Planning bid to extend film studios
A £14 million plan has been unveiled to extend the Belfast film studios where popular fantasy drama Game Of Thrones is shot.
The planning application to add another 100,000 sq ft of production space at the Titanic Studios is another clear indication of the city's growing reputation in the film industry.
Also known as the Paint Hall, the already huge building set in the heart of Belfast's docklands was once a climate controlled facility where ship parts were painted prior to assembly.
The 2007 movie City Of Ember was the first major production filmed in the converted studios and, two years later, US production company HBO arrived and has gone on to shoot four seasons of Games of Thrones there, and at various outdoor locations across Northern Ireland.
The success of the series, combined with financial production incentives offered by government-backed agency Northern Ireland Screen, has prompted more and more film makers to choose the city as a location.
In reflection of this, Titanic Quarter Ltd - which is responsible for the wider regeneration of the docklands, has lodged a planning application for an additional two film studios, plus associated production workshops and facilities.
It will increase the current media complex to more than 250,000 sq ft.
David Gavaghan, Titanic Quarter's chief executive, said: "The phenomenal international success of the HBO series Game of Thrones, filmed primarily in Northern Ireland and Europe's biggest budget television drama, is driving demand for additional film and television production space in Belfast.
"The planning application is a measure of Titanic Quarter's intent to ensure that Northern Ireland's burgeoning film industry continues to grow and that there is an adequate supply of bespoke, hi-tech space to support the needs of production companies."
In the last four years, Northern Ireland Screen has estimated its main production fund will return just over £120 million to the local economy on an investment of £27.8 million, with the total value of productions in this period predicted to be almost £294 million.
NI Screen's chief executive Richard Williams said: "The expansion of the former Paint Hall, which housed our first international production in 2007, was a real driver in the development of the film and television production industry in Northern Ireland and helped boost Northern Ireland's standing in the marketplace.
"As we move into a new phase of international activity, on the back of the new tax breaks for high-end television drama and animation, Northern Ireland Screen needs to be able to assure the global industry of our continued capability to house large-scale international productions.
"There is no doubt that the demand for further studio infrastructure exists and the construction of more stages can only assist us with attracting further production to Northern Ireland."
If planning is approved and funding agreements are signed off, it is anticipated that work on site could begin within months.