Gallery: Kong in Chinatown

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Driving through downtown this week, I was suddenly and briefly transported to Saigon circa 1971. It turns out about a block of Chinatown near Kekaulike Market was a filming location for “Kong: Skull Island,” a big-budget monster movie due out in 2017.

It instantly reminded me of the hours I spent following ABC’s “LOST” production crew around the island, as they turned various pockets of Honolulu into different places around the world, like Fiji or Russia or New York or Los Angeles. In this case, though, the set dressing is just amplifying the fact that Vietnamese immigrants make up a large portion of the business owners in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

“Kong: Skull Island” will be part of the same universe as the “Godzilla” reboot in 2014, as the second episode in a planned series of films (a “Godzilla” sequel is due in 2018 and a final “Godzilla vs. Kong” movie is planned for 2020).

The movie got off to a bit of a rocky start. It was announced at Comic-Con in 2014 before the famously enthusiastic Hall H crowd, but was introduced so awkwardly the audience wasn’t sure what had happened. Though slated to hit screens next November, it was pushed back to March 2017, and the schedule changed prompted two of its stars to drop out. And as recently as September, Legendary Pictures changed distributors from Universal to Warner Brothers.

But production moved forward, and “Kong: Skull Island” has been in Hawaii since October, with set photos surfacing of work at Kualoa Ranch. Over the weekend, the Hawaii State Art Museum became the “Hotel Saigon.” The Chinatown location shoot, which prompted some street closures, was described as one of the last and the largest for the film in Hawaii, requiring a large number of extras.

“Kong: Skull Island” is set to be released on March 10, 2017. Stars include Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Tobey Kebbell, John C. Riley, and Jason Mitchell.

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See the full gallery of photos on Flickr.

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