After months in limbo, Lulu Wang’s breakout Asian-American family drama “The Farewell” is finally set to hit theaters in China on Nov. 22, more than four months after its U.S. release. Leading Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan bought the rights and is distributing, following a deal negotiated by Endeavor Content.
A number of other distributors had passed on the China rights to “The Farewell,” deeming that it was too American to resonate with Chinese audiences, sources told Variety.
Last summer’s “Crazy Rich Asians” was a box office champion in the U.S. and hailed there as a watershed moment for Asian-American representation, but the film had little cultural or commercial impact in China, where viewers are used to seeing all-Asian casts and found the portrayal of certain characters overly stereotypical and hard to relate to. The Jon Chu-directed romantic comedy grossed $175 million in the U.S., but less than 1% of that – $1.65 million – in China.
Maoyan itself cooled its heels on “The Farewell” for some time without announcing the deal, with sources telling Variety that the firm was waiting to see how its would perform at theaters stateside. The delay between the U.S. and China releases is also likely in part due to a holdup in the censorship and approval process before and during the early October National Day holiday for titles seeking Chinese theatrical releases.
Maoyan can now be expected to bring its significant promotional power through its ticketing app to boost the film. Users who opened the app over the weekend were greeted with a three second full-screen poster for “The Farewell” before being able to buy other tickets.
Starring Awkwafina, “The Farewell” delves into mainland Chinese and American Chinese cultural differences through a story about a young woman who goes to China for a family reunion in the guise of a fake wedding, which is intended to keep her grandmother from realizing that people have in fact gathered because she only has a short while left to live. Directed by Beijing-born bilingual director Lulu Wang, it first made a splash at Sundance in January before going on to make $17.7 million in North American theaters.