It was hoped when plans were released last year that the vast Pelamis warehouse in Leith’s docklands will become a “world-class” production facility suitable for the biggest blockbuster movies and high-quality drama series by the end of 2019.
Now the facility has been handed a huge boost before it has even opened with Amazon Studios’ blockbuster based on JRR Tolkien’s books being lined up as its first major client.
The online streaming giants are expected to run a three-month filming and production programme starting in August.
Creative Scotland are in the final stages of appointing a private operator to lease, refurbish and run the studio.
An industry source told the Sunday Mail: “Lord of the Rings producers are hoping to start filming at the new studio from about August to November.
“A lot of arrangements are already in place. All that remains now is for it to be up and running in time – so the clock is ticking.
“It’s anticipated production will return for another three months from next March. There could be more after that. It’s a massive contract and a gigantic boost for the studio and for Scotland.”
The Lord of the Rings TV adaptation is set to be the most expensive show ever made, coming in at over £1 billion for five seasons.
Amazon executives hope the series will be on air by 2021.
Scouts from Amazon Studios posed as tourists while visiting locations around Scotland last summer, with staff visiting the likes of Dunskey Castle, Portpatrick, Scourie, Callander and Balloch Castle Country Park.
The Leith warehouse complex, on Bath Road, was built in 2000 at a cost of around £30 million for engineering firm VA Tech, but closed with the loss of 225 jobs four years later. Talks between Forth Ports, the Scottish Government and the National Galleries of Scotland over its potential conversion into a new gallery complex came to nothing before it was converted into a home for wave turbine firm Pelamis, but was closed down after it went into administration in 2014.
The Pelamis building was used last year as a base for the Avengers: Infinity War blockbuster, with the six weeks of filming said to be worth £10 million to the city’s economy.
There have been concerns that a lack of studio space meant Scotland was losing out in the race to attract major film and TV productions.
Iain Munro, Creative Scotland’s acting chief executive, said: “We have had an encouraging and positive response to the call out for tender submissions.
“The intention is that a conclusion on the final operator will be made by the end of this month.
“We will then work to support the operator to deliver the studio as soon as possible during 2019.”
Screen Scotland said it offers a “confidential service” to producers and were “unable to comment” on the Lord of the Rings series.