Afternoon attendances on Friday had ranked the romantic comedy in fourth position. But by the evening it became apparent that mainstream Chinese audiences’ interest was barely flickering for a U.S. social phenomenon that has few stars of significance in China, and which was served up several months after the rest of the world.
Estimates from local sources point to the import opening only in eighth place over the weekend, with a performance far behind Chinese-made “A Cool Fish,” and still-potent “Venom.” “Asians“ earned some $410,000 on Friday and $400,000 on Saturday.
As the extent of the disappointment became apparent, exhibitors quickly stripped away screens. The number of screenings per day for “Crazy Rich Asians” was some 32,000 on Friday. That was slashed by 43% on Saturday to 18,700.
The film was released in August in North America and became a breakaway hit which scored $174 million. It also played strongly from September releases in much of East Asia, including a $5 million haul in Singapore, where most of the film is set.
But after Warner Bros. struggled for several months to have “Crazy Rich Asians” obtain a coveted revenue sharing import slot for China, it was unclear whether the effort was going to be worth it. The studio’s ultra-lowball benchmarks – it was compared with “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” which launched in China in August, and earned $602,000, and Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty,” which was released in September earning $206,000 — were indeed the right ones.
Still, getting a release in China was important from the producers’ point of view. They aim to shoot the sequel, “China Rich Girlfriend,” at least partly in Shanghai, and possibly as a co-production.