By LINDSEY BAHR
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Glitz won over guns as the gilded romance “Crazy Rich Asians” debuted at No. 1 in North American theaters last weekend, surpassing industry expectations and beating out action-packed fare like “Mile 22.”
Warner Bros. estimates that the film earned $25.2 million over the weekend and $34 million since its opening on Aug. 15. It’s a surefire win for the film, which cost $30 million to produce and went into the weekend with months of buzz and a 93 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Breakout star Henry Golding told The Associated Press that the film’s performance is a “testament to the people who are turning up.”
“It’s not just the Asians who are coming. It’s people of all colors from all walks of life who are enjoying this cinematic experience,” Golding said. “It’s a real shift in Hollywood.”
Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s best-seller, “Crazy Rich Asians” stars Constance Wu as an American woman who gets a culture shock meeting her boyfriend’s obscenely wealthy family in Singapore.
The studio strategically bumped up the film’s opening to a Wednesday earlier in the summer.
“We knew we’d get avids who read the book and a large Asian following,” said Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein. “We figured OK, we get good reviews, open on Wednesday, word of mouth will spread and really propel the movie into the weekend, and that’s exactly what happened.”
As recently as July 26, box office experts were predicting that the film would open to at least $18 million over its first five days, but no one expected a launch of over $30 million.
“I think the audience isn’t an obvious audience,” Goldstein said. “When you get a culturally important event like this movie, I think it just takes off like wildfire.”
The stakes were high for the first studio-produced movie led by Asian-Americans in 25 years. The filmmakers even turned down a big offer from Netflix to give the historically significant film a theatrical platform. Cast members and fans started using the hashtag #GoldOpen to try to encourage more opening weekend support.
Director Jon M. Chu tweeted his appreciation on Aug. 19 and asked audiences to keep spreading the word.
“We still have a long run to go but our message to the world has been heard. We have arrived,” Chu wrote. “Now let’s go tell more of our stories! We have a lot more to say. And I don’t want to wait another 25 years to see them. This is only the beginning.”
Despite the success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” other films still found audiences last weekend, including Warner Bros. shark movie “The Meg,” which fell only 53 percent in its second weekend, adding $21.2 million. The Jason Statham-led film has now grossed over $300 million worldwide.
Mark Wahlberg’s action-packed “Mile 22,” his fourth collaboration with director Peter Berg, debuted in third place with an estimated $13.6 million. The STX film had a $35 million production budget.
Launching with $10.5 million, “Alpha,” an Ice Age-set adventure tale, tied for fourth place in its opening weekend with “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.”
In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Wife” opened with $111,137, and Roadside Attractions’ “Juliet, Naked” debuted with $60,922. Both films opened in four theaters.