Game of Thrones legacy projects 'will create hundreds of jobs'
HUNDREDS of jobs could be created at a Game of Thrones visitor attraction in Banbridge after the world's most-watched TV show revealed details of a unique legacy project for Northern Ireland.
HBO, which has filmed seven series of the Golden Globe-winning series around the north in the last decade, says it wants to celebrate the show's incredible success by converting some of its key filming locations into tourist attractions as part of a multi-million pound investment.
Iconic sets such as Winterfell, Castle Black and Kings Landing are to be permanently preserved, exhibiting displays of costumes, props, weapons, set decorations, art files, models, and other production materials.
And the Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, owned by NI Screen, will be home to a formal studio tour and visitor experience, enhanced by state-of-the-art digital content and interactive materials showcasing some of the digital wizardry the series is known for.
Medieval drama Game of Thrones, which is based on the epic fantasy novels by George RR Martin, first hit the small screen in 2007 and has since gone on to become a global phenomenon, broadcast in more than countries and watched by 20 million viewers.
Filmed virtually in its entirety in Ireland, it spawned an estimated £150 million cash bonanza and more than 1,000 jobs for the north's film and TV industry and cemented the region's reputation as a world-class location.
And although filming is now finished (the final season will be aired next year), Game of Thrones retains a massive business potential for tourism in Northern Ireland, with a range of immersive experiences and guided tours being offered across the region.
The Linen Mill Studios are set in the 75,000 square feet former Ulster Weavers bleachworks factory on the outskirts of Banbridge.
A spokesman for the studios said: "We're proud to have been a part of the extraordinary Game of Thrones series for the last eight years and look forward to building a lasting legacy with HBO, including recognising the opportunities this brings to Banbridge and also to Northern Ireland.
"We are committed to ensuring the best solution for our community and businesses and work with the relevant parties to update on progress as soon as we are able to."
No details have yet emerged as to how the Banbridge facility will look, though it is understood it could be along similar lines to the 'Making of Harry Potter' public attraction in Watford, a permanent exhibit offering an authentic behind the scenes glimpse of the Harry Potter films.
Situated inside Warner Bros Studios, it opened to the public in 2012 and since then has welcomed up to 6,000 visitors a day during peak times.
Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council mayor Julie Flaherty said: “This is one of the most exciting announcements in the world of entertainment and tourism and we are ecstatic that the legacy of the world-renowned Game of Thrones will call the Linen Mill Studios at Banbridge its home.
“The enormity of this commitment by HBO will be transformational not just for Banbridge but will have a wider impact for Northern Ireland and beyond.
"The Game of Thrones brand is truly world renowned, and this project has the potential to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to this area each year. This is a real game changer for tourism in Northern Ireland.”
Jeff Peters, vice president (licensing and retail) at HBO, said: “We look forward to opening the gates and sharing the excitement of stepping inside these amazing sets with Game of Thrones fans from around the world.
"The opportunity to celebrate Northern Ireland's pivotal role in the life and legacy of the show and share its culture, beauty and warmth is also a huge inspiration behind these legacy projects.”
Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen added: “While Game of Thrones fans have seen the stunning landscapes, coastlines and mountains in the series, we're thrilled they will now have the opportunity to fully experience the charm of Northern Ireland and immerse themselves in to the world of Westeros.”