August 20, 2018
'Crazy Rich Asians' Tops Box Office with $35M Opening Weekend
Crazy Rich Asians opened with $26.5 million over the Fri-Sun portion of its opening weekend, which is slightly larger than the $25.2m initial estimate. That's not unusual for a film with this much positive buzz, as even the deluge of Sunday morning "Woohoo, it's a hit!" blog posts tend to help Sunday business. A $26m Fri-Sun debut would by itself be a big win for the $30m Jon M. Chu-directed romcom/family melodrama. But it opened on Wednesday, where it earned $5m on opening day and another $3.8m on Thursday. That gives the film a superb $35.267m over its Wed-Sun launch. So, without further ado, here are ten reasons (some more obvious than others) why this big opening is a big deal for the movie and those invested in its success.
It had a huge multiplier.
That's a massive 7.05x five-day weekend multiplier, putting it above any of the recent August five-day biggies (The Help, Tropic Thunder, We're the Millers, etc.) and putting it closer to a Christmas monster like King Kong (7.3x off a $9m Wednesday in 2005). This is a huge win for both those involved in the film, those aching for this sort of onscreen representation, for Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. and for Hollywood in general.
It's more proof that the definition of an "event movie" has changed.
The new "event movie" isn't a generic would-be four-quadrant blockbuster like The Mummy, but a unique movie-movie like It or Girls Trip. For folks who look like Constance Wu or Henry Golding, this is an event movie of a generation. Thanks to a paucity of female-driven romantic comedies (or just movies aimed at adult women), Crazy Rich Asians was an event movie for adult women of all demographics and folks who just wanted to see more romcoms that weren't bromances in disguise. Crazy Rich Asians joins Bad Moms, Girls Trip, Ocean's 8 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again as successful female-centric "party movies."
Like The Help, it may end up in the Oscar race.
DreamWorks and Walt Disney's The Help earned $169.7 million (and snag several Oscar nominations and wins) after its mid-August five-day debut of $38m. Does that mean Crazy Rich Asians is on a similar path? It is way too early to say, but there is a long history of crowd-pleasing comedies opening in mid-August and legging it out. Warner Bros. was planning on pushing A Star Is Born, but now they have another ace up their Oscar sleeve and a major contender for that new "popular movie" category. There will be as much talk about it competing for Best Picture as Black Panther, but that's a "good" problem for WB to have.
It proves, for the 99,99,99,999th time, that diversity sells at the box office.
Speaking of which, this is yet another example that, yes, big, multiplex-friendly mainstream genre flicks with diverse casts (or at least those not dominated by white dude ensembles) are absolutely safe box office bets. We pretend to be surprised, and we've been pretending to be surprised for 40 years, but we've known this since, I dunno, Beverly Hills Cop in 1984 or (at worst) The Joy Luck Club in 1993 or Rush Hour in 1998. And we certainly should know this after Black Panther, Furious 7, Girls Trip, Hidden Figures, The Last Jedi, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Get Out.
Yes, I wish it wasn't so much of a "one movie to rule them all" scenario where folks flock to Black Panther and Wonder Woman multiple times while ignoring Gringo and Atomic Blonde. But as long as the movies still get made I can only complain so much about buzzy movies dominating their competition. Nonetheless, if you want to check out John Cho's Searching when it expands over the next month, that would be another big win, one where (like Pacific Rim: Uprising or The Darkest Minds) the lead is an actor of color "just because." But that's a rant for another day.
It's probably going to be very leggy over the next month.
If Crazy Rich Asians plays like Vacation ($55 million from a $21m Wed-Sun debut), we're looking at a $92m domestic total. That would still be triple the budget, and the film wouldn't have to rely on overseas audiences to make money and justify a sequel. That comparative frontloading (see also: Sony's Superbad and Paramount/Viacom Inc.'s Tropic Thunder) would surprise me, both because of the buzz and because big movies for adult women tend to leg out because there are still so few of them. Even if it drops dead and crawls to $75m, it'll still have outgrossed the likes of Game Night and Blockers.
The positive comparisons, The 40-Year Old Virgin ($109 million from a $21m Fri-Sun launch in 2005), Trainwreck ($110m from a $30m Fri-Sun debut in 2015), We're the Millers ($150m from a $35m Wed-Sun launch in 2013) and The Help, paint a rosier picture. The Trainwreck comparison, which works since it was the last time a rom-com opened above $20m before this weekend, puts Crazy Rich Asians at around $110m. But if it plays like the mid-August sensations of 2005, 2011 and 2013, it'll end up between $135m to $160m domestic. That may be pie-in-the-sky optimism, but this movie's legs grew over the weekend as word of mouth spread.
It proves that the Hollywood studio system and theatrical exhibition still matters.
You're going to get a deluge of positive media coverage over the next week or two. And while much of that will center around the film proving that audiences of all stripes will flock to a mainstream rom-com centering on Asians (and mostly played by Western Asian actors), it's just as important for the industry overall that this sort of movie didn't die on the vine. After all, the producers famously turned down huge Netflix money so that they could make a point about theatrical success. But, pardon the cliché, it was really Hollywood "on trial."
The failure of Crazy Rich Asians wouldn't have meant the end of mainstream genre fare for and from Asian-Americans. But it would have guaranteed that the likes of Crazy Rich Asians Into Darkness or what have you would have gone to Hulu. It wouldn't be because Hollywood didn't believe in the commercial value of Asian-American filmmakers, but rather because Asian American filmmakers (and other underrepresented voices slowly chipping at the proverbial glass ceiling) would have had reason not to believe in the old Hollywood system. Ditto any mainstream romantic comedies, even if their absence from the big screens was entirely the fault of systemic bias and declarations of cultural irrelevancy.
It again shows that traditional romantic comedies are not dead.
Had the film failed, it would have been a grim sign for the theatrical financial potential of the traditional romantic comedy in a Netflix-and-Chill era. My issues with many of Netflix's original movies notwithstanding, they have been kicking butt all year in the realm of romantic comedy. The likes of Set It Up, The Kissing Booth and this weekend's To All the Boys I Have Loved (also featuring an Asian-American family at is center, natch) have shown the streaming giant's ability to tap into a neglected genre and create approximations of the genuine Hollywood article. Crazy Rich Asians shows that the romcom still lives in theaters too.
It proves that big "party movies" for adult women are one of the safest box office bets.
This boffo debut for the Constance Wu/Henry Golding flick is more proof that big, crowd-pleasing "party movies" about and for women aren't box office poison but indeed qualify as a safe box office bet. Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. first wooed the Asian American community and then sold Crazy Rich Asians as a "girl's night out"/date night pick. It was sold as an escapist romp where really rich women (and men) just enjoyed themselves for 115 minutes. By the way, don't worry about overseas numbers and whether or not it plays in China. It's already a big hit here, and everything else is gravy.
It's a big win for Warner Bros.' marketing departments.
It's also another feather in Warner Bros.' marketing cap. This is the Dream Factory at their best, taking non-tentpole flicks like American Sniper, Magic Mike and It and turning them into big openers. And if all goes well, then WB will have created two new franchises in two weeks, with Crazy Rich Asians (which has two literary sequels) and The Meg (which has five sequels with a sixth reportedly on the way). That's three "new" franchises this summer if you count Ocean's 8 ($280 million worldwide on a $70m budget). They are getting close to an "Aquaman barely matters" year at the box office.
It may spawn the greatest crossover event of all time.
Or, come what may, Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. could always do a Meg-a Rich Asians cross-over spectacular, where Jason Statham and Li Binging have to team up with Constance Wu and Henry Golding (and Awkwafina) to save their relationship and kill more giant sharks. Laugh all you want, but you'd watch the hell out of that. So would I, preferably in IMAX 4DX 270-degree smell-o-vision in one of those playground theaters while snacking on a fruit-and-cheese plate and drinking too much cherry wine.
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