Nollywood Film Studios, Nigeria.This was quite a surprising find.
I read about Tinapa Studios when researching the possibility of visiting a Nollywood Film Studio in Nigeria.
After India, Nigeria has the second most productive film industry in the world, producing an estimated 50 movies per week. I was hoping to get a glimpse at some of the magic behind the scenes.
Up to date information about Tinapa Studios was sparse.
With conflicting stories and vague articles about it’s demise, I decided to take the 14 hour bus journey from Lagos to Calabar to find out more.
It was worth it.
The Tinapa Business District and Resort was supposed to have it all.
Film studios, a free trade zone, a mall, a casino, a leisure centre, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants and a resort hotel beside a man-made lake. Wow.
Sadly, these dreams were brought down to Earth less than 10 years after it’s launch.
The taxi driver dropped me off at an empty parking lot about 30 minutes outside of Calabar. He was confused as to why I wanted to be dropped off there and didn’t want to leave me in the middle of nowhere so I promised to take his number and call him if I needed help.
Surrounding the parking lot were the large modern structures of the studios, the free-trade mall and the entertainment centre buildings.
The nearest building was the unused monorail. With only 3 stops, it was built to shuttle visitors between the leisure centre, resort and convention centre across the river. In a country with widespread power shortages, this was always going to be difficult to maintain.
The monorail was in amazing shape. It looked like it had never been used.
But the main goal of my trip was to visit Tinapa Studios, so I decided to try to find it before someone noticed me. I headed to the largest odd shaped structure and immediately found the entrance to the park.
I was warmly greeted by a large set of dinosaurs.
The studios are only 12 years old, but you can see how quickly the features are deteriorating in the hot Nigerian sun.
I quickly made my way around the reception to the centre of the complex.
It was immediately evident that it was no longer operational.
There is an open air theatre in the middle of the studios and a large globe dominated most of the viewpoints around the area. The globe contains a small auditorium for screening films.
Much of the site was in fairly good condition, so it most likely stopped being used only a year or two before.
I made my way to the massive studio buildings used for filming.
Inside was mostly rubbish and some partially used sets.
Behind the building there were some dodgy characters lurking around.
Most of the office buildings were empty.
It was sad to see the 3D model of the site in the reception building.
The most surprising part the Tinapa story is that unlike many projects with big dreams, it was successfully completed in 2007 with an estimated initial budget of €400 million in an area covering over 80,000 square metres.
This included an entertainment complex, an international free-trade zone and business district.
However in the end, the people just did not come to Tinapa. Calabar was far too remote to compete with Lagos.
Blocked shipments and bureaucratic delays with the free-trade zone most likely contributed to it’s eventual closure. As is sadly the case around the world, the vision did not align with the government, the business and the needs of the people.
Exploring the rest of the complex resulted in familiar scenes.
The mall looked like a scene in an apocalypse movie. Many of the shops still contained their original stock.
This was so close to becoming something real and I truly hope someone is able to rescue it.
It would be a tragic waste if this was left to decay over time.