World Box Office: Crazy Rich Asians conquers the Meg

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It’s a prehistoric monster versus some crazy rich Asians, at this week’s box office. On the domestic (the U.S. and Canada) front, Warner Bros.’ Crazy Rich Asians took the number one spot in a historic coup.

The first movie with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club, 25 years ago, Crazy Rich Asians broke another record – the first romantic comedy in three years to beat the competition and take the top spot since the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck. Directed and produced by Jon M. Chu (G.I. Retaliation, Step Up 2, Now You See Me 2), the adaptation of Kevin Wan’s eponymous bestseller took $26.5 million from 3,384 locations over the weekend, to a five-day cume of $35 million, easily beating another Warner Bros. release, the monster actioner The Meg, which bit $21.5 million in its second week.

The Meg’s story is really overseas, where the Jason Stratham versus Megalodon pic amassed $67 million from 55 markets to an international cumulative total of $230.4 million and a worldwide take (domestic + international) of $314. 1 million. That’s quite a big bite, especially in the doldrums of August, a month known for tepid box office waters.

But let’s go back to those Crazy Rich Asians for a moment. The story of New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her Singapore-born boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) who, unbeknownst to her (for the first half of the movie) is one of the richest men in Southeast Asia. Things get interesting when Rachel gets invited to a wedding in Singapore and dives right into the seemingly never-ending well of luxury and riches that one reviewer described as “a cross between Versailles and Donald Trump’s bathroom”.

The first attempts to secure the rights to Kwan’s book were the usual whitewashing enterprises, with producers suggesting that the Asian characters could easily be played by white stars. Chu’s determination to bring the story home to its natural environment and casting (key roles went to Michelle Yeoh, rap star/personality Awkwafina, Ken Jeong and the HFPA’s own Lisa Lu) won him the rights – and Warner Bros.’ focused marketing brought Asian-American audiences in troves. It should be clear, by now, that 2018 is a benchmark year for diversity on North American screens: from Black Panther to Crazy Rich Asians, with independents BlacKkKlansman, Blindspotting, and Sorry to Bother You in between, diverse releases are faring well, both critically and commercially.

Back to the world, now – the prehistoric shark is doing fine, but some holdovers from the height of Summer are achieving spectacular totals. Hot on the Meg’s heels (or fins, better yet), Mission Impossible: Fallout has topped $300 million internationally and $50 million globally in its fourth weekend with some great holds. Right now, Tom Cruise’s sixth run as Ethan Hunt is pacing 17% ahead of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation overseas… and has yet to open in China.

Universal’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is still tops in the UK where it has become the number two film of 2018 and Universal’s third biggest title ever. The musical sailed past $200 million overseas to a $300 million global in the frame.

Next week has some peculiar offerings – the dark comedy The Happytime Murders, directed by Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) and starring Melissa McCarthy;  the experimental thriller Searching, from the first-time director Aneesh Chaganty,starring John Cho and Debra Messing; and, in limited release, a new Papillon, starring Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam in the roles originally created by Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen in the 1973 adaptation of the Henri Charrièrre novels.

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