King Kong in Vietnam

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by ANH PHAM
Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, one of the filming locations [Image: Wikimedia user Arianos]

To many Vietnamese and Americans, the 70s are a reminder of tense relations, bombs, and adversity during the Vietnam War; however, to Jordan Charles Vogt-Roberts, director of Kong: Skull Island, 1970s Vietnam is the perfect setting to host one of Hollywood’s most famous monsters: King Kong.

Vogt-Roberts sees the 1970s as the last chance for humans to discover new parts of the world and seeks the combination of war theme and monster movie. Within the first week of release, Kong: Skull Island brought more than 162,000 customers to the multiplex cinema chain CGV in Vietnam, setting a new debut record of $798,200 in Vietnamese box office revenues within the first week of last month's release. At home, the movie also became number one in box office sales with $61 million in its debut. A major factor that attracted Vietnamese moviegoers to see the American monster movie is that 70% of the shooting was done in Vietnam, making it the largest production ever filmed in the country. Out of appreciation for Vietnamese nature and culture, Vogt-Roberts also became the first foreigner to be Vietnamese tourism ambassador — unanimously nominated by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

The success of King Kong shows the potential of the Vietnamese market for the US movie industry, and brings hope for a boost in tourism between Vietnam and the US. In 2016, the US Department of Commerce ranked Vietnam in the top 27 global markets for the US in Media and Entertainment. In 2012, the Southeast Asian country was ranked in the top 13 hottest growing cinema markets in the world. Over 61% of the movies showing in Vietnam come from Western countries. In 2016, there were 552,644 visitors from the US to Vietnam, an increase of 12.5% from the previous year.

Anh Pham is a Research Intern at the East West Center in Washington, DC and Master's Candidate in International Affairs at the School of International Service, American University.