Made-with-Singapore Crazy Rich Asians a big hit

Crazy Rich Asians' lead actor, Malaysian-British actor Henry Golding, with his wife Liv Lo on the red carpet for the Singapore premiere of the surprise Hollywood hit at the Outdoor Piazza in front of Capitol Theatre last night.
Crazy Rich Asians' lead actor, Malaysian-British actor Henry Golding, with his wife Liv Lo on the red carpet for the Singapore premiere of the surprise Hollywood hit at the Outdoor Piazza in front of Capitol Theatre last night.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Crazy Rich Asians may not be the first Hollywood movie to receive the backing of the authorities here, but it is the most successful "made-with-Singapore" movie to date.

The red-carpet premiere of the movie in Singapore took place last night but it had already proved to be a blockbuster in the United States, where it opened a week earlier.

Last weekend, the film beat blockbuster shark movie The Meg to reach No. 1 at the American box office with a strong US$35 million (S$48 million) opening over five days. The tally put it in the company of other big-budget films like Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which made US$34.3 million over four days during its opening week.

The movie features Singapore prominently both on screen and off, in part because the Singapore Film Commission (SFC) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) threw their weight behind it.

For one thing, the SFC provided Crazy Rich Asians with a production assistance grant, which "provides funding for productions with original IP (intellectual property) that highlight Singapore talent in credited roles, and infuse data and/or digital technologies into content for distribution on new and/or digital platforms".

The SFC also facilitated the filming in Singapore locations such as Gardens by the Bay and Newton Circus by linking up the movie producers to local government agencies like the Ministry of Home Affairs and Land Transport Authority.

Meanwhile, STB supported Singapore cast members in Los Angeles by pitching them for interviews and press opportunities in the US.

STB and SFC did not say, however, how much they spent supporting the movie.

The statutory board has also been marketing Singapore as a tourist destination to overseas audiences through various film-related initiatives, including a three-day event earlier this month in Los Angeles known as the Crazy Rich Singapore Week. The event introduced Singapore-themed cocktails, food and art in hip rooftop bar The Highlight Room by Tao Group.

Ms Lynette Pang, STB's assistant chief executive (marketing group), told The Straits Times: "As the movie is set in Singapore and showcases Destination Singapore in a way that celebrates Singapore's culture, food and attractions, it is a natural opening to get the conversation going about the real Singapore and pique interest in visiting the country."

She added: "Due to the large Singaporean cast and crew involved in the production, STB is also focusing our marketing message around our home-grown talent and personalities as they are a key anchor of our Passion Made Possible brand. The film shines a spotlight on them, and how they are making their passions possible on a global stage."

The SFC thus describes the movie as not "made in Singapore" but "made with Singapore".

The Warner Bros production had 297 Singaporeans or Singapore permanent residents as production crew members, with 30 in key roles.

The film also makes history for being the Hollywood studio film with the most number of Singaporeans in the cast itself, with 12 home-grown names such as Pierre Png and Fiona Xie in the mix.

SFC director Joachim Ng told The Straits Times: "Crazy Rich Asians is important for the local film industry, as it facilitates the exchange of skills and experience, and benefits local talent by providing them the opportunity to work with international talent and companies."

Other "made-with-Singapore" films in the past include Hollywood action thriller Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) starring Rupert Friend, and sci-fi flick Equals (2015) starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult, which were also shot here and employed Singapore crew members.

But both of them bombed at the box office and were largely forgotten after they were taken down from cinema screens.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2018, with the headline 'Made-with-S'pore Crazy Rich Asians a big hit'. Subscribe