×

Japan Not Expecting Crazy Rich Business With ‘Asians’

Crazy Rich Asians” will open in Japan this week with distributor Warner Japan betting that the film’s muscular box office in the U.S. and elsewhere will carry over to Asia’s second-largest market. But the odds are against a huge win.

In mid-September, Warner revealed that it would expand the number of theaters showing the film from the originally planned 30 to 75. “Asians” has also been covered extensively in the Japanese media, though its cast is mostly unknown in Japan and its source novel has yet to become a bestselling sensation. (On Amazon Japan its current rank is 97,476.)

Writing for online lifestyle magazine Wezzy, Kaoru Domoto noted that Warner has localized the title to “Crazy Rich” (Kureiji Ricchi), deciding that “Asians” was not helpful. “Those born as Japanese in this country do not need to think of themselves as ‘Asian’ and are not in the position of a racial minority,” Domoto wrote. “Also, in the past, due to Japan’s economic development, Japanese were treated as ‘honorary whites’ in the West.”

Warner is targeting Japan’s female audiences with the poster copy “Women all over the world sympathize! A ‘goal in’ movie for finding true happiness!” ‘Goal in’ is Japanese-English for “get married,” which the heroine struggles to do against the opposition of her fiance’s wealthy Singaporean-Chinese family.

But Warner’s goal – a hit in Japan – may prove elusive, given the spotty track record of past Hollywood-backed films either based on Japanese properties or made with the pan-Asian market in mind. One often-cited example is “Memoirs of a Geisha,” Rob Marshall’s 2005 film set in the geisha world of pre-war Kyoto. Lambasted locally for casting Chinese actresses in major Japanese roles and misrepresenting geisha culture, the film finished with a disappointing $11 million in Japan.

A more recent case is “Ghost in the Shell,” Rupert Sanders’ 2017 live-action version of a sci-fi manga that also inspired Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cult hit anime of the same English title. Though Japanese fans professed little interest in the “white-washing” controversy that swirled around the casting of Scarlett Johansson, the film earned just $9 million in its Japan run. By contrast, the year’s No. 1 foreign film at the box office, “Beauty and the Beast,” made $110 million.

Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou has had his share of hits in Japan, including “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers,” but his 2016 Hollywood-China co-production “The Great Wall” could only manage $1.3 million at the Japanese box office.

There are success stories: Edward Zwick’s “The Last Samurai,” which was loosely based on the life of famed samurai general Saigo Takamori, made $120 million in Japan, the most of any foreign film in 2004. “A big reason was that the star, Tom Cruise, was extremely popular with women here at the time,” veteran box office analyst Hiroo Otaka said. “They also liked Ken Watanabe’s manly samurai. And the film’s manner of depicting them could be described as subtle.

“Even if Hollywood makes a film specifically about Japan, Japanese tend to not pay much attention unless the contents are engaging and of good quality,” Otaka said. “If a film depicts Japanese history, but the descriptions are distorted and the Japanese characters are unrealistic, they lose interest.”

Films set elsewhere in Asia stir up even less enthusiasm among local moviegoers. But “Crazy Rich Asians,” Otaka believes, “might be supported by relatively older, well-informed fans in metropolitan areas.” And that spells limited release, not crazy rich results for Warner.

More Film

  • The-Ancient-Law

    Lumière Festival’s MIFC Broadens International Spotlight with Focus on Germany

    The 7th Lumière Film Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) is expanding its international scope this year with more foreign companies than ever before taking part in the event, high-profile guests and an examination of Germany’s heritage cinema sector. With 17 international firms from 25 countries at the event, the MIFC has reported a 20% [...]

  • US actor Donald Sutherland poses for

    Donald Sutherland Reflects in Lyon On A Life And Career Marked By Cinema

    In a loose and free-flowing on-stage interview held at the Lumière Festival this past Sunday, Donald Sutherland reflected on his decade-spanning career with a tone that mixed personal irreverence alongside genuine veneration for the art form that brought him this far. “I love filmmakers, I really do,” said the Canadian actor, who delighted the local [...]

  • Terry Back chairman ACF

    Veteran U.K. Media Investor Terry Back Joins ACF as Chairman

    CANNES — Veteran U.K. film industry investor Terry Back has joined ACF investment bank as chairman. ACF, headed by CEO Thomas Dey, has been at the forefront of the M&A activity around independent TV and film production outfits, mostly in the unscripted TV arena. ACF is in the midst of expanding its activities in the [...]

  • Joker

    Korea Box Office: 'Joker' Remains on Top, 'Gemini Man' Lands in Fourth

    Warner Bros.’ “Joker” remained on top of the South Korean box office in its second weekend. The American psychological thriller earned $5.71 million from 768,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday, for a total of $28.3 million from 3.85 million admissions after two weekends. It accounted for 46% of total weekend box office in the country. [...]

  • dolittle-DRD_Tsr1Sht_1011_RGB_4_rgb-1

    Robert Downey Jr. Embarks on Perilous Journey in First 'Dolittle' Trailer (Watch)

    Robert Downey Jr. is setting sail with some furry friends in the first trailer for “Dolittle,” Universal Pictures’ reimagining of the classic story about a man who could speak to animals. “We have no choice but to embark on this perilous journey,” he says. Set to a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” [...]

  • Parasite

    Bong Joon Ho's 'Parasite' Posts Powerful Opening in North America

    Bong Joon-Ho’s dark comedy “Parasite,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, has launched with a spectacular $376,264 at three U.S. theaters.  Neon opened “Parasite” at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles and at the IFC Center in New York, where it broke the opening record set by 2014’s “Boyhood.” Its per-screen average of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content