The Asia Pacific cities on the big screen

Article by JLL Staff Reporter

Asia Pacific’s vibrant cities are no stranger to cinema screens, whether the focus is on their bustling street life, their landmark buildings or their stunning natural surroundings.

From shoot-outs amid Sydney skyscrapers and boat chases in Bangkok to meeting fellow lost souls in Tokyo’s towering hotels, the region’s cityscapes provide dramatic backdrops for extravagant plots in Hollywood movies.

While not every location in a Hollywood blockbuster is representative of what really goes on in everyday life, such scenes leave a lasting impression among film fans and put cities on the tourist map.

Check out some of the most memorable Asia-Pacific cityscapes featured in movies and see whether they are actually indicative of real estate reality on the ground.

Singapore, peoplpe by pool looking out to the city Asia Pacific cities

Singapore – Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Watching the iconic Marina Bay Sands get sucked up into the sky is both thrilling and shocking in the sequel to Independence Day. One of the key learnings from the film: when the aliens invade, you may be safer steering clear of skyscrapers. And fortunately, buyers in Singapore do have multiple options now. 

Prime residential prices in Singapore have fallen since 2012, making them a lot more affordable compared to those in other top global cities, so there's a real resurgence in options here. Also, "developers, investors and residents in the current market are finding value in projects that offer a lifestyle, rather than their past focus on ‘exclusivity’,” says JLL Head of Residential Karamjit Singh.

Singapore, peoplpe by pool looking out to the city Asia Pacific cities
Bangkok cocktail bar night scene looking out to the city Asia Pacific cities

Bangkok – The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and The Hangover Part II (2011)

The boat scene in the Bond hit The Man with the Golden Gun showed Roger Moore stirring up the waters in a grand escape, while The Hangover Part II featured  Bangkok's renowned nightlife including one of the world’s highest cocktail bars the Sky Bar at Lebua, State Tower.

With prices in Bangkok varying dramatically based on location, the Hangover boys could have afforded a one-bedroom unit (US$100,000) at Ideo BluCove Sukhumvit, while Bond would perhaps have gone for a penthouse in the central Hyde Sukhumvit 13 complex, recently valued at US$4.6 million.

Bangkok cocktail bar night scene looking out to the city Asia Pacific cities
Aerial elevated view of The Rocks historic district in Sydney CBD  Asia Pacific cities

Sydney – The Matrix (1999)

The sci-fi hit movie The Matrix invited viewers to a somewhat darker and in some cases, rain-drenched view of generally sunny Sydney. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (former Colonial State Bank), the AWA Building and Wynyard were all used for shootings, stake-outs and Neo's unbelievably acrobatic moves.

With prices so high in Sydney, you could well need a paycheck similar to that its star Keanu Reeves. Fortunately, the growth in the cost of housing looks to steady after three years of growth, but the median price of an apartment in March 2016 was still AU$661,500 (US$508,895). High prices are not restricted to the residential sector alone. The Westin Sydney recently sold for AU$445.3 million (US$356.8 million), with each room valued at more than AU$1 million (US$857,694) – the first for a Sydney hotel post-GFC.

Aerial elevated view of The Rocks historic district in Sydney CBD  Asia Pacific cities
Hong Kong skyline Asia Pacific cities

Hong Kong – The Dark Knight (2008)

Filmed on location in Hong Kong, Batman movie The Dark Knight saw the battle between good and evil play out in buildings such as Two International Finance Centre, Hong Kong's tallest building at the time of filming.

The movie featured a Joker intent on taking over the world and Hong Kong certainly is a city rapidly making its mark on the world stage. Its real estate is rapidly increasingly in value - the 2015 sale of the waterside InterContinental Hong Kong for US$938 million, the biggest single hotel transaction to ever take place in Asia Pacific.

Hong Kong skyline Asia Pacific cities
Kuala Lumpur man at night looking to petronas towers Asia Pacific cities

Kuala Lumpur – Entrapment (1999)

The cloud-piercing PETRONAS Twin Towers in Malaysia's capital stood tall in the 1999 caper movie starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Stealing US$8 billion from a bank is the main plot, but opt for something a little farther out in nearby Penang and you won't need quite as much.

You'd better move quickly though. Improved infrastructure and transportation led to a fivefold increase in property values in 2015 around Batu Kawan (once a quiet backwater), while a proposed transport master plan is set to boost business even more.

Kuala Lumpur man at night looking to petronas towers Asia Pacific cities
Jakarta market scene Asia pacific cities

Jakarta – Blackhat (2015)

Chris Hemsworth flew to Jakarta to film the high-tech action thriller, and scenes were shot just about everywhere from the hectic airport to the colorful and crazy Tanah Abang, a huge fashion and textile market.

We're likely to be seeing even more of Jakarta in future, thanks to new infrastructure plans involving more roads and railways. Todd Lauchlan, Managing Director of JLL Indonesia, says: “The net effect will transform Jakarta into a liveable city on par with Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. From an underperformer, the city can lift itself well and truly into the 21st century.”

Jakarta market scene Asia pacific cities
Delhi market scene Asia pacific cities

Delhi – Holy Smoke (1999)

Kate Winslet gets spiritual in the feminist parable, which tells the tale of an Australian girl wooed by a religious guru in India. Many scenes were shot on location in Delhi's Paharganj, a hot and sweaty backpacker haven.

Research shows more than movie crews are setting up shop in India though. “Rental values of new commercial space – both office and retail – are growing at about 12-15 percent per annum. There is a healthy demand for office space across major cities as companies are looking to expand,” according to JLL India's Chairman and Country Head, Anuj Puri.

Delhi market scene Asia pacific cities
Tokyo street scene with taxi Asia Pacific cities

Tokyo – The Fast and The Furious (2006) and Lost in Translation (2003)

Justin Ling's hit movie The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift saw street racer Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) moving to live with his father in Japan. While scenes shot in Tokyo showed the glittering nightlife and towering skyscrapers, Lost in Translation showed a more realistic, less fast and furious side to the city.

Whatever people come here for - racing cars or karaoke in hotels - they'd better have money in their pockets if they want to stay. According to the Asia-Pacific 2016 Wealth Report by New World Wealth, Tokyo is the top Asia Pacific city for the ultra-rich, and is now home to 264,000 millionaires.

So popular is Tokyo as a tourist destination that the city has been the focus of hotel investors. Earlier this year, the Grand Pacific Le Daiba Tokyo changed hands for US$604.7 million, making it the largest hotel transaction within Asia Pacific in 2016 to date.  

Tokyo street scene with taxi Asia Pacific cities
Beautiful view skyscrapers, waterfront and city building of Pudong, Shanghai, China

Shanghai - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

In terms of property damage, Transformers 2’s Shanghai mission dealt a heavy blow to the city, where a Decepticon was reported to be hiding. With the help of the Chinese government, Shanghai, studded with around 100 high-rise buildings, was evacuated to prepare for an epic battle among transforming alien robots.

In the real world, another more intense battle is taking place in Shanghai. Labelled the 'Wall Street of China', Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone is the largest financial zone in mainland China. With thousands of banks and financial institutions from both home and abroad jostling for space, some have been forced to move out of the CBD. The total prime office stock in Little Lujiazui by the second quarter is over 1.64 million sqm but the vacancy rate is as low as 2.9 percent. Rental growth in the three-month period was an impressive 7.5 percent year-on-year.

Beautiful view skyscrapers, waterfront and city building of Pudong, Shanghai, China
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