Plan to make Belfast leading regional hub for media production

Belfast Harbour intends to develop six TV and film studios in £35m investment

Belfast Harbour wants to develop six new purpose-built television and film studios in a £35 million investment project to capitalise on Northern Ireland's growing reputation as a production location.

Harbour executives believe the studio development could help Northern Ireland land a starring role as the "leading regional hub for media production outside London".

The harbour has already invested £20 million in the Belfast Harbour Studios complex at the Giant's Park, which is part of a harbour estate that covers 2,000 acres.

Now it is seeking planning permission to significantly expand the complex, developing a second phase of the studios which would extend it to a 20-acre site.


There are currently two film studios and associated workshops in the complex. The harbour wants to develop an additional four studios, covering 20,000 sq ft each, two studios of up to 15,000sq ft each and a further 90,000sq ft of supporting workshops, 80,000sq ft of offices and up to 22,000sq ft of media supplier buildings.

David Dobbin, chairman of Belfast Harbour, said it wants to develop the film studios "in response to the rapidly growing market demand for studio space and Belfast's, Northern Ireland's, growing reputation as a creative destination".

Game of Thrones

The success of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones helped to firmly establish Northern Ireland's reputation in the global television and film production sector.

Northern Ireland Screen estimates that Game of Thrones, which first began filming in the North in 2010, has contributed in the region of £251 million to the North's economy. It also helped spark a screen tourism industry in Northern Ireland built entirely around the TV series.

Latest figures suggest that a record 350,000 Game of Thrones fans travelled to the North last year to see their favourite locations from the show, like the Haunted Forest and the Kingsroad.

Although the television show may have finished, tourist organisations hope fans of the series will continue to visit Northern Ireland to see both locations and new attractions like the first Game of Thrones studio tour which Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge is currently designing and building. It is scheduled to open in 2020 .

Belfast Harbour Studio's first production was a Superman prequel, Krypton, a one-hour series from Phantom Four in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television for the SYFY channel which was shown in the United States and the UK last year.

The team behind it have just finished filming the second series of the show and harbour executives believe there is now strong international market demand for studio space particularly given the increased content currently being produced by major organisations from Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business