X-Men stars in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Singapore is getting a slice of Hollywood glamour as it hots up as a film hub hosting glitzy movie premieres, location shoots and industry conferences.

This evening, it plays host to the South-east Asian premiere of Hollywood blockbuster, X-Men: Days Of Future Past. It will be the movie's only promotional pit stop in the region.

Held outside Shaw House along Orchard Road, the star-studded red carpet event will be graced by X-Men cast members Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Chinese actress-singer Fan Bingbing and Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage.

About 4,000 X-Men fans are expected to turn up at the cross-junction of Orchard and Scotts roads for the event. And 150 press members, including 70 from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam, will be flown in for two days to cover the event.

At the gala premiere tonight, fans can take pictures of the X-Men stars as they walk down the red carpet, as well as stand a chance to win movie tickets and premiums.

Organiser Fox International is pulling out all the stops: 200 hotel rooms were booked at three five-star hotels in the Marina area to house the stars, press members and business associates.

The premiere also doubles as Fox studio's business conference, with more than 70 key Asia-Pacific cinema exhibitors flying in to attend the event at Shaw Lido cinema.

Tonight's film premiere makes it the second time in two months that Singapore is hosting a star-studded promotional pit stop in Asia. In March, stars of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx were in town to celebrate Earth Hour and to drum up publicity for their show, which opened in theatres here on May 1.

Other promotional pit stops for the Spider-Man movie in Asia included China and Japan.

Before that, high-voltage movie premieres were fewer and farther between. In 2011, Canadian actor Seth Rogen was here with The Green Hornet co-star Jay Chou and director Michel Gondry for media interviews and to attend the movie's gala premiere.

And in 2001, Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz graced a red-carpet event to promote the science- fiction thriller Vanilla Sky (2001).

A spokesman for Fox says it picked Singapore for the South-east Asian premiere because of its "highly modern setting and efficient infrastructure", making "a regional event such as this easier to facilitate".

Singapore as a choice location for such events means it is catching up with bigger cities in the region, such as Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong, which are often picked because of their stronger film market and long-established city image.

Mr Mike Wiluan, 37, chief executive of Singapore-based production company Infinite Studios, notes that the Republic has, of late, become a go-to destination for such events and film production because of "recent developments in infrastructure and lifestyle offerings".

World-class events such as the annual Formula 1 night race and the international entertainment acts which integrated resorts have been bringing in have helped boost Singapore's profile as an entertainment hub, he says.

"It's the easiest place to access the rest of Asia... and it is also a prominent financial capital in Asia. There are a lot of potential investors sitting in Singapore," says Mr Wiluan, who adds that the country has in the past decade become a good base from which to conduct business.

A cluster of international media production companies have set up shop here in the past 10 years or so. These include Lucasfilm Singapore, which has produced special effects for blockbusters such as Iron Man (2008), Transformers (2007) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013); and Double Negative Singapore, a subsidiary of world-renowned visual effects studio Double Negative, which has worked on Hollywood movies such as Total Recall (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

Mr Wiluan's Infinite Studios, which officially launched at Mediapolis in January, is working on the production of another Twentieth Century Fox project, action flick Agent 47.

The thriller, based on the Hitman video game, stars Zachary Quinto of Star Trek as well as Rupert Friend, best known for his role in the hit television series Homeland. It is helmed by first-time feature-film director Aleksander Bach.

The movie is being shot in the studio and on location in Singapore, including at Gardens by the Bay, Chinatown and Robinson Road. Agent 47's film publicist, Mr Michael Umble, said that about 200 crew members were involved in the 11-day shoot in Singapore, according to a Wall Street Journal article published on its blog earlier this month. The movie is slated for release early next year.

Hollywood films being produced here is a "recent phenomenon", notes home-grown film-maker Kelvin Tong, 40, who is working on a new Hollywoodproduced horror flick that stars actress Nikki Reed.

The film, produced by his film company Boku Films, local production company SPJ Enterprises and Los Angeles-based entertainment consulting company zgreen entertainment, will be shot and set in Singapore.

Tong says factors making Singapore a desirable base for film production include the fact that "Singapore is an English- speaking country" and the presence of "government incentives that encourage foreign productions to team up with Singapore companies and creatives".

But he says the country should not "bend over backwards to accommodate film-makers, foreign or local", in terms of infrastructure. He adds: "A city's buzz and cultural vibe are more important than the laying out of a red carpet for foreign producers in terms of incentives and infrastructure improvements.

"When a city is exciting, film-makers will come. If a city is a cultural desert, nobody will want to make a movie there, even if there are tons of sound studios, film equipment, crew and government sweeteners."

This article was published on May 14 in The Straits Times.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.