Singapore's star attractions for Hollywood

Tinseltown's A-listers are coming here to promote their movies and film studios and TV networks say it is because of the island's sound infrastructure and central location

Singapore is gaining popularity as the location of choice for glitzy Hollywood movie and TV promotional events in the region, with a stream of major international studios and TV networks adding the Lion City to their global publicity trails in the last two years.

For several days starting on Sunday, a number of Hollywood A-listers will be in town to promote three major upcoming films.

Comedienne Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig will be here for Ghostbusters, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard for Inferno, and director Antoine Fuqua for The Magnificent Seven.

April was a similarly star-studded month. The lead cast members of blockbuster films The Huntsman: Winter's War and Captain America: Civil War, as well as TV mega-hit Game Of Thrones, made public appearances here.

Before that, such major events were fewer and farther in between.

In 2011, Canadian actor Seth Rogen, Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou and director Michel Gondry were here to promote The Green Hornet. Back in 2001, Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz graced the red carpet to promote their sci-fi flick Vanilla Sky.

Film studios and TV networks tell The Straits Times that Singapore's sound infrastructure and central location in South-east Asia are major reasons behind the recent increase of such star tours.

A spokesman for Twentieth Century Fox says that Singapore is "geographically located such that it is conveniently accessible by all the regional cities", and that the "infrastructure is efficient and technologically capable to broadcast these events worldwide".

These are crucial points, given the massive scale of such events. Besides the Hollywood stars and their entourages, the Republic plays host to regional journalists from across Asia-Pacific, who are flown in to cover the publicity events.

When Twentieth Century Fox held the X-Men: Days Of Future Past red carpet event at Shaw Lido two years ago, 150 press members from countries such as India, Thailand and Vietnam were flown to Singapore alongside the film's cast members Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing.

Previously, it was common for South-east Asian journalists to cover such events in major cities such as Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong, which are often picked because of their stronger film markets and long-established city image.

The Fox spokesman adds that "the glam factor of our well-known architectural skyline and integrated resorts has helped place Singapore on the world map", making it a good backdrop for Hollywood promotional events.

When actor Robert Downey Jr helped to light up Paris' Eiffel Tower in the colours of his super- hero character Iron Man, for the movie Captain America: Civil War in April, actor Chris Evans and his co-stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan responded by lighting up Marina Bay Sands with Captain America's colours a few days later.

From the content creator's standpoint, it is also vital that more events be held locally so that they can "stay relevant" in the regional markets.

Mr Robert Crockett, managing director of Sony Pictures Singapore, which is behind the upcoming Ghostbusters, Inferno and The Magnificent Seven events, says: "It's important for us to organise more local conferences and events because that enables us to engage local press better.

"Given that South-east Asia is such a strong emerging film market, having more events in this part of the world gives Asia-Pacific media the same opportunities that others would get in the United States. As the South-east Asia market grows, we need to address that and help its growth, and Singapore having such a fantastic geographical location makes it the perfect place to hold such events in the region."

It helps Singapore too, that local fans are so passionate about international film and TV projects.

When stars of the mega-hit TV series The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, were here two years ago, eager fans staked out Lasalle College of the Arts for hours, where the stars had been due to give a talk and play games with students.

Ms Fion Yeo, general manager of Fox Networks Group Singapore, which organised the event, says: "Andrew and Norman were really astonished by their popularity and were humbled by their fans' love for the show. They signed autographs and took selfies with all the fans who waited patiently for them to finish their press interviews.

"Singaporean viewers are discerning TV and movie fans and they are especially in tune with the best entertainment content, hence there is a demand among fans who will participate in and enjoy such events."

The fan fervour was also felt at Ion Orchard in April, when English actor Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran Stark in the hugely popular TV series Game Of Thrones, made an appearance to promote the sixth and latest season of the show. Even though HBO Asia, which organised the event, has brought in other stars for media interviews, including Olivia Munn for The Newsroom in 2013, the recent Game Of Thrones event was the first which included a fan-meet segment.

Ms Magdalene Ew, HBO Asia's head of marketing, creative and content, says: "Given Game Of Thrones' massive following, we wanted to provide fans with a completely immersive experience to satisfy their excitement about the new season."

It is no wonder then, that all of the TV networks and film studios that The Straits Times spoke to say it is likely that they will be organising more Hollywood star tours here in the near future. As the spokesman for Twentieth Century Fox puts it: "Singapore has proven to be an attractive destination."

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore's star attractions for Hollywood'. Print Edition | Subscribe