Crazy Rich Asians debuted in China this weekend, and promptly bombed at the box office. While the movie was a runaway hit in the U.S., grossing $173 million domestically, it has failed to translate that success abroad, earning only $64 million from international markets.
The highest grossing rom-com of the year, Crazy Rich Asians, based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan, tells the story of a Chinese-American woman (Constance Wu) who travels with her boyfriend (Henry Golding) to Singapore, where she discovers she’s unwittingly been dating the heir to an incredibly wealthy family and one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors.
Unfortunately, while Crazy Rich Asians was a smash success in America, the film earned a mere $1.2 million during its first weekend in China. Exhibitor Relations was the first to report the official box office numbers, but there had been much speculation about the film’s chance of success in China leading up to its release. Some industry prognosticators predicted that the level of success the movie achieved in America would be unlikely in the Asian market, for exactly the same reasons it smashed records domestically. While a film with an entirely Asian cast is refreshing and groundbreaking in the U.S., it’s not at all unusual in China, where almost all feature films include completely Asian casts.
The timing of the film’s Chinese release also likely played a part in its disappointing debut. Crazy Rich Asians was released on August 15 in the U.S. and garnered much buzz, but by its November 30 release in China, that buzz had significantly died down. The large gap in release dates also meant that most Chinese moviegoers who were interested in seeing the film were probably able to watch it online through legally dubious means before it came to theaters in their country.
Despite the lackluster showing in international markets, Crazy Rich Asians is still on track for a sequel - or two. Kwan turned his bestseller into a trilogy, and there is every reason to expect the films will follow suit. The first sequel, based on Kwan’s book China Rich Girlfriend, has already begun moving forward with Jon M. Chu returning to direct. The Crazy Rich Asians effect has also reached beyond its own source material to greenlight other Chinese-centric films. Following the success of Crazy Rich Asians, Warner Brothers and New Line began moving forward with Single’s Day, a China-set romantic comedy based on the popular holiday that celebrates singledom. And this is likely just the beginning of a slate of films that will be looking to bank off of Crazy Rich Asians’ domestic, if not international, success.
Source: Exhibitor Relations