Hollywood’s First All-Asian Movie in 25 Years Yet to Make it to China

a still from “Crazy Rich Asians”

Crazy Rich Asians is perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated Hollywood movies this summer – not only for its adaptation of the namesake best-selling novel by Singaporean-American writer Kevin Kwan, but for its cultural significance to the Asian American community.

The movie is the second in Hollywood featuring an all-Asian cast after the release of The Joy Luck Club 25 years ago. To mark this huge progress, big Asian American names from the world of luxury have rallied around in support of the movie. From fashion designer Philip Lim who is helming chic luxury label 3.1 Phillip Lim for more than a decade to fashion Editor Eva Chen who works as Director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, many high-profile Asian American creative talents are using their influence to spread excitement before the film’s official August 15 release date.

On July 27, a special early screening was hosted by the Nepalese American fashion designer Prabal Gurung in New York’s Chinatown adjacent indie film theater Metrograph. Alongside Lim and Chen, a host of core forces of the Asian American fashion community showed up to support the release of Crazy Rich Asians.

Prabal Gurung, Kathleen Hou, Diana Tsui, Phillip Lim, Carol Lim, Michelle Lee, Eva Chen, Joseph Altuzarra, Dao Yi Chow, Laura Kim, Radhika Jones, Fei Fei Sun

To organizer Prabal Gurung, the screening was meant to showcase the solidarity of the Asian community in the United States, using his own influence – and that of his high-profile friends and colleagues – to raise public awareness.

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Kevin Kwan was also closely involved in the development and production of the film to ensure  Asians were presented in an uncliched way through a proper medium.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Kwan and the film’s director Jon M. Chu turned down an enticing offer of a greenlighted trilogy with a “gigantic payday” at Netflix, to make sure the film would be seen on the big screen with the potential to reshape the Hollywood landscape.

Meanwhile, Warner Brothers has hired IW Group, a marketing and communications firm that specializes in reaching the growing multicultural market in the United States, to promote the film within the APA community and beyond.

And the American audience’s enthusiasm appears to have been successfully ignited. In the lead-up to the launch day, an increasing number of Asian American community leaders in all kinds of industries have voluntarily come on board – buying out theaters and promoting the movie on social media with the #GoldOpen hashtag, in hopes of helping the film succeed at the box office on opening weekend.

Today, Hollywood studios increasingly rely on foreign markets to increase their bottom lines. As recent reports have demonstrated, the luxury fashion industry too relies heavily on the influence of the Chinese and Asian markets. As such, a movie like Crazy Rich Asians with its high production value, engaging storytelling, solid acting has the potential to be engaging to audiences from all cultural backgrounds.

In big markets such as China, Warner Brothers certainly has high hopes for Crazy Rich Asians to succeed. Currently, the studio is anxiously waiting for a China release to be confirmed.

Our guess is that if this film is released in Chinese theaters, the biggest selling point will not be its all-Asian cast, as audiences in monoethnic countries, such as China, usually care less about racial representation. This has also been indicated by the the lukewarm performance of Black Panther in the middle kingdom. But hey, everyone can enjoy a well-made romantic comedy telling the tale of “Meet the In-laws.”