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'Crazy Rich Asians' Tops Box Offices In Opening Weekend


Even before it was released, "Crazy Rich Asians" had become the latest movie to spawn a million think pieces about diversity. There was a lot of excitement about a big-budget production with an all-Asian cast. Well, now the numbers are in. As NPR's Andrew Limbong reports, that excitement has translated into more than $35 million since opening day.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Here's what "Crazy Rich Asians" was up against.


MARK WAHLBERG: (As James Silva) I don't want to know his name. I don't want to know what he does for a living. I want to know, who is he?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) A loner.

LIMBONG: The Mark Wahlberg CIA thriller "Mile 22" opened this weekend, and so did the survival adventure epic "Alpha."


KODI SMIT-MCPHEE: (As Keda) My father always told me survival is never certain.

LIMBONG: But neither of them could match "Crazy Rich Asians," a rom-com about an Asian-American professor just finding out about her boyfriend's insanely wealthy family in Singapore.


CONSTANCE WU: (As Rachel Chu) It's not a big deal obviously. I just think it's kind of weird that I had no idea.


JON M CHU: I mean, the best way to describe it is overwhelming.

LIMBONG: That's "Crazy Rich Asians" director Jon M. Chu, who spoke to NPR last week as the movie was opening.


CHU: To see the audience weep, come to me, tell me their stories - the fact that they feel the need to tell me their story is a reaction that has blown me away.

LIMBONG: In their latest survey, the Motion Picture Association of America found that Asians make up 11 percent of frequent moviegoers in the U.S. and Canada. A spokesperson from Warner Brothers confirmed that about 38 percent of ticket buyers for this movie were Asian.

KARIE BIBLE: It's really another step in the push towards diversity in Hollywood.

LIMBONG: That's Karie Bible, a box office analyst from Exhibitor Relations. But while it's another step, one that hasn't been made in a big-budget, major-studio way since 1993's "Joy Luck Club," Bible points to a different movie that its creators hoped would be a big marker for more diversity in Hollywood, "Thelma & Louise."

BIBLE: They really thought, OK, now women are going to get much better roles. Now this is going to kick down all these doors and all this, and it didn't.

LIMBONG: Still, Bible says every ticket sale sends a message to Hollywood studios that says audiences want diversity.

BIBLE: It doesn't have to be a cast of all white people in order to make money, in order to be good, in order to, you know, be part of a cultural zeitgeist and conversation.

LIMBONG: But exactly how many examples of this how, how many "Crazy Rich Asians," "Black Panthers" or "Cocos" needs to be made to prove this point? Nobody really knows. Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.