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Films could be the lifeblood of a resurrected economy


Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

You could not find a 'Starker' illustration of the evolution of industry in Belfast from the traditional to the novel than the transformation of the Titanic Paint Hall into a movie studio.

But running the Titanic Studios transformation a close second for poetic justice has been the use of the former C&C factory in east Belfast as a location for Dracula Untold, a horror film by Universal Pictures that was shot there last year.

Now the old factory has been sold for £3.3m, which seems like a hefty price tag for an industrial building that has seen better days.

However, that price tag would be justified if the building is to be transformed into a film studio. There are suggestions that Universal has bought the factory after falling for its utilitarian charms during the filming of Dracula Untold last year.

Titanic Studios are now synonymous with Game of Thrones, the fantasy series filmed on location in Northern Ireland by US cable channel HBO.

Talk to anyone in Belfast and further afield and they're likely to claim a special link with Game of Thrones. In one case, it might be filming Sean Bean for a Mac Theatre promotion during a break from his portrayal of Ned Stark, to working on the set, to the tenuous but still frequently-stated sighting of off-duty cast members going for a coffee on the Lisburn Road.

This writer's own claims range from spotting cast members – and suppressing the urge to ask for an autograph – to happening upon a book signing by author George RR Martin in 2009 attended by cast members, and wondering what all the fuss was about.

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Now we know what it's all about – and indeed, we know how Northern Ireland's industrial heritage can evolve, thanks to adaptations of Martin's epic series of fantasy novels, and other filming, such as Universal's adaptation of Dracula.

Former staff of C&C will be amused to think of their old premises being used as a location for a Dracula film – though, if some sources are to be believed, there could be other Universal pictures filmed there in the future.

The fizz of Club Orange to the champagne toast of a movie premiere isn't as big a jump as you might think.