“Crazy Rich Asians” was a breakout success in North America, topping the box office in the U.S. and Canada on its debut weekend but audiences in China are not impressed.
The Jon M. Chu-directed movie, based on a 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan, is the first major studio movie in 25 years to feature a predominantly Asian cast. It took in an estimated $25 million upon its August premiere in the U.S.
It was a different story in China, where the romantic comedy was released on November 30. According to industry tracker Ent Group, the film grossed just $1.2 million over its opening weekend, which is a disappointing figure in a country that brought in almost $9 billion in box office revenue in 2017.
The Constance Wu and Henry Golding-starring movie was praised by North American audiences and critics for its representation of Asian-Americans on the big screen, but an all-Asian cast is not a novelty in China.
“A romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast is not a unique selling point in China,” Rance Pow told CNN. Pow is the Founder and CEO of Artisan Gateway, Asia’s leading film and cinema industry consulting firm.
“Comedies are tricky films to handle in foreign markets, including China, because their appeal can be nuanced,” Pow added.
Authorities in China review films before they are released to the public; it took until October for “Crazy Rich Asians” to be given the green light. In that time, Warner Bros. had already released the film on DVD and streaming platforms in several other countries.
Warner Bros. is currently in the early stages of developing a sequel.