The new Lyric Theatre is due to open in 2010
The project to rebuild Belfast's Lyric Theatre has received a boost with the offer of a £500,000 grant from a US-based charitable foundation.
The Kresge Foundation will hand over the money if the Lyric can raise £800,000 by June next year.
The theatre's patron, Liam Neeson, said the offer is an international endorsement of the Lyric's role.
Construction recently started on the Lyric's new home but it still needs to raise £1.3m for fit-out costs.
The Lyric is now appealing for help from the public and the business community to meet the £800,000 target to complete the fundraising campaign.
The Lyric's Development Director, Angela McCloskey said: "Those who join our appeal now, with donations of any size, will help us claim the Kresge grant, and make this project a reality."
"The immense added value this challenge grant brings by leveraging new donors' gifts is particularly welcome in the current economic climate."
The theatre opened in 1951 and moved to premises on Ridgeway Street about 20 years later.
However, ongoing problems with the buildings and dated facilities led to a decision to close it.
The new theatre will consist of a 394 seat main auditorium, a 150 seat studio theatre, a rehearsal room, extensive riverfront foyers and bar, backstage facilities and office accommodation.