Late last month, Variety reported that Crazy Rich Asians was tracking for an $18 million opening, which would be considered a “solid” debut for the first studio movie in 25 years with an all Asian and Asian-American cast. So it can now safely be said that Crazy Rich Asians has defied expectations, soaring to the top of the box office this weekend with a $34 million domestic haul over five days and handily earning back its $30 million production budget. Estimates are projecting an eventual domestic take of more than $100 million.
Crazy Rich Asians’ big debut is notable for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that it’s a win for representation: Because Hollywood doesn’t feature many Asian and Asian-American characters period, let alone as leads in major studio films, Crazy Rich Asians carried the (unfair) burden of proving that people will go see movies about Asian characters that star actors of Asian descent. It’s not unlike the burden placed on Wonder Woman, a fellow Warner Bros. project, to prove that people would go see a female superhero movie. (They would. They really, really would.)
“We can sugarcoat it all we want, but the moment you bring up an Asian-led movie, there’s one example to point to, and that’ll be us,” Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu told the Hollywood Reporter. “To be on the biggest stage with the biggest stakes, that’s what we asked for.”
Crazy Rich Asians is also a win for its genre. The last romantic comedy to score $20 million or more in its opening weekend was 2015’s Trainwreck, which hauled in close to $31 million. So in addition to underlining the desire for more diverse onscreen stories and characters, Crazy Rich Asians’ success could also be seen as a vote of confidence in a genre that Hollywood has largely ignored in the past decade or so, even as it’s finding increased success via streaming-exclusive releases.
While we won’t know the full extent of Crazy Rich Asians’ impact for some time, it’s undeniably already a proven success. And with great reviews, strong word of mouth, and an “A” Cinemascore under its belt — not to mention international debuts in the UK and many Asian markets still ahead of it — there’s no reason to expect it won’t continue to build on this momentum.