Crazy Rich Asians Paves the Way for Diversity in Hollywood
The Much-Needed Film Influences More Asian-Centric Opportunities
Kevin Kwan’s best-selling book Crazy Rich Asians got adapted into a modern romantic comedy film starring an all Asian cast and Asian director.
Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh represent just some of the talented cast members to star in the film. The path to release the box-office hit Crazy Rich Asians was an exciting and rewarding journey for everyone involved with the film.
Netflix vs. Warner Bros.
Director Jon M. Chu and the filmmakers behind Crazy Rich Asians had the decision to go with Netflix or Warner Bros. to make the film.
Warner Bros. outbid the other traditional studios with a distribution offer for Crazy Rich Asians. However, Netflix approached Chu and Kwan with seven-figure payments for each stakeholder upfront, a greenlighted trilogy, and artistic freedom. A decision needed to be made quickly to meet the ultimatum. The filmmakers decided to turn down the lucrative deal from Netflix to have the first Asian-American studio movie in 25 years hit the big screen. The decision to go with Warner Bros. helped clarify the purpose behind this movie for Chu and Kwan, and the path it will create for Hollywood’s future.
Since 1993, there hasn’t been a movie to hit the theaters with an all Asian cast and Asian director supported by a major studio.
By going with a major studio, it allowed for audiences to view the romantic comedy in the traditional cinematic experience rather than viewing it at home. The cinematic experience was critical for the filmmakers behind Crazy Rich Asians, because they were creating an event movie, a movie with much anticipation it’s wide release becomes a major event for audiences to experience it in theaters. Get Out and Black Panther represent recent examples of event movies, where seeing it in theaters encourages public discussion, it becomes part of pop-culture, and the box office success sends a strong statement to the entertainment industry.
Both event movies and Netflix-and-chill have become more popular in recent audience culture.
While Netflix has an incredible capability to reach wide audiences and provide lucrative deals, it doesn’t offer the public proof of the film’s performance in the box office, thus possibly preventing the level of impact with the event movie phenomenon. As a result, Crazy Rich Asians resulted in a huge box office success with Warner Bros.
The Word of Mouth Impact
Crazy Rich Asians topped the box office for three weeks.
It made an impressive $35 million on a non-holiday opening weekend, beating out the blockbuster-by-design thriller The Meg. What’s noteworthy is the film’s box office performance the following weeks after opening weekend. Crazy Rich Asians’ box office performance fell only 6% in its second weekend. A 6% drop represents the 7th smallest drop for a wide-open release on more than 2,000 screens that didn’t have a holiday boosting for the second-weekend gross. On Labor Day Weekend, Crazy Rich Asians outperformed industry predictions and made $28.3 million, making it the highest box office performance in over a decade for Labor Day Weekend.
A significant portion of the success from the box office performance for Crazy Rich Asians, especially in the following weekends, was due to word of mouth.
“Word of mouth is everything,” Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ head of domestic distribution, said of the film’s better-than-expected launch.
Word of mouth demonstrates a powerful marketing method because it provides a natural, authentic way to encourage audiences to see the movie when they hear it from their friends they trust or celebrities they admire. From celebrities tweeting their own original opinion of the film to friends of various ages and demographics talking about Crazy Rich Asians helped create the lasting word of mouth impact. The word of mouth impact to see Crazy Rich Asians spread well-outside the Asian-American population. The Asian population in America represents roughly 6% on the American population. Due to its success, Crazy Rich Asians connected with the wider audiences of all demographics.
A Much-Needed Movie
Just a friendly reminder, it’s been 25 years since a major studio has made a movie with an all Asian cast and Asian director.
During the release, studios were watching closely on its box office performance. It’s stressful to be part of the movie that can make or break more opportunities for future diverse films. Making the movie went through countless obstacles, and everyone involved knew the significance of making this movie, encouraging them to do their best. Therefore, the bar was set high for the casting, production, editing, costume, original soundtrack, and every detail to make the modern escapist Cinderella story visually captivating and emotionally moving.
Unfortunately, the romantic comedy genre hasn’t performed well at the box office recently.
The numerous superhero movies and the Netflix-and-chill culture adds additional obstacles for audiences to decide to see a rom-com in theaters. Nonetheless, Warner Bros. recognized this was a movie that would be enjoyed by both under-represented audiences and the wider audience. They understood the growing influence of Asian culture in entertainment. As a result, Crazy Rich Asians was able to revive the romantic comedy genre.
Warner Bros. launched several successful marketing campaigns, such as meet and greets in the Instagram community for Henry Golding.
Engaging with hashtags #goldopen and #representationmatters along with the cast doing Facebook Live Q&A’s helped grow early fan communities for Crazy Rich Asians. One of the driving factors that led people to see this movie was it was a refreshing, modern, and a true rom-com meant to be enjoyed by audiences of all types while highlighting a massive step forward in representation for the entertainment industry. When one ties in an excellent story from a best-selling novel, a talented and dedicated cast and director, and the bar set high for every detail in the movie, it’s clear why this movie was enjoyed by so many. While many in Hollywood view deciding to make this movie as a risky bet, Crazy Rich Asians demonstrated an effective marketing strategy by creating a much-needed film that hasn’t been produced for a long time but genuinely wanted by many.
The Path Forward
Topping the box office for three weeks helps pave the way for diverse representation in the entertainment industry.
While the box office success is important to note, success is also measured by having Crazy Rich Asians influence the development for more diverse stories with diverse representation behind and in front of the camera.
There’s already good news.
Warner Bros. and Director Jon M. Chu are moving forward with development for a sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. The sequel will be based on Kevin Kwan’s second book, China Rich Girlfriend. Furthermore, Ken Jeong landed a Netflix stand up special. On the same day Crazy Rich Asians opened in theaters, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen sold a pilot pitch called Ohana to ABC. The awareness of Crazy Rich Asians’ success has gotten the attention of studio executives and their level of openness to pitches featuring Asian backgrounds has increased.
The success of Crazy Rich Asians has created momentum for the creation of future Asian-centric projects in Hollywood.