A vociferous chorus of approval has greeted the Irishfinance minister's radical overhaul of the Section 481 tax break for filmproduction. The maximum threshold for Irish spend has been raised from 55%-66%to 80% of budget, for all productions irrespective of size. And the cap on thetotal amount that may be raised for any one production has been lifted from $18m(Euros15m) to $42m (Euros35m).

Screen Producers Ireland (SPI)strongly welcomed minister for finance Brian Cowen's measure, which waspublished in the Finance Bill, 2006 yesterday. SPIChief executive David McLoughlin warmly congratulatedminister Cowen and minister for arts, sport and tourism John O'Donoghue for the decision.

"It is a heartening indication of the Government'songoing support for the development of our industry and will no doubt play asignificant role in putting the industry firmly back on the international stageby improving Ireland'sinternational competitiveness in the highly competitive internationalproduction market. Measures like this one should ensure that Irelandincreases its share of international productions," said McLoughlin.

Producer James Flynn of Octagon Films said the effect of thechanges would be to motivate Irish producers to maximise Irish spend. "Theprevious 66% and 55% prevented this being always maximised. Increasing the capto $42m means that large budget films particularly will regard Ireland ashighly attractive (as will larger budget productions) so that is really goodnews particularly when you take into account the Section 481 contribution isavailable from day one during the shoot as opposed to after delivery as withmany incentives including the UK."

Some producers believe that the upgraded Section 481 mayprove more attractive to producers than the new regime being introduced in the UK."It's good in general and should definitely help. In terms of whether it'sbetter than what's on offer in the UK,it is tricky to tell as details on that scheme are still quite sketchy,"said Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe of Element Films.

The good news for the industry follows the recent increaseallocated to the capital budget for the Irish Film Board, which has beenincreased by 21% for 2006. New IFB Ceo Simon Perrywelcomed the finance minister's initiative saying, "This is a verysignificant move by the government which will give Irish filmmakers renewedconfidence in their own talents and their ability to competeinternationally."