The romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” was a big hit during its opened weekend last week, making more than $26 million from that Friday to Sunday and $34 million over its first five days from Wednesday to Sunday. In week two it hardly slowed down at all. It made another $25 million in its second weekend, which was a minuscule drop of 5.7%. Word of mouth for the film is clearly strong, and with the Labor Day weekend coming up, it might not lose any ground then either.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is the first major studio film in a quarter century with an Asian director (Jon M. Chu) and a predominantly Asian cast (led by Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh), so its continued success represents this year’s latest example of how much money can be made by serving a historically under-served audience. Hollywood decision-makers have often been hesitant to cast people of color, often arguing that a big-name white movie star is more marketable to audiences and financiers.
For instance, when defending the mostly white cast of the Egypt-set film “Exodus: Gods and Kings” Ridley Scott argued, “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.” But we’ve seen that mentality backfire in recent years. “Exodus” was a financial disappointment, and so was “Ghost in the Shell,” which was based on a popular Japanese manga but cast Scarlett Johansson in the lead role.
Meanwhile, audiences came out in droves for “Black Panther,” which had a black director (Ryan Coogler) and a predominantly black cast. It became the highest grossing domestic release in Marvel history and one of the top 10 highest grossing movies worldwide. Now “Crazy Rich Asians” is making a killing: to date it has grossed over $80 million worldwide thus far against a $30 million production budget, and with such a small decline from weekend to weekend it could end up with a truly remarkable total by the end of its theatrical run.
So it may be time for Hollywood to rewrite its expectations about how “risky” it is to center people of color in their films.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.