Belfast Telegraph

Silver screen industry now laying golden eggs

By Lindsay Fergus

Northern Ireland's burgeoning screen industry has boosted the local economy by £22m in the past year.

The revelation comes as the cameras start to roll in Belfast on HBO's Game of Thrones, one of the largest ever shoots in Europe.

Through HBO's channels alone, the Northern Ireland images will reach over 35 million people worldwide.

Bucking the recession Northern Ireland Screen's main production fund returned £22m to the local economy in 2009/10 at a ratio of 5.5:1 on an investment of £3.9m.

Your Highness, a major feature film from Universal Pictures, which was shot in the Paint Hall in the Titantic Quarter and various other locations around the province brought in £11.78m.

The figures are contained in the annual report of Northern Ireland Screen - the national development agency for the screen industry in Northern Ireland.

Its chief executive Richard Williams said: "The economic, cultural and educational value of the screen industry and screen culture is beginning to shine through across the wide range of activities Northern Ireland Screen supports and encourages.

"Our highlight successes in attracting Universal Pictures and HBO to Northern Ireland strongly illustrate that, with vision and focus, the screen industries and the creative industries generally can play a pivotal role in the reimagining of our local economy."

Other successes of Northern Ireland Screen included securing two major network television commissions, Mo, and Christopher and His Kind.

Mo, which aired in January, was Channel 4's highest rating single drama for eight years and landed Julie Walters her sixth Bafta TV Award for her portrayal as former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam.

Mammoth Screen, the super-indie behind Christopher and His Kind has since set up shop in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Screen chairman Rick Hill said: "We are in the worst economic recession since the 1920s and set against that rather gloomy backdrop, the achievements of Northern Ireland Screen are, in my opinion, all the more impressive.

"The Northern Ireland Screen Fund continues to be vitally important in growing the film, television and digital content industry in the region, with several major incoming investments taking centre stage, giving a huge boost to the Northern Ireland economy."