Johor's Pinewood Studios up and running

Johor's Pinewood Studios up and running
Massive television studios are among the offerings at the new Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, whose opening was attended by stars such as actress Michelle Yeoh

South-east Asia's largest integrated studio facility is open for business in Johor and it has already attracted a multimillion-dollar television production from American Internet-streaming service provider Netflix.

Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios held its official opening last Saturday.

Sitting on 20ha of land, the massive film soundstages are 100,000 sq ft in total, while its television studios and other production facilities take up another 24,000 sq ft.

For water filming, the site has indoor and outdoor tanks, among South-east Asia's largest.

Officially completed in December last year, most of its facilities have been taken up with the production of the television series Marco Polo. It is produced by the American production house The Weinstein Company, known for reality shows such as Project Runway and feature films Django Unchained (2012) and the award winning Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

The 10 episode period drama about the adventures of the 13th-century explorer in China will debut next year on Netflix, which has branched into original content, including the Washington political drama House Of Cards and the dramedy Orange Is The New Black, which are both hits with critics and audiences.

Singaporean actor Chin Han has been cast in the part of Jia Sidao, a villain.

The US$170-million (S$212-million) studios project is spearheaded by the Malaysian government's strategic investment fund, Khazanah Nasional, as part of its plans to form a creative industries ecosystem in Johor's Iskandar development corridor.

To manage the studios, Khazanah allied with the famous Britain-based Pinewood Studios Group, a production house founded in the 1930s near London, which is responsible for films in the James Bond franchise, among others.

Pinewood has also given its name to facilities in Toronto, Atlanta, Berlin and the Dominican Republic.

The chief executive of Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, Mr Michael Lake, told the media last Saturday that besides the studios' infrastructure advantages, such as state-of-the-art equipment, scale and an English speaking workforce, the location in Johor allows fast access to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian government also offers foreign firms a 30 per cent cash rebate for qualifying productions filming in the country, he said.

Cooperation with Singapore-based production facilities is always a possibility, though nothing has been firmed up yet, he added.

The studios, in overall space, are larger than Singapore's recently opened Infinite Studios soundstages in Mediapolis, off Portsdown Road. The site has a combined 28,000 sq ft in soundstage area and an extra 5,000 sq ft in production facilities.

On the Indonesian island of Batam, Infinite Studios operates another 45,000 sq ft of combined soundstage space.

The Singapore soundstages recently hosted 20th Century Fox's action-thriller feature film Agent 47, while the Batam studios were used for the filming of the Australian-Singapore joint production, the television drama series Serangoon Road.

This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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