‘‘Crazy Rich Asians,’’ the first Hollywood film in almost a quarter-century with a largely Asian cast, opened as the No. 1 weekend film in North American theaters, dispensing with last week’s winner “The Meg” and a new Mark Wahlberg picture.
Based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel with the same name, the Warner Bros. romantic comedy collected an estimated US$25.2 million in U.S and Canadian theaters, researcher ComScore Inc. said in an email Sunday. That beat last weekend’s winner, ‘‘The Meg,’’ which landed in second place, and ‘‘Mile 22,’’ an action-thriller starring Wahlberg that opened in third.
Helped by advertising, good reviews and social-media buzz, “Crazy Rich Asians” took in US$34 million over the five days that ended Sunday -- well above the studio’s early estimate of about US$18 million for that period. Asians and other minorities are underrepresented in front of the camera and behind, and advocacy groups have looked to the film to help break down barriers.
‘‘Crazy Rich Asians’’ stars Constance Wu as Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor accompanying her boyfriend Nick Young, played by Harry Golding, to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Once there, she discovers the family is filthy rich and she has to deal with his disapproving mother.
The two-hour film had a production budget of US$30 million and was expected to take in as much as US$25 million from Friday to Sunday for AT&T Inc.’s newly acquired Warner Bros. division. Critics especially like the movie, with 92 percent recommending it, according to aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. In 1993, ‘‘The Joy Luck Club’’ was the last English-language Hollywood film that featured an all-Asian cast.
Nina Jacobson, who produced Crazy Rich Asians with Brad Simpson, said the film’s performance is proof audiences are eager for more diverse fare.
“When I was a young studio executive, I was told that all audiences would identify with a white male lead but only women would identity with a woman, and only people of color with actors of color (except for Denzel and Will Smith),” she said. “That was false then and it’s false now. Audiences are letting decision makers know that they are not to be underestimated and will show up for unique characters and emotionally resonant stories.”
“The Meg,” in its second weekend, collected US$21.2 million while ‘‘Mile 22,’’ from STX Entertainment, pulled in US$13.6 million. The latter film features Wahlberg as a tough-as-nails CIA officer tasked with smuggling a mysterious police officer wanted for espionage from an American embassy in Southeast Asia to a safe airfield for extraction. Analysts at Box Office Pro expected the action film to bring in US$18 million. The film cost an estimated US$35 million to make, according to IMDb.com.
Critics didn’t like “Mile 22,” with just 22 percent recommending the film, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
The weekend’s other new release, ‘‘Alpha,’’ took in US$10.5 million, above the US$6 million predicted by Box Office Mojo. The Studio 8 release features a teenage boy who befriends a wolf to survive in the last Ice Age. The film, which opened in 2,719 theaters, was well-received, with 83 percent of critics recommending it.