Film City: Durban to be the reel deal

Private Property South Africa
Anne Schauffer

If you’ve been eyeing that blank canvas of beachfront land previously called Natal Command and shaking your head, relax. Film City is coming to Durban.

It has been 10 long years while Anant Singh’s Videovision Entertainment subsidiary, Rinaldo Investments, has been fighting the good fight – and it has won. Durban’s Film City will soon colour our landscape. And contrary to its “film studio” tag, it’s more about city and citizens than studio. This R7bn-plus project of international class promises to be a broader, more interactive, community-centric development, the must-see, must-do of Durban.

The government has given the South African film industry “strategic industry” status, so its role in the country’s economy is significant.

Movie maker and shaker Anant Singh is a Durbanite who believes in the city’s potential: “We’ve been very behind in getting any meaningful slice of the R10bn-a-year movie pie – barely 3% if we’re lucky. With these world-class studios and services, given what we have in Durban, I believe we’ll shift some of that pie here.”

So, what can we expect?

The architect’s renders reveal a vast multipurpose theme park not unlike Hollywood’s legendary Universal Studios CityWalk but with a strong local community interface. The Natal Command building is classified as “heritage” and so it will remain, but now it will house contemporary lifestyle coffee shops and the like. Flanking it will be a luxury hotel – a Taj Group hotel is one contender – and serviced apartments. Behind these will be a series of interleading precincts with specific functions: retail, commercial, public spaces and the studios themselves.

There will even be a Walk of Fame, a street where visiting stars and celebrities will be commemorated with a star on the pavement and encouraged to leave behind their footprints and handprints as a tourist attraction. Here South African stars will be celebrated alongside international celebrities. Welcome to Durban’s version of Sunset Boulevard.

There will also be Markets of the World: organic, floating, and traditional Indian, African and Chinese. A safe, clean, colourful environment for shoppers, vendors and entrepreneurs, and an art component for artists who lack facilities: a working art studio with a business advice service. There will be demonstrations, exhibitions and walkabouts. And at the heart of the development, the massive film studios.

Film City is to offer themed movies, with buskers, graffiti and artist’s sculptures in the grounds. There are plans for a vast green open park for music concerts or family picnicking, a big screen for major sporting events, a South African film industry museum, studio tours and a host of other interactive spaces and experiences. You’ve read the book, now see the movie. Durban Film City: coming to a promenade near you.

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

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