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‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Is Tops as Asian-Americans Flock to Box Office

A wide swath of audiences responded to the movie after a comedy dry spell, as the strong summer box office continues apace.

Awkwafina and Constance Wu Crazy Rich Asians

Awkwafina and Constance Wu in “Crazy Rich Asians”

Warner Bros.

Crazy Rich Asians” (Warner Bros.) scored an impressive #1 box office position, topping $25 million for the three-day weekend and a five-day total of $34 million. Strong word of mouth and huge Asian-American audience interest fueled the box office.

Its appeal to an underserved niche audience was key, but more than 60 percent of its initial audience wasn’t Asian-American. It also pulled broad female interest (about two thirds of attendees) in a romantic comedy after a recent void in the marketplace; “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opened a month ago.

Crazy Rich Asians

“Crazy Rich Asians”

Warner Bros.

Timing helped “Crazy.” Theaters were due for a comedy geared to the strong majority female audience in domestic theaters. But overdue doesn’t begin to describe how underserved the large and burgeoning domestic Asian-American audience is for films. They mark eight percent of frequent moviegoers. In the past quarter century, American studios have released only two wide pictures with Asian casts (1993 contemporary U.S. family saga “The Joy Luck Club” and 2005 period Chinese drama “Memoirs of a Geisha”).

That’s ridiculous. Asians are as diverse as Irish, Italian, and Greeks among European ethnic groups in the U.S. But as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” proved (staggering fact — in adjusted gross that rom-com grossed $384 million), despite studio extreme caution, there has never been any reason to assume that given the right project a wide audience was unreachable.

Despite some reports, “Crazy” is not already ahead of “Joy Luck,” which grossed $32 million in 1993. That today in adjusted figures would be close to $80 million. “Geisha” adjusted was just over that.

With its initial strong word of mouth, “Crazy” should easily pass $100 million domestic. And with its female-comedy appeal it might reach greater heights. “The Help” also opened on an August Wednesday and grossed (adjusted) $42 million over its first five days, ending up at $198 million. “The Help” was based on an even bigger bestseller, had a much better known ensemble, and drew in initially substantial African-American and white audiences.

“The Help” had a slightly better first weekend surge from its initial two days. But as its multiple shows, it was an incredible audience-pleaser that started its smash run from the start. For “Crazy” the initial numbers suggest a potential for significantly higher than $100 million domestic. With a $30 million cost before marketing, that will make it a success and encourage similar efforts with Asian-American characters. And that’s before foreign (only a handful of minor territories have opened, with dates in China and South Korea not yet set).

Mark Wahlberg stars in MILE 22

“Mile 22”

Courtesy of STXfilms

Two other mid-level budget non-franchise films also opened wide. Coming in at $13.6 million was Peter Berg’s “Mile 22” (STX) with Mark Wahlberg. That’s the fourth pairing of those two. Their first two (“Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon”) opened to over $20 million, with “Patriots Day” doing less than “Mile.”

This foreign special military operations thriller is below par for the usually reliable Wahlberg, who of late has thrived mostly in comedies and the “Transformers” series. At $35 million pre-marketing, the action movie should recoup in foreign markets.

"Alpha"

“Alpha”

Sony

Albert Hughes’ “Alpha” (Sony), the most expensive of the three new films ($50 million), grossed the least ($10.5 million). A high concept idea (20,000 years ago a youth gets separated from his buffalo hunting tribe) with an epic feel and strong visuals, it got IMAX screens and modestly favorable reviews. That wasn’t enough to give it much traction, along with a PG-13 rating a little strong for family audiences but also outside the harder-edged R rated films he and brother Allen Hughes are known for (“Dead Presidents” and “The Book of Eli”).

“Alpha” is one of three films in the Top Ten this week directed by black directors — Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” and French-born Sylvain White’s “Slender Man” complete the trio. Add Jon M. Chu for “Crazy Rich Asians” and that’s four this week from minority filmmakers. Two films from women directors released on August 3, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” and Asian-American Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s “Darkest Minds,” have dropped theaters and fallen off the Top Ten.

4117_D022_11713_R_CROPJohn David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

“BlacKkKlansman”

David Lee

Holdovers

On the other hand, “Klansman” (Focus) had a healthy hold, adding 276 theaters (total now 1,788). It dropped 35 percent with a $23 million total. The estimated cume should be around $40 million, respectable for a $15-million budget film with a Focus Features-level studio spend.  That will make “Klansman” Lee’s biggest-grosser (adjusted and otherwise) since “Inside Man.” Consider this a strong comeback, and on his own terms.

Jason Statham, "The Meg"

“The Meg”

Warner Bros.

Luckily the $130-million shark actioner “The Meg” (Warner Bros.), which dropped 53 percent from its mid-level opening, is flying high internationally. Domestically it’s at $83 million, only a little more than a quarter of its foreign take of $230 million so far. It should end up in profit.

“Slender Man” had an even bigger second weekend fall (56 percent) with a $20 million take so far, the bulk of its ultimate gross.

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (Paramount) is still in fourth place, taking in $180 million through four weekends. It remains ahead of “Rogue Nation” ($4 million in adjusted numbers) with a 46 percent fall. The most impressive hold came in the third weekend for Disney’s somewhat disappointing “Christopher Robin.” It fell only 32 percent its third weekend, with $67 million. It remains the rare film from the studio to run the risk of a loss. Still, Disney hasn’t given up on it and some audiences are responding.

With five films grossing over $10 million this weekend, three more than last year (when “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” opened to $21 million), grosses again nudged up above 2017 (about six percent higher), with year-to-date up nine percent over 2017.

The Top Ten

1. Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 74; Est. budget: $30 million

$25,235,000 in 3,384 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $7,457; Cumulative: $25,235,000

2. The Meg (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$21,150,000 (-53%) in 4,118 theaters (no change); PTA: $5,136; Cumulative: $83,759,000

3. Mile 22 (STX) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 40; Est. budget: $35 million

$13,620,000 in 3,520 theaters; PTA: $3,869; Cumulative: $13,620,000

4. (tie) Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$10,500,000 (-46%) in 3,482 theaters (-406); PTA: $3,016; Cumulative: $180,739,000

4. (tie) Alpha (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 62; Est. budget: $57 million

$10,500,000 in 2,719 theaters; PTA: $3,862; Cumulative: $10,500,000

6. Christopher Robin (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$8,862,000 (-32%) in 3,602 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,460; Cumulative: $66,879,000

7. BlacKkKlansman (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #5

$7,000,000 (-35%) in 1,788 theaters (+286); PTA: $3,915; Cumulative: $23,009,000

8. Slender Man (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$4,965,000 (-56%) in 2,358 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,106; Cumulative: $20,742,000

9. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Sony) Week 6; Last weekend #9

$3,675,000 (-29%) in 2,187 theaters (-402); PTA: $1,680; Cumulative: $153,869,000

10. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #7

$3,385,000 (-42%) in 2,270 theaters (-542); PTA: $1,491; Cumulative: $111,204,000

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