For a while there, it seemed increasingly dubious that Warner Bros’ domestic smash Crazy Rich Asians would gain entry to the world’s second-largest market. Today, however, comes word that the film has secured a November 30 China release date, which WB has confirmed to Deadline. Based on the Kevin Kwan novel and directed by Jon M Chu, CRA has grossed over $171M in North America and $57M at the international box office so far.
The November 30 date is a full three-and-a-half months after the movie debuted in a staggered pattern. While it’s not uncommon for dating to be spaced out between China and other markets, that remains a fair stretch and could impact business prospects in the Middle Kingdom. In mid-September, I wrote that Chinese authorities were still mulling a yea or nay on giving the film a quota slot. It was thought that although WB was playing up the theme of family and acceptance, depictions of outsize wealth such as are seen in the film might have been an issue, among other factors.
It’s further possible the whole Fan Bingbing and star salaries storm may have indirectly contributed to the lengthy decision-making process (she is entirely unrelated to the movie), while it could also have been a case of the shifting structure at China’s film bureau that led to a more cautious approach. Indeed, a number of Hollywood films have just been dated. Warner Bros has confirmed that Aquaman received a December 7 release, going two weeks ahead of domestic and one week before the start of overseas rollout. Also confirmed is WB’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald on November 16. Other titles understood to have been given dates throughout November include Disney’s The Nutcracker And The Four Realms and Ralph Breaks The Internet; and Sony’s Venom.
It’s not unusual for China to pack Hollywood movies into the late fall ahead of the traditional December blackout, and this should help boost fortunes for studio pics which have seen a dip this year. Local China box office is up, although the recent National Day holiday was down over 20% compared to 2017.
As for CRA, it has already fared well in parts of South East Asia, including Singapore where the story is partially set. Australia, which has a large Asian population, is the lead offshore market. Korea releases on October 25.
But, it’s been noted that all-Asian casts are not a novelty in major markets like Korea, Japan and of course the Middle Kingdom. While Chinese box office analysts are keen to see how a movie about Western Asians would perform, the market has success with its own homegrown romantic comedies whereas Hollywood romcoms simply haven’t played. CRA currently has a 6.8 score on Douban and we’ll be keeping an eye on its performance later next month.