Just because Crazy Rich Asians was why most of us in the U.S. spent money at the movie theater doesn’t mean people overseas were jonesing to see it. After weeks of uncertainty of whether it was going to be allowed to play in China at all, the film – the most successful romantic comedy the U.S. has seen this year – debuted this past weekend with way more of a thud than a bang.
Variety said the film is likely going to barely rake in over $1 million once people finish tallying the weekend results in China, landing Crazy Rich Asians with an eighth-place finish behind films like Lady Gaga fan favorite Venom and the Chinese-made A Cool Fish. People might be scratching their heads over how the film was such a domestic hit and such a flop in China, especially after it seemed to do well in East Asian markets like Singapore, where it opened with a $5 million weekend. Part of it could be that, while it was heralded in the U.S. for its all-Asian cast, that isn’t exactly all that groundbreaking in, well, Asia. It also is believed that a lot of people in China found ways to pirate the film online in the months it took for it to finally make it to their own movie theaters, an argument Madonna tells herself nightly as to why her last album flopped so hard.
The movie’s Friday night results were so bad in China that movie operators started pulling the screens they had devoted to its release, scaling back from 32,000 on Friday to just over 18,000 on Saturday. Vulture notes that some viewers thought it was pandering to stereotypes that would only resonate with American audiences, so why even bother putting it in China in the first place?
Feedback from movie-goers on the Chinese film-rating site Douban included one commenter saying, “So Chinese people in the eyes of Europeans and Americans are only about clans, extravagant snobbery, blind sense of superiority, and stubbornly clinging to outdated rules and ideas?” Another wrote that, “It feels like going to a Chinese restaurant in America to eat General Tso’s chicken.”
The second movie in the planned trilogy will partly take place in Shanghai, like the book does, so it’s best to play nice and potentially get a Chinese co-producer for that movie. That’s just crazy, rich sneaky…and kinda smart.