Thursday, December 11, 2008

Whiff Of Hollywood To Touch Buona Vista

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

Singapore aims big with billion-dollar media hub at one-north

Locals could be rubbing shoulders with movie stars and Hollywood bigwigs at the one-north cluster in the near future.

And films like box-office hit 300, part of a new wave of films that rely extensively on state-of-the-art digital movie studios, could be spawned from studios coming up in a new 19 hectare Buona Vista enclave, called Mediapolis@one-north.

In the frame: Mr Chan, second from left, with MDA, JTC and IDA officials yesterday

Singapore's new media hub is a billion-dollar mega project that could see more than a dozen buildings sprawled across a lush landscape by 2020.

Announcing Mediapolis at the Asia Television Forum trade show yesterday, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang said the hub will be a 'crucible' for creating and distributing content from Singapore to the world.

Mediapolis will sit on land roughly the size of 19 football fields adjacent to Portsdown Avenue, a plot now partly occupied by the Ayer Rajah military camp.

It will 'have facilities not found elsewhere in Singapore and become the ideal home for international and local media companies, media schools and R&D (research and development) firms', the minister said.

At yesterday's media briefing, Chan Yeng Kit, chairman of the Mediapolis steering committee, said that Mediapolis is proceeding despite the financial downturn because demand for co-production expertise and facilities remains robust.

Mr Chan, who is also the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica), added: 'In some ways, the downturn does provide a window of opportunity for us, with construction costs coming down. By prepping the ground now and strengthening the whole ecosystem for media with scaled-up infrastructure and greater depth, we will be ready to catch the tide and gear up for the next stage of growth when recovery comes.'

The media industry is 'fairly recession-proof', he noted, because consumers will still continue to spend on entertainment in a downturn.

Four government agencies will jointly steer Mediapolis. They are the Media Development Authority (MDA), JTC Corporation, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Commercial developers are expected to undertake most of the development at the park, alongside JTC. The total gross floor area will come to around 400,000 square metres, according to a JTC spokesman.

Construction will kick off in the first quarter of next year on a 1.2 hectare plot of land. Local media production firm Infinite Frameworks will be Mediapolis' first developer.

The firm yesterday announced that it will be investing between $80 million and $120 million to build Singapore's first purpose-built soundstage complexes. These are hanger- like studios that can be fitted with movie sets and so-called green screens, which are used by studios to create the illusion of on-location shooting.

When completed by 2020, Mediapolis will have movie studios, digital production and broadcast facilities, research labs, games and animation studios, offices, service apartments and high-tech hotels.

There will also be a sprawling park that can host outdoor movie screenings and provide location settings for film companies.

According to JTC assistant chief executive Philip Su, Mediapolis could swell by another 18 hectares in a future second-phase development after 2020. This will likely be sited south of the current 19 hectare plot.

Mediapolis is expected to stoke an already bullish Singapore media industry. According to a joint statement, between 2000 and 2005, this industry reported an annual turnover of US$13.4 billion in revenue, contributing 4.5 per cent, or US$3.6 billion, to Singapore's gross domestic product and employing 53,500 people.

There has also been an influx of overseas projects, with the upcoming shoot of Jan de Bont's Point Break 2 here next year an eye-catching example. A number of global media giants such as Lucasfilm, Linden Lab, EA, Ubisoft and Rainbow SpA have also set up facilities in Singapore.

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