted to recreate the success of Alan Parker’s The Commitments. The likes of The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins, and The Crying Game were all made during this decade. 
  1. Brooklyn enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend of any Irish film ever, taking in €432,000 in Ireland cinemas. The record was previously held by Michael Collins in 1996. In 2011, The Guard overtook The Wind That Shakes the Barley for the highest-grossing Irish independent film of ever, taking in over €4 million. It earned €408,000 during its opening weekend. 

The Irish film industry on the rise 

Each year, the Irish Film Board and the IDA undertake “a heavy schedule of meetings” with US studios, distributors, agents, digital platforms, financiers and tech companies. The aim is to bring more film production and creative technology firms to Ireland.

“The eyes of the film world are on us and in Hollywood our message will be clear – the Irish film sector is a world player in creativity and technical skills,” says Irish Film Board chief executive, James Hickey.

Ireland has a very special relationship with cinema; as well as having a growing indigenous film industry, the Irish are also the biggest consumers of movies in the EU. In 2015, Irish cinemas saw admissions rise by 6.9% as our island edged out France and the UK for the highest number of cinema admissions per capita. 

Main image courtesy of Fox Movies.