Malaysia builds US$60m Hollywood-style studio for MSC

Posted on July 15, 1999 
Filed Under CNET, Julian

KUALA LUMPUR–Watch out Hollywood, here comes Mollywood.

Malaysia is hoping to replicate the Hollywood-Silicon Valley combination in California by building its own film studio cum movie theme park within the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) high-tech zone.

The Entertainment Village or E-Village will be situated on a 200-hectare site near Cyberjaya, the host city for information technology companies in the MSC.

Malaysian multinational Datuk Keramat Holdings (DKH), the part owners of Leavesden Studio in Britain, will initially spend US$60 million on the project.

MSC promoter Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) disclosed details of the E-Village at the annual panel meeting for international advisors to the project last week.

Its executive chairman Dr Othman Yeop Abdullah said the studio will be the first phase of the E-Village followed by the building of a theme park, styled after a similar park in Orlando but with local cultural components, and a third phase which will be a holiday resort, and a township for businesses and residents.

The E-Village is part of MDC’s plan to cluster broadcasters, film producers, post-production companies, animation companies, and specialists in multimedia training and education in the MSC.

Dr Othman said DKH has the necessary expertise because of its involvement with the Leavesden Studio which counts among its recent coups George Lucas’ “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”, James Bond movie “Golden Eye”, and “Mortal Kombat 2: The Annihilation.”

The MDC has actively promoted Malaysia as a film location in recent months. It was largely responsible for securing two major 20th Century Fox productions namely, the historical drama “Anna and the King”, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yuen Fatt, which relocated here after it was rejected by Thailand, and heist thriller “Entrapment”, a Sean Connery-Catherine Zeta Jones vehicle which filmed several key scenes here.

The MDC helped with visa processing and customs clearance and facilitated security and the provision of extras.

Next week, the MDC will head a promotion campaign to India to lure the best of so-called Bollywood to the MSC. The four-day mission will be led by Minister of Energy, Communications and Multimedia Leo Moggie, beginning July 19 and has scheduled visits to Mumbai and Hyderabad.

“We would like to draw from India’s experience in the setting up of its much talked about Hyderabad E-Village as we plan ahead to establish our own at the fringe of Cyberjaya,” Dr Othman said in a statement.

Despite its Hollywood-wannabe ambitions, Malaysia, however, seems unable to shake its conservative attitudes to film-making.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently lashed out at “Entrapment,” for “distorting the truth” by splicing the world’s tallest buildings, the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur as if it were rising from the slums of Malacca, 150 km away.

Dr Mahathir, who is an ardent promoter for the MSC and has called the 452m-high Twin Towers, the “northern gateway to the MSC”, was upset at Hollywood’s poetic license.

“The distorted view of the skyscrapers will certainly make movie audiences in rich countries conclude that Malaysia is one of those developing countries which waste public funds, perhaps even foreign aid, on useless grandiose monuments,” he reportedly said.

“I really cannot understand why we need to distort and harm when we can be charitable without any additional cost to ourselves,” he concluded.

Malaysia has also banned previous movies like animated musical “Prince of Egypt”, Holocaust epic “Schindler’s List” and most recently “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” for varied reasons.

Detractors say it is ironical that the country that wants to woo Hollywood and encourage such creative endeavors, at the same time adopts such a non-liberal stance to film-making.

Malaysian audiences denied the movies on screen, however, were still able to obtain the banned movies, albeit illegally, in pirated VCD formats sold at popular night markets.

Published in CNET Asia, July 15, 1999.

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