Northern Ireland

This section covers UTV, Titanic Studios, Belfast Harbour Studios and Studio Ulster




UTV – Belfast

John King has written to me with some interesting info about UTV.  The simplest thing is for me to copy his email here:

When UTV (Ulster Television as it was known until 1993) opened up in 1959 until 1993 they had just two “general purpose” studios.  The original Studio 1 was 1,600 sq ft and this was supplemented by a smaller near 1,000 sq ft Studio 2.  Tiny in comparison to the likes of Granada, Yorkshire studios etc.  When UTV launched their popular Friday night talk show “Kelly” in 1989, they had to use the 1,600 Sq Ft studio and this meant squeezing in a small set and an audience platform for around 100 people.  With clever wide angle lenses on the cameras, and building the audience seating over the studio doors, it meant the studio looked larger on screen than it was, with many audience members complaining they were placed very close to the roasting hot studio lights. 

In 1993, with their new franchise contract under way, UTV finally opened a larger studio (opened by Gloria Hunniford).  Not exactly spacious, but the new Studio 1 was 2,500 sq ft in floor space and had a permanent audience platform in place which could comfortably fit 125 people, and the Kelly Show moved into this studio in September 1993.  UTV abandoned producing big local audience based shows come 2009, and so in 2010 Studio 1 was converted into their main news studio.  They had been using Studio 2 for many years as the main news studio.  Sadly UTV left Havelock House in 2018 and have moved into much smaller offices and studio space in what is called “City Quays 2” in Belfast.  Literally a large modern office block, with the news studio squeezed into their floor.  Not much room, around the same size as the old 1,000 Sq Ft studio back in Havelock House.





Titanic Studios – Belfast  (2007 – present)

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Titanic Studios – the original Paint Hall to the right and the new stages on the left.
thanks for the above photo to Jeff McCrory
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architects’ drawing of the proposed 2014 development which appears not to have happened. ‘TQ’ stands for Titanic Quarter, the area in which the studios are located.


Northern Ireland Screen have been renting Titanic Studios (formerly the Paint Hall studio) from Harland and Wolff shipyard since 2007 for use as sound stages.  The building consists of four 16,000 sq ft ‘cells’ within a huge structure, each with enormous doors to the outside world and connected by internal ‘streets’.  The roof height is an impressive 90 ft and each stage contains a lighting truss grid that can be raised or lowered.  All 8 seasons of Game of Thrones were made here for HBO and Sky Atlantic from 2010 – 2018.  Feature films have included City of Ember in 2007 and Your Highness in 2009.

In 2012 two new 20,000 sq ft purpose-built stages were completed here alongside the Paint Hall.  They are within one long building and were used from the third season of Game of Thrones along with the original Paint Hall stages.  They are named the Macquitty and Hurst Stages.  They can be opened up to form one large space of 42,000 sq ft.


Early in 2014 a planning application was lodged to expand the studios even further.  £14m was reportedly set aside to build two more stages plus associated workshops and other facilities totalling 100,000 sq ft.  The new facility was to have solar panels on its roof, reducing electricity costs.  Planning permission was granted in August 2014 but for some reason these stages appear not to have been built.  Can you help with any more info?

These studios appear to have been pretty quiet following Game of Thrones but late in 2020 it was announced that they would be the base for a feature adaptation of role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.  Paramount is producing the film, which stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page and Hugh Grant.  Filming began in April 2021 and was completed in August.

In the autumn of 2023 it was reported that the live action remake of How To Train Your Dragon was being made in these studios but was on hold, due to the US actors industrial action.





Belfast Harbour Studios, Giant’s Park (2017 – present)

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These are the newest purpose-built studios in Northern Ireland – constructed on a former landfill site.  There are two very well-equipped sound stages, each of 32,000 sq ft, linked by a 20 tonne acoustically sealed sliding door.  There are also two workshops of 11,000 sq ft each and 36,000 sq ft of production offices.

In June 2017 it was reported that the first booking would be Krypton – a TV series for the Syfy channel set on Superman’s home planet.  A second series began shooting in October 2018.  In February 2020 it was announced that Viking revenge saga The Northman was to be filmed here.  It has a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe.  The following project was announced in December 2020 – The School for Good and Evil, a film for Netflix.  In March 2022 US actor and comedian Kevin Hart began filming heist movie Lift for Netflix.


The planned expansion of the studios, quadrupling what is available.

In February 2020 came the announcement that the studios would be undergoing major expansion.  Four new stages of 21,000 sq ft each plus two of 16,000 sq ft were planned, quadrupling the number of stages here.  100,000 sq ft of production offices and 130,000 sq ft of workshops were also mentioned.  This is a seriously impressive investment costing £45m.  The new facilities are being built on an adjoining 20-acre site and were expected to be available in 2021 but planning permission was not in fact granted until December 2021.  The developer immediately sought expressions of interest from contractors.

According to press reports in December 2021, the new facilities were expected to be completed by August 2023.  However, the building contractor was not in fact appointed until August 2022.  The size of the project also appears to have been somewhat downgraded although the cost is still said to be £45m.  They are fortunately still talking about 6 large sound stages plus workshops.  Construction is expected to take 20 months, so we are now looking at availability in 2024 at the earliest.

In May 2023 it was revealed that filming on Amazon Studios TV series Blade Runner 2099 in these studios had been delayed due to the ongoing Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike.  Northern Ireland Screen said that they would do everything possible to plug the gap in the work this show was going to provide.  Unfortunately, in October 2023 an announcement came that this 10-part drama series would not be filmed here after all.  The statement was made by the head of Northern Ireland Screen who had put a lot of money into this project, which they were now hoping to get back.  According to press reports, Amazon Studios had not commented on the reasons for withdrawing from Belfast Harbour.  In February 2024 it was confirmed that the show would be filmed in Prague, beginning in June.

In March 2024 it was announced that a sci-fi thriller called World Breaker, starring Mila Jovovich and Luke Evans had begun filming in Northern Ireland.  According to one source they would be using these studios as well as locations around the area.  However, I have not been able to confirm this.





Studio Ulster, Giant’s Park (from 2024)


An announcement was made in September 2022 that a new Virtual Production centre was being built in north Belfast.  It has been developed by Ulster University.  The building contains two large-scale VP volumes with an in-camera VFX stage, a mo-cap stage, a 3D scanning stage and an R&D smart stage.  This is all very impressive and is intended to support productions being filmed in Northern Ireland.  The project is in partnership with Belfast Harbour Studios and is supported by Northern Ireland Screen.  460 direct and indirect jobs in the screen sector will be created.  The cost is estimated at £25.2m.  Construction commenced in late September 2022 and it is due to be fully operational early in 2024.