Turns out China isn’t so crazy about “Crazy Rich Asians.”
The romantic comedy was a breakout success in the United States for Warner Bros., but it flopped at the Chinese box office, taking in less than $1.2 million in its opening weekend, according to industry tracker Ent Group.
To put that in perspective, Sony’s (SNE) superhero blockbuster “Venom” pulled in $111 million in its opening weekend in China early last month.
The dismal Chinese debut for “Crazy Rich Asians” is a disappointment for the makers of the film, who had been hoping the romantic comedy would be a hit in the world’s second largest movie market. But analysts were doubtful that the film’s depiction of high-rolling members of the Chinese diaspora in Singapore would resonate with audiences in mainland China.
“Comedies are tricky films to handle in foreign markets, including China, because their appeal can be nuanced,” said Rance Pow, CEO of Shanghai-based cinema consulting firm Artisan Gateway.
In the United States, the movie was lauded for featuring an all-Asian cast at a time when Hollywood has come under fire for its lack of diversity. But “a romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast is not a unique selling point in China,” Pow said.
The last rom-com smash in China was “Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes,” a domestic franchise starring well known Chinese actors. It hauled in nearly $45 million in its opening weekend at the end of 2017.
Beijing was slow to give “Crazy Rich Asians” the go-ahead. It opened in China more than three months after the United States and Asian markets like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
It was so late to mainland China that Warner Bros. had already released it on DVD and streaming platforms in other countries. That meant tech savvy Chinese movie fans could potentially find ways to watch the movie online, giving them even less of an incentive to watch it on the big screen.
Based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, “Crazy Rich Asians” became a late summer hit in the United States and has since been released in dozens of countries, from Australia to Venezuela. It has made $238 million worldwide so far.
A sequel is already in the early stages of development at Warner Bros. It will likely be based on the second book in Kwan’s trilogy, “China Rich Girlfriend,” which is largely set in Shanghai.
(Warner Bros., like CNN, is owned by WarnerMedia.)