Crazy Rich Asians, director John M. Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s novel, won the box office race with a five-day total of $34 million, $25.3 million of which came from the weekend proper, Variety reports. That’s not just more than the film’s $30 million budget or more than studio trackers expected; it’s also more than the $32.9 million total domestic gross of 1993’s The Joy Luck Club, the last studio film to have an almost entirely Asian-American cast; it’s more than halfway to the $57.3 million inflation-adjusted total domestic gross of The Joy Luck Club; and it’s a powerful reminder that it’d be smart to make Asian-American-led movies frequently enough that inflation isn’t a big factor when comparing their grosses.
But more has changed since 1993 than the cost of a cup of coffee. The Joy Luck Club had a platformed release, opening on just three screens, then slowly expanding to 600 at the height of its run a month and a half later. It peaked at #6, a week in which it made less The Age of Innocence—not that there’s any shame in losing to Scorsese—but also less than Cool Runnings, Malice, The Good Son, and Demolition Man. Distributor Warner Bros. has treated Crazy Rich Asians more like a tentpole, opening it in 3,384 locations, and it’s been received that way too: This weekend, it’s the #1 movie in the country.
According to Scott Mendelson at Forbes, the film’s opening-weekend audience was 38% Asian and 39% white, from which he draws the conclusion that the 62% non-Asian part of the audience means this is playing as “a general audiences rom-com.” On Twitter, CNN contributor Jeff Yang looked at the same numbers and saw something different: a 61% nonwhite audience that might offer a different model for studio marketing:
Yang, who was consulted by Warner Bros. about the marketing of Crazy Rich Asians, praised the studio for reaching out to black and Hispanic influencers as well as Asians, leading one of those influencers, director Ava DuVernay, to tweet in solidarity:
Meanwhile, in the Movies-That-Do-Not-Seem-to-Represent-Opportunities-For-Future-Multiracial-Alliances category, The Meg came in second place in its second weekend, pulling in $21.5 million, while new releases Mile 22 and Alpha underperformed at $13.6 million and $10.5 million, respectively.