Game of Thrones returning to Northern Ireland

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THE third series of epic television show Game of Thrones will be filmed in Northern Ireland, writes Chris Kilpatrick.

After months of speculation HBO - the American company behind the smash programme - confirmed it has renewed Game of Thrones for a third season.

And Northern Ireland Screen has announced filming of the show, described by some critics as Lord of the Rings meets the Sopranos, will again take place here.

A statement on their website read:

“Northern Ireland Screen can confirm that production for the third season will be based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“Game of Thrones has received funding from the Northern Ireland Screen fund supported by Invest NI and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

“The series will shoot in the Paint Hall film studio and the new sound stages in Belfast, the Linen Mill Film Studios in Banbridge, as well as various locations in Northern Ireland.”

Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming said: “Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss raised our expectations for the second season – and then surpassed them.

“We are thrilled by all the viewer and media support we’ve received for the series, and can’t wait to see what Dan and David have in store for next season.”

Among the locations used in the previous two series were Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, Castle Ward in Strangford, Tollymore Forest and the north Antrim coast.

Seres one of Game of Thrones was a worldwide hit, with the follow-up currently airing on Sky Atlantic also drawing high viewing figures.

Among the early critical praise for the second season, Newsday called Game of Thrones “the best show on television,” while the Los Angeles Times termed the series “a cinematic feast” and “masterful.” The Wall Street Journal hailed the show as “magnificent” and USA Today called it “near perfection.”

Following the first series First Minister Peter Robinson said the show had helped to create around 800 jobs locally. Mr Robinson told the Assembly it was a mistake to think such projects only provide work for actors.

“People often look at creative industries and they’ll see a film or TV series being made and they’ll think that’s 20, 30, or 40 actors.

“In actual fact in this present project probably about 800 individuals have been employed at some stage or another.” Filming of series three is expected to start in June and last nine months.