Durban: Producer Anant Singh Unveils Studio Plans in Seaside Town

South African super-producer Anant Singh has unveiled plans for a sprawling studio complex in the heart of Durban that will transform the film industry in this sunny seaside city.

At a cost of roughly $500 million, eThekwini Film City – which takes its name from the Zulu name for Durban – will combine world-class studio facilities with a tourist resort and residential properties, sitting on 50 acres of prime beachfront property.

As planning with local government enters its final stages, Singh says he hopes to begin moving on site by early 2017.

For Singh, whose Videovision is responsible for such iconic South African films as “Cry, the Beloved Country,” “Sarafina!,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and Oscar nominee “Yesterday,” it’s the culmination of a dream more than a decade in the making.

“It gives Durban a home for the film industry,” he says.

Mock-ups for the proposed site are divided into sections that reflect the underlying mantra to “live, work and play.”

The film industry precinct will include recording studios, editing suites, and offices for local production companies. Both the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission and the Durban Film Office are prospective tenants, helping to fulfill Singh’s vision of a complex that would be “a base for all of the film community.”

The film studio will have three sound stages, two workshops, and a backlot. An onsite film school is also in the works, offering an opportunity for graduates to get hands-on training just steps from the classroom.

Nearby will be a sculpture garden and the Film Festival Park, a multi-purpose outdoor venue ideal for movie screenings, concerts, and other events. Green spaces stud the resort. Pedestrian walkways will fully integrate eThekwini Film City into the surrounding area, with easy access to the beachfront, as well as the neighboring Suncoast Casino and the futuristic Moses Mabhida Stadium complex.

For tourists and other visitors, Singh envisions a small-scale Universal City, which will seamlessly blend the worlds of film and leisure. Artist renderings show a bustling central plaza, Studio Square, surrounded by movie-themed restaurants and cafes, palm-lined promenades, and sparkling fountains. There will be a Walk of Fame celebrating local and foreign movie stars, as well as a museum commemorating the history of South African cinema, from the pre-apartheid era to today. A shopping area dubbed “markets of the world” will offer traditional arts and crafts from Africa and Asia, reflecting Durban’s unique cultural heritage.

“One of the things we want to do is retain the character of the city and the province,” says Singh.

For Durban, a sun-splashed city with a balmy tropical climate that’s backed by the stunning landscapes of KwaZulu Natal, the studio should be a massive economic driver. Singh, whose Videovision owns a 50% stake in the Cape Town Film Studios, expects his Durban project to have a similar impact on the region.

“What we’ve seen is the growth of international film production shooting and utilizing facilities and people in Cape Town, and we feel that that is because of…the exceptional value that South Africa represents,” he says, with skilled crews and a weak rand offering a combination that’s “unbeatable.”

While Cape Town has long established itself as a world-class hub of film servicing, Singh calls Durban “South Africa’s best-kept secret.”

With gusty winds and cold rain lashing Cape Town for much of the winter, the temperature on a recent afternoon in Durban was pushing 80 degrees. Its locations are beautiful and diverse. “You can get from the mountains to the desert to the ocean within an hour’s drive from Durban,” says Singh.

Rather than compete with one another, though, he envisions Durban and its distinct advantages complementing those of Cape Town—a relationship, he says, which “makes that collective offering a lot more valuable.”



More Film

  • Alamo Drafthouse

    Alamo Drafthouse Storms into L.A. with New Location

    “Cinema is alive and well tonight!” Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League declared at the theatrical venue’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday night, where a gathering of 160 employees cheered and sliced into a strip of 35mm film in keeping with the company’s tradition. Despite dire predictions heralding the end of the theater-going experience, League was upbeat [...]

  • The Lion King Teaser

    'The Lion King' Leaping to $185 Million North American Debut

    Disney’s “The Lion King” is heading for a dominant $185 million opening weekend in North America, early estimates showed Friday. Should that number hold, “The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and give the sagging domestic box office a badly needed boost. “The Lion King” would replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched [...]

  • Joe Anthony Russo

    Russo Brothers Announce 'Grimjack,' Live-Action 'Battle of the Planets' Adaptations

    Joe and Anthony Russo are looking to their youth to populate the development slate at their production company AGBO. A relatively obscure comic book called “Grimjack” will count the Russos as producers for an adaptation, they announced at San Diego Comic-Con. They’re also cooking up a live-action adaptation of the animated show “Battle of the [...]

  • Chadwick Boseman stars in 21 Bridges

    Watch Chadwick Boseman Hunt Down Killers in New '21 Bridges' Trailer

    Shots are fired in a new trailer for “21 Bridges,” starring Chadwick Boseman and J.K. Simmons, released during a Comic-Con panel today. The heist-thriller, produced by Joe and Anthony Russo of “Avengers: Endgame,” stars Boseman as an NYPD detective Andre Davis who finds himself embroiled in a city-wide manhunt after two cops are accused of [...]

  • David Crosby and Cameron Crowe'David Crosby:

    Cameron Crowe Picks Five Favorite Underrated David Crosby Tracks

    “Music is love,” as David Crosby once sang, and nothing breeds deeper love than a sense that something is overlooked. So that’s why Variety asked Cameron Crowe to dig deep into the Crosby canon and pick not just a triad but five favorites from among the CSN singer’s most underrated tracks. Crowe, of course, has [...]

  • Halloween

    New 'Halloween' Movies Set for 2020, 2021

    Universal Pictures has unveiled back-to-back “Halloween” sequel movies that will open in 2020 and 2021. The studio made the announcement Friday, noting that last year’s “Halloween,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis and directed by David Gordon Green, went on to become the highest-grossing installment in the horror franchise at more than $250 million worldwide. The first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content