Why ‘Crazy’ failed to at­tract many rich Asians in China

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Annabel Ea­ton

Back in Au­gust of this year, the global me­dia waited with bated breath to see how Asian-cen­tric rom­com Crazy Rich Asians would per­form at the Amer­i­can box of­fice. To ev­ery­one’s sur­prise and de­light, it went on to gross $35.2 mil­lion dur­ing its open­ing week­end, fin­ish­ing first at the box of­fice and sur­pass­ing its $30 mil­lion bud­get. To date, the film has grossed over $237 mil­lion world­wide.

Last week­end, West­ern en­ter­tain­ment re­porters like­wise waited at the edge of their seats to see how the same movie would per­form dur­ing its de­but in the Chi­nese main­land. Though four months had passed and the in­ter­na­tional buzz sur­round­ing Crazy Rich Asians had died down, ev­ery­one was still cu­ri­ous how China, who hereto­fore had been shielded from the hype due to a de­layed re­lease, would turn out.

Un­for­tu­nately for Warner Bros, Crazy failed to at­tract any rich Asians on this side of the world. Ac­cord­ing to Va­ri­ety, the movie placed an em­bar­rass­ing eighth, earn­ing less than $1 mil­lion over the week­end. By Satur­day, most Chi­nese the­aters had al­ready be­gun to pull it from screens to make way for more pop­u­lar Chi­nese-di­rected movies.

Hav­ing read a dozen me­dia re­ports about the spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure of this movie in China, along with a few hun­dred com­ments from arm­chair crit­ics, no­body was sur­prised Crazy Rich Asians would bomb here. The reasons, how­ever, are de­bat­able.

In an out­dated stereo­type, many Western­ers are ac­cus­ing the Chi­nese of hav­ing “pi­rated” the movie on­line, thereby mak­ing its main­land

screen­ing ir­rel­e­vant. “Most Chi­nese view­ers who wanted to see it prob­a­bly found a way to pi­rate the film in the in­ter­ven­ing months, chip­ping away at its po­ten­tial the­atri­cal au­di­ence,” Van­ity Fair wrote.

Other me­dia are re­port­ing that see­ing an all-Asian cast on the sil­ver screen – which is con­sid­ered a nov­elty in the West – is un­ap­peal­ing to the Chi­nese. But this ar­gu­ment doesn’t hold any wa­ter, ei­ther, for were it true, then ev­ery film with an all-Chi­nese cast would fail in China, which is ob­vi­ously not the case, as the Mid­dle King­dom is now home to the world’s sec­ond-largest and fastest-grow­ing movie mar­ket.

As I see it, most peo­ple go to the movies for an es­cape. They want to im­merse them­selves in other worlds, lose them­selves in un­fa­mil­iar stories and learn about the lives of peo­ple un­fa­mil­iar to them. That is why Crazy Rich Asians had such ap­peal to Cau­casian movie­go­ers in North Amer­ica – and like­wise why it did so poorly in China.

China now leads the world in mil­lion­aires, out­pac­ing even the US. Ac­cord­ing to Forbes, “vir­tu­ally all new en­trants are self-made in­stead of from multi-gen­er­a­tional fam­ily in­her­i­tance.” A re­port by UBS and PwC also found that “China had the high­est num­ber of new bil­lion­aires, adding one ev­ery five days,” ac­cord­ing to a 2017 re­port by Busi­ness Insider. The pool of wealth held by China’s high net worth in­di­vid­u­als grew by more than 144 per­cent be­tween 2010 and 2017, to reach $6.5 trillion, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Asia-Pa­cific Wealth Re­port from Capgem­ini.

Sur­rounded by all these freshly minted mil­lion­aires and flush with nou­veau-riche cash, why would any mid­dle- or up­per-class Chi­nese (who sta­tis­ti­cally com­prise the ma­jor­ity of movie­go­ers here) want to pay to es­sen­tially watch them­selves and their lux­u­ri­ous life­styles on screen? On the con­trary, they are turn­ing out in droves for movies about the crim­i­nal un­der­world (A Cool Fish), the un­der­priv­i­leged (Dy­ing to Sur­vive) and trav­el­ing (Lost in Thai­land).

Alas, in a des­per­ate at­tempt to over-com­pen­sate for their poor China show­ing, Warner Bros and Crazy Rich Asians di­rec­tor Jon Chu an­nounced that they are go­ing to set the se­quel, Crazy Rich Girl­friend, in Shang­hai. So, ba­si­cally another Tiny Times? Nice to see Hol­ly­wood copy­ing China for a change.

The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Lu Ting/GT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.