A fire destroyed a giant model of King Kong at the Vietnamese premiere of the rebooted horror classic.

The guests, including communist party officials, diplomats and celebrities, had just arrived at the first public screening of the film King Kong: Skull Island in Ho Chi Min City on 9 March, when the fire tore through a five-meter (16ft) model of the mighty ape.

The blaze was allegedly started by the torch of one of the fire dancers as they moved backstage. The evening host was on stage welcoming guests and commenting on the pyrotechnics performance when the fire was first spotted.

"You know what, I was standing there and I was actually scared myself..." she was saying, leaving the sentence unfinished as she turned around to look at the fire spreading behind her.

In fact, filmgoers initially thought the fire was part of the performance but, as the blaze spread, they ran for cover. The fire was put out in five minutes and no one reported injuries, according to local news channel VT News.

The premiere was supposed to be a celebration of the first Hollywood blockbuster filmed in the communist country, but has become a burning embarrassment as video of the fire attracted mockery on social media. "It was better than watching a 3D movie," Facebook user Hoang Quoc Hiep commented, quoted by AFP. Others thought it was a PR stunt.

The $185m (£152m) film was shot on location in Vietnam and Australia, featuring landmark locations of the Asian nation. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, it features award-winning actors such as Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman – although none of the Hollywood stars were present at the Vietnamese premiere.