The enormous success in China of a locally made romcom about a couple who find love in the US Pacific north-west is helping to spark a property boom in Seattle.
According to the New York Times, more than a third of homes priced in excess of $1m (£613,000) in exclusive parts of the city and its suburbs are currently being bought by Chinese owners looking to move to America. They have been inspired by the area’s good schools, clean air and established Chinese population, but many first heard of the city following the blockbuster success of Finding Mr Right, one of the highest-grossing films of all time in China after taking more than 500m yuan ($85m) at the box office last year.
Xue Xiaolu’s film stars Tang Wei as a feisty young fan of the Nora Ephron romcom Sleepless in Seattle who travels to the States to avoid the shame of giving birth to a child out of wedlock. Supported initially by the father of the child, a married businessman who ultimately refuses to leave his wife, she finds herself falling for the taxi driver who picks her up from the airport, a Chinese-born former doctor who is driving cabs after being unable to get a medical licence in the US.
“People my age in China suddenly started talking about Seattle,” said Wang Bangze, a Beijing native who recently moved to the city. “Seattle was a better opportunity for me than China right now,” he told the Times. “A lot of Chinese families are planning to move here.”
Finding Mr Right, whose Chinese title translates as Beijing Meets Seattle, is peppered with references to Sleepless in Seattle. Lovers Wen Jiajia (Tang Wei) and Hao Zhi (Wu Xiubo) even recreate an iconic scene at the Empire State Building in Manhattan that was first shot for the 1993 Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks romance.
Such is the popularity of the area with rich Chinese emigrants that local estate agents have begun hiring Mandarin speakers and feng shui experts to cater for the demand. Interest shows little sign of drying up – even though Finding Mr Right was in fact shot almost entirely in Vancouver, two and a half hours’ drive north over the Canadian border.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Thursday 25th September 2014 08.37 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010