Manoeuvrings to get what may be the biggest development yet in our district past the Town Planning Board have resumed. On 5 July plans for building on the Shaw Brothers site at Clearwater Bay were submitted to the TPB. They propose a comprehensive development with residential blocks, a hotel and a mall with shops and restaurants. The site is 46 acres with 23 buildings there now, derelict, guarded and fenced off.
The new plans call for 38 blocks of 668 flats, with 5-13 floors; a 183 room hotel; 18,000+ sq.m. of office and/or shopping space; as well as a hostel and other developments. The site will take up all of the area behind Shaw House, but conserve that building for other use. This is an update to the original proposals submitted in 2006 and 2014, which was deferred after numerous objections from planners, as well as residents.
In its heyday this was the location of the world’s largest privately owned film studio, known as Movietown. It is part of Hong Kong’s heritage and folklore. Films embedded in the minds of local people — The Magnificent Concubine (1962) and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) — were made there. One thousand movies are said to have been filmed at Clearwater Bay. It is also the original home of TVB. Earlier proposed development was stopped by the studio’s designation as a Grade One classified structure by the Antiquities and Monuments office. However, this may not hold off the wrecking crews.
Who owns the site now? Clearwater Bay Land Company, Double One and the SCMP Group. Clearwater Bay Land, an offshoot of Shaw Brothers, was reportedly sold to Fosun International, the Shanghai conglomerate, for $1.5 billion. The main beneficiaries of the new development will be the shareholders of Fosun and the SCMP Group (Alibaba bought the newspaper and other assets, not the land).
Filming stopped at Shaw Studios Clearwater Bay in 2003. Tom Green in his scholarly essay, The Rise and Fall of the House of Shaw, writes, “While Shaw had once been the forerunner for new exciting aesthetics and genres, new companies (Golden Harvest) with smaller overheads and local talent (Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan) could easily outpace the local studio.” Shaw had become a profit-first operation lifting quality stories from Western films with minimal adaptation, what Cantonese call “reheating yesterday’s cold rice”. Tom Green said, “It became impossible for a studio like Shaw to run in this market.” Shaw Brothers struggles on at a film-production facility in Tseung Kwan O.
For more details of the plan go to the TBP portal http://www.info.gov.hk/tpb/tc/plan_application/Attachment/20170714/s16_A_SK-CWBN_42_0_gist.pdf