Representation matters. It also sells. Why does that still come as a big surprise to Hollywood, an industry supposedly built on cynically oversaturating the market to meet demand? This weekend, Crazy Rich Asians topped the box office with a cool $25 million; count what the midweek release made on Wednesday and Thursday, and its total gross rises to $34 million. This is well above what studio execs and box-office soothsayers were predicting for the romantic comedy, despite mostly glowing reviews, the success of the bestsellers on which it’s based, and the fact that it’s the first major studio movie with an Asian-led cast in 25 years. Which is to say, Hollywood once again underestimated the appeal of a crowd-pleaser starring people of color and the desire of an underserved demographic to pay good money for stories that at least partially reflect their own cultural experience. Or as the Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Yang put it on Twitter: “If films made by and starring people of color are consistently ‘exceeding expectations,’ maybe the problem is in the ‘expectations.’”
The industry also seems to have underestimated the appeal of Jason Statham fighting a giant prehistoric shark, judging from the continued, “unexpected” success of another Warner Bros. release. The Meg fell to second place in its second weekend, but only lost about half of its audience, adding another $21 million to a total that now sits around $83 million domestically. That’s a bit shy of its Megalodon-sized budget, which would be a bigger problem if the PG-13 action thriller weren’t cleaning up overseas. In a delicious bit of irony, the international market will also have to rescue Mile 22, the latest gung-ho, America-fuck-yeah collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, whose $13.6 million domestic bow is less than what most were expecting the film to make this weekend. It did do slightly better than Alpha, the IMAX survival yarn that’s currently locked in head-to-head combat with Mission: Impossible—Fallout for fourth place. (Both movies grossed about $10.5 million over the last three days—or just about exactly what Sony expected to make from a period piece about the domestication of the first dog starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and featuring no dialogue in English.)
Further down the charts, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman retained all but a third of it audience in its second weekend, making an additional $7 million, for a $23-million-and-counting tally. As far as indie releases go, it was a very quiet few days for The Wife, We The Animals, and Juliet, Naked, all of which rustled up between $60,000 and $115,000 on three or four screens. But there’s quiet, and then there’s making just $618 on your opening weekend, a.k.a. the depressing fate of Billionaire Boys Club, a crime drama that opened in eight theaters (none in New York or Los Angeles) and which didn’t quite have the budget to replace its own Kevin Spacey performance with a new one by Christopher Plummer. Whatever expectations Vertical Entertainment had for the film, they surely must have been higher than selling maybe 10 tickets per theater.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.