×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Can ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Save the Rom-Com by Embracing Diversity?

It’s no secret that a lot was riding on the opening weekend ofCrazy Rich Asians.”

That’s because Warner Bros.’ romantic comedy is the first movie backed by a major studio in a quarter of a century that features a predominantly Asian-American cast. The last film to hold that distinction was when “The Joy Luck Club” debuted 25 years ago.

Anyone still holding their breath going into the weekend could finally let out a sigh of relief when “Crazy Rich Asians” generated $35 million in its first five days, including a three-day total of $26 million. That’s the best result for a rom-com since Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” launched with $31 million in 2015, which was also the last film in the genre to earn over $100 million in its theatrical run.

Jon M. Chu’s acclaimed movie — based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel — is clearly long overdue, but it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. And that’s not just because August is a notoriously slow month at the box office. “Crazy Rich Asians” comes on the heels of a number of movies this summer that demonstrate the value of representation of the big screen. Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You,” and Carlos López Estrada’s “Blindspotting” with Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are just a few titles, though all backed by indie studios, that prove diverse casting can fill theaters and turn a profit.

“This is how doors get opened,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst with ComScore. “By showing the financial viability of movies that were thought not to be for studios or filmmakers.”

The team behind “Crazy Rich Asians” reportedly turned down a lucrative payday from Netflix for a chance to bring the movie to multiplexes. They wanted this film to be seen on the big screen where it could produce a sense of communal excitement. It was a barrier-breaking moment demanded to be shared, not just streamed. Twitter helped drive that message home, as users took to the social media platform to wrangle support and share just how powerful it was to see people who looked like them on the silver screen. Some saw the movie more than once in an effort to “do their part” for box office numbers.

“There’s nothing like experiencing a movie on the big screen with a shared audience,” Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ head of domestic distribution, said. “You get lost in it. It’s not the same when it’s at home.”

Despite missing out on “Crazy Rich Asians,” it is Netflix that has helped revive a dormant genre. While romantic comedies have faltered at the box office in recent years, the company has become a haven for “meet cute” fables. Recent titles including “Set It Up” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” which also features an Asian lead, have both sparked optimist about a return to form for rom-coms. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to chose that route, and odds are, they would still have garnered overwhelmingly positive sentiments and had guaranteed fat wallets to match. But Netflix doesn’t release viewership stats for its movies, and that’s precisely why they had to take a gamble and release “Crazy Rich Asians” on the big screen. Now, it has the receipts to prove inclusive stories can make a pretty penny.

“By going with the theatrical experience, you become part of the conversation,” Dergarabedian said. “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ becomes that powerful comp that says future projects of this type are worthwhile.”

It’s a long underserved market for a demographic that reliably shows up to multiplexes. The MPAA reported that after Latinos, Asians had the highest rate of moviegoing in 2017 among ethnic groups in the United States. They turned out in droves for this weekend. While Asians accounted for 8% of audiences last year, they made up 40% of “Crazy Rich Asians'” opening.

“Crazy Rich Asians” simply changes the game. It shows that minorities don’t need Spandexed suits or powers to be bankable (though one could argue that the comedic team of Ken Jeong and Awkwafina are superheroes in their own right). They can be glamorous and sassy and intimidating and genuine — and still relate to virtually all audiences. Let “Crazy Rich Asians” be a lesson that Hollywood doesn’t need another 25 years to learn.

More Film

  • ‘Gravedigger,’ ‘Zanka Contact,’ ‘Sweet Annoyance’ Win

    ‘The Gravedigger,’ ‘Zanka Contact’ and ‘Sweet Annoyance’ Win Top Prizes at 2nd Atlas Workshops

    Djibouti’s “The Gravedigger,” Morocco’s “Zanka Contact” and Ethiopia’s “Sweet Annoyance” were among the major winners in the post-production and development categories of the second edition of the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops. “The Gravedigger,” by Khadar Ahmed, and “Zanka Contact,” by Ismaël el Iraki, won the top awards – €20,000 ($22,000) and $11,000 respectively – [...]

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]

  • KARNAWAL

    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content