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Goodbye to Singapore's version of Hollywood: Remainder of Tuas TV World to be demolished

Goodbye to Singapore's version of Hollywood: Remainder of Tuas TV World to be demolished
Tuas TV World was built between 1990 and 1992 at a cost of about $35 million by the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Once hailed as the biggest outdoor television studio in the region, what remains of the now-defunct Tuas TV World is set to be demolished by the second quarter of 2024.

The 6.6ha facility had eight sets, with five depicting old Singapore and three of China.

It was built between 1990 and 1992 at the cost of about $35 million by Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – an antecedent of Mediacorp.

The complex also had a 215m-long water feature that mimicked the Singapore River, including pumps to generate waves.

It is located between Tuas Checkpoint Complex and the Land Transport Authority’s upcoming Integrated Train Testing Centre.

SBC representatives said in 1990 that when completed, Tuas TV World would be 40 times the size of an “early Singapore” set they had in Caldecott Hill, and allow the broadcaster to produce more dramas.

These would include English, Malay and Indian dramas, which up till that point had been limited by the mostly Chinese-style set in Caldecott.

It was previously reported that after about a decade of operations, Tuas TV World became too costly for the broadcaster to maintain, as fewer period dramas were produced after the 1990s.


A spokesman for the Singapore Police Force told The Straits Times on Friday that the Special Operations Command leased the premises in December 2001 and converted it into a temporary facility called Tuas Training Village to meet training needs.

Various police units – including land divisions and specialist units – used the site for various types of training, including public order incidents, public security, forensic investigations and scenario-based exercises, the spokesman added.

He said training was ceased in 2009 to prepare the site to be returned to the state.

Dramas filmed during TV World’s heyday in the 90s include Strange Encounters 3, Tofu Street, The Price Of Peace, Wok Of Life and Hainan Kopi Tales.

Of TV World’s about 100 buildings, only around 15 remain today.

It is unclear when the rest of the structures were removed, though veteran local actor Chew Chor Meng said during an interview in 2012 that some buildings had already been torn down.

The 54-year-old, who had filmed about 10 dramas at the site, was among the actors who returned to TV World in February that year, when Mediacorp returned to the location to film Channel 8’s 30th anniversary period drama Joys Of Life.

Speaking with The New Paper then, Mr Chew said he had many fond memories of TV World, including fishing in a nearby water body during filming breaks.

Actor Chew Chor Meng filming a scene for Mediacorp’s period drama Joys Of Life in March 2012. PHOTO: The New Paper file

Mr Chew, who brought his wife and two daughters to TV World in 2012 to show them where he previously worked, said that the site is part of Singapore’s drama history and part of the collective memory of actors around his age.

Veteran producer Winnie Wong, who retired in 2021 after more than 40 years in the television industry, told ST on Sunday that returning to TV World to film Joys Of Life – on which she was an executive producer – was fitting as the facility had played an integral part in the development of the local TV industry, having supported a boom in Singapore-made dramas in the 90s.

She said that, given TV World’s significant size advantage compared with the old set in Caldecott Hill, producers could do a lot more in their shows, and find new ways to wow audiences.

“At the Caldecott set, we had only two streets, and no matter how we tried, audiences would eventually tire of seeing the same thing.

“There were only that many things you could do with it, like changing the names of shops,” said Ms Wong, who added that those who grew up watching local dramas in the 90s would also share an indirect bond with TV World.

Actors and crew who have worked at TV World all have lasting memories of it, and of time spent together there, she said.

“We had no mobile phones then, and Tuas was so far out, there was nowhere to go during filming breaks… so we would spend the whole day together, have meals on set and talk about life,” said Ms Wong.

“It was a period when the camaraderie we shared was very strong.”

Even in its rundown state in 2012, said Ms Wong, the set still had character and impressed late Taiwanese actor Alien Huang, who starred in Joys Of Life.

While similar settings depicting Singapore in the mid-1900s are difficult to find elsewhere on the island, shows set in this period are not filmed often now, said Ms Wong.

She pointed out that keeping the set around for such instances is onerous, as much effort has to be put into maintenance.

Heritage blogger and author Jerome Lim said it is a shame that TV World was given up and will now be torn down.

Of TV World’s 100-odd buildings, only around 15 remain today. PHOTO: The Straits Times

“Who would have thought that we had our own Singaporean version of a Hollywood type outdoor set?” he said.

Tuas TV World’s remaining buildings sit on land zoned as a reserve site, meaning its specific use is yet to be determined.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is expected to appoint a contractor in mid-September, following which demolition works will run till the second quarter of 2024 before the site is handed over to the Singapore Land Authority.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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