The U.S. box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians” premiered in China cinemas last November 30 and the response of the Chinese audience wasn’t what was expected.
The film only made $1.2 million over its weekend debut, a big difference compared to the $25 million it made on its August premiere in the U.S.
The movie is a Cinderella-like romantic comedy about a Chinese-American girl and her Chinese-Singaporean boyfriend who turned out to be from an incredibly rich and strict family.
The all-Asian cast and exaggerated representation of Asian prosperity and lifestyle may have engrossed viewers abroad but the locals are definitely not impressed; especially the Chinese who happens to be the world’s second-largest movie market.
Critic Shi Hang commented that this response is not all surprising and all it takes is a closer look to find out why. “What the public was excited about abroad was all-Asian-faces, but, sorry, we watch all-Asian-faces every day so it is less valuable here,” Shi said.
Founder and CEO of Artisan Gateway, Asia’s leading film, and cinema industry consulting firm added that “Comedies are tricky films to handle in foreign markets, including China because their appeal can be nuanced.” This might be the reason why Chinese authorities took longer than usual in giving the green light for the release of the film in cinemas. DVDs and streaming platforms were already out before the film was accessible to its country of “origin”.
The Warner Bros.’ blockbuster earned a total $173 million in the US and was equally popular in Singapore where it was filmed. Unfortunately, the appeal stops there and was not so successful elsewhere.
In a country with an increasing gap between rich and poor, the film’s overdrawn display of wealth, luxury, influence, and entitlement definitely did not prove to be beneficial. This blatant stereotyping of a nation could just be the cause why the movie was a flop in China.
Because of this response, Warner Bros. is worried that the film’s sequel, “China Rich Girlfriend”, will perform even worse given that it will be more focused in China this time.
However, Chinese film industry veteran Wei Junzi said that a film’s success in the country is greatly dependent on how authentic it feels to Chinese audiences.