Cape Town studio bows

Last year industry generated approximately $350 mil

JOHANNESBURG — The long-anticipated Dreamworld Film City studio project outside Cape Town finally appears to be getting off the ground.

It was officially launched last week, four years after the construction of a mega film studio in the city was first proposed by the Western Cape provincial government.

Last year, the Cape film industry generated approximately $350 million, but 70% to 80% of this still comes from commercial production. Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool hopes the film city will provide the infrastructure and facilities to attract bigger-budget international film-shoots and boost the city’s economy by turning it into a leading feature production location.

The proposal of the Dreamworld consortium — led by Anant Singh of Videovision Entertainment and including independent broadcaster e.tv — was selected as the preferred bidder by the provincial government in September 2003, and the first projections were that it could be up and running by the end of 2005. However, the project was first delayed by legal challenges surrounding the selection process and, later, environmental objections relating to a protected wetland on the site. Ninety hectares have now been set aside for conservation on the site, ensuring wetland protection.

“It took longer than we would have liked, but we are very excited,” Singh said at the recent launch attended by film industry players and government representatives.

Singh said some zoning issues would be dealt with in the next four to five months, and building would begin in the new year. It was anticipated that phase 1 — including four soundstages surrounded by offices and warehouses — would be finished by the end of 2007, and the studios would be operable by early 2008.

The provincial government and Cape Town City have already committed $4.5 million each toward the project to prepare bulk infrastructure, and Singh said the development of the first phase had been kick-started by a $4.5 million investment deal with the investment and trade promotion agency Wesgro, which would also give Wesgro a 10% stake in Dreamworld.

Singh said the $60 million project would be completed in phases to ensure optimal operational capacity with studios designed to meet both local and international film producers’ needs.

“Dreamworld will provide a right-sized, world-class one-stop film city in an appropriate location that will entice year-round growth in film production to cater to both the current and future needs of this growing industry segment in Cape Town,” Singh said. “We envision Dreamworld will become the hub of the film industry in the Western Cape.”