The Irish production, distribution and exhibition trades turned out in force on Nov 25 for the re-opening of UGC's Euros 13m upgrade of their Dublin site.

The site is already one of the company's top locations in the Ireland/UK territory, UGC Commercial Director Mike Thomson told at the launch.

"With 17 screens we expect Dublin to go to number one in the Ireland/UK area and to challenge our top French sites which achieve about three million admissions a year," he said. "We'll be giving equal prominence to non-mainstream films from around the world and we expect to develop new audiences rather than displace existing art-house attendances."

Irish cinema attendances are currently booming, with Dublin's rate of 8.8 visits per person per year cited as one of the highest rates of cinema-going in the world.

Asked if other Irish UGC sites were in the offing Margaret Taylor, MD UGC Cinemas UK and Ireland told that the company was on the lookout for suitable city centre sites in several locations, possibly in the under-screened provincial cities of Cork, Limerick and Galway.

Before he declared the cinemas open, Arts Minister John O'Donoghue made a reference in his speech which may in time prove to be a significant indication of the Government's intentions regarding Ireland's production tax break, ahead of the December 3 budget.

"We will have to wait for the Budget Speech to know the outcome of this issue," he said. "But the public debate has certainly highlighted just how far Irish filmmaking has come in recent years, the high level of skill and professionalism that has been achieved, and the fact that a central part of the national cultural life is now provided by film. We should not let details such as numbers employed or net incoming investment generated or other economic indicators obscure the fact that the original and best reason for Government supporting film making in Ireland is that it is artistically and culturally worthwhile."