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Dwayne Johnson's next action opus takes place inside a massive building, but that building had to be placed someplace on Earth, and the decision was to build Skyscraper in Hong Kong. The choice to put the movie in China may feel like a calculated one to cash in on the lucrative Chinese box office and while writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber and star Dwayne Johnson don't pretend those sorts of considerations aren't important, Thurber says that Hong Kong's verticality made it the perfect location for the massive skyscraper that is at the center of the story. According to Thurber...
Thurber: Obviously, you want to pay attention to the fact that it's a huge market and that matters. But for me, Hong Kong is an incredibly vertical city so it seemed to fit there. Setting it in China was not by happenstance, but it certainly wasn't a case of the tail wagging the dog by any stretch. I wanted it to feel as real and in the soil as possible, which is why we have the cops speaking to each other in Cantonese.
Johnson: The studio immediately saw the business end of it. China will probably overtake the U.S. as the biggest market in the world in the next 24 months. But as Rawson was writing it, you had the sense that he wasn't constructing it in Hong Kong just for the sake of that. It was a real love letter to that city.
While Rawson Marshall Thurber says that his decision to set the movie in Hong Kong wasn't motivated by financial considerations, both he and Dwayne Johnson are honest with the L.A. Times that the studio certainly was appreciative of the location choice, as there is at least the potential that Skyscraper could end up being better received in China because the movie is set there.
While North America is still the top box office market in the world, expectations have been that eventually, and sooner rather than later, China would overtake this continent and eventually become the key to a movie studios' financial future. We've already seen instances where China has made movies like Terminator: Genisys and Warcraft, that mostly flopped domestically, major hits globally. In the end, studios can't pretend this isn't happening, and one way to recognize this trend to set movies in places like Hong Kong as a way to appeal to that audience.
At the same time, China is well aware of this cultural shift themselves. In the past, the nation hasn't always embraced these sorts of decisions from Hollywood, as there can be a feeling that China is being pandered to that these choices are tokens designed only to reap financial gain. We'll have to see just how much of the movie is about Hong Kong and how much it makes the city important to the story rather than it simply being a decision made by a studio to try to increase the bottom line. Skyscraper hits Friday.