Skip to main content

Location Scout Shares Shocking Truth About Chinatown Movie Trope

When filmmakers shoot on location in New York they often feel they have the world at their fingertips, spoiled for choice when it comes to visually striking locations to set scenes. And while the city's five boroughs offer plenty of incredible backdrops, gorgeous landmarks, and charming parks to pick from, it does lack one thing many movie lovers would take for granted. You see, New York City doesn't offer a single Chinese restaurant like the ones you've seen in NY-set movies.

This is the plight NY location scout Nick Carr shares on his blog Scouting New York, because every time the script calls for a Chinese restaurant, every director has the exact same vision. They demand ornate woodwork, red wallpaper, preferably laced with golden touches of grand golden dragons. Paper lanterns are a must, as are roasted ducks dangling in the window. This is the Chinatown authenticity they crave! Except, Carr laments, this restaurant—represented below from Men in Black III screengrab—is a fantasy.

As is this one from The Fisher King:

And this one from Glengarry Glen Ross:

Carr's been a professional scout for four years, and in this span has been tasked with finding the above restaurants time and time again. And each time, he's searched and searched only to come back with photos that represent the real—but definitely less glamorous and exotic—look of Chinatown eateries. Like this:

On his blog, Carr shares a wide range of photos, including restaurants he thinks are great locations despite breaking from the typical Hollywood cliché, and you should definitely check them out as it's an fascinating insight into filmmaking in New York. But what's most interesting is his plea for directors to abandon these silly standards and choose something less typical but real over building something big and frankly outdated in its stereotype. Essentially, he wishes these filmmakers would commit to their desire to show New York for the marvel it is, instead of the caricature of it that movies have made.

Staff writer at CinemaBlend.