Features and Columns · Movies

The Remarkable Feat Just Pulled Off by ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

And it’s not the only movie with an Asian cast to win the weekend.
By  · Published on August 27th, 2018

Last week seemed so impressive, that Crazy Rich Asians was single-handedly saving the theatrical romantic comedy and giving a boost to minority representation. Well, that wasn’t the end of the movie’s achievements. Not by a long shot. In its second weekend, Crazy Rich Asians sold another 2.6 million tickets and came, once again, in first place at the box office. Without rounding up the figure, the Kevin Kwan adaptation brought about 180,000 fewer moviegoers than it did in its opening weekend. That’s a drop of only 6.4%.

While that’s very impressive in an era when most movies debuting at #1 decline between 40-50% in their sophomore weekend and sometimes as much as 70% (hi, Alien: Covenant!), Crazy Rich Asians has actually managed something no other movie has done before. Sure, it’s technically only #298 on the chart for smallest wide-release second-weekend box office drops of all time (26th place if we limit the pool to releases of 3,000 screens or more). But when we look at what kinds of movies that have posted better percentages — many of them even on the plus-side and so not even a “drop” — there is a trend with the sort of movies and releases that usually have this kind of distinction.

Topping the 3,000+ chart is none other than The Greatest Showman, which certainly had amazing legs after opening modestly in fourth place back in December, but that’s the thing, it didn’t debut in first place like Crazy Rich Asians did. Same with fellow star of December 2017 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. And even if they had, well, December debuts are the most common type to have small box office drops or even rises of any kind in a movie’s second weekend because of the holidays. Crazy Rich Asians definitely has the best hold ever for a movie that opened at #1 in the summertime.

For those movies that didn’t open in December, they at least had the Thanksgiving holidays. Or they were animated features. In 2001, Shrek debuted in first place in mid-May and increased 0.3% in its second weekend, but it didn’t hold that number one spot. The one and only non-holiday release that did hold onto #1 its second weekend and had a smaller drop than Crazy Rich Asians: Puss in Boots. But it’s an animated feature, leaving Crazy Rich Asians as the only live-action outlier for a non-holiday very-wide release.

The next closest movie to Crazy Rich Asians in the same regard is The Hangover, which opened in June 2009 at #1 and secured that spot in its second weekend, though its drop was substantially greater at 27.1%. Now, if we do open up the pool to releases with lower theater counts, the champion is 1989’s Look Who’s Talking, which debuted at #1 on about 1200 screens in mid-October and held the spot while adding a few hundred locations and attendance went up 16.8%.

After that, there’s While You Were Sleeping, which held the top spot in April 1995 with fewer than 2000 screens and an attendance increase of 12.9%. Others under 2000 screens with increases in ticket sales in the second weekend with a hold on #1 include 1982’s Porky’s (+12.8%), 1984’s Ghostbusters (+11.2%), 1988’s Beetlejuice (+7.9%), 1986’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills (+6.7%), 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (+6.6%), 1984’s The Natural (+6.6%), The Terminator (+4.9%), and Splash (+4.5%), 1987’s Lethal Weapon (+4.0%), 1986’s Crocodile Dundee (+2.1%), 1987’s Fatal Attraction (+1.4%)…

You get the idea. Back then, with fewer screens per opening, movies often had legs. More recently, and a real rarity in this era of mostly much wider release, Borat debuted in early November 2006 at #1 on only 837 screens then added almost 2,000 locations the second weekend and kept the top spot with a 6.9% increase in attendance. Before that, for major releases, August 1999’s The Sixth Sense opened on more than 2,000 screens in the top spot and held it the next weekend with only a drop of 3.4%. Earlier, The Fugitive opened in August 1993 on more than 2,000 screens at #1 and secured the spot the following week with a drop of only 5.6%. August seems like the month to make such a mark, if a movie is going to.

Maybe you’re now noticing something else that’s common among all these movies with legs comparable to the continuing success of Crazy Rich Asians: aside from maybe While You Were Sleeping (whoever thinks of that movie?) they’re all pretty famous hits with staying power not just at that time but to this day. Will Crazy Rich Asians keep steady and be a major chart-placer at the end of this year? Will it find further recognition come awards time? Will people be watching it and writing about it on its 30th anniversary? Evidence points to its legacy being strong, even if sequels help its memory, for better or worse.

And Crazy Rich Asians isn’t the only new movie with a predominantly Asian lead cast to make a big splash this past weekend, either. Searching, which stars John Cho, Sara Sohn, and Michelle La, opened in very limited release on only nine screens. Yet it still managed to sell 41,400 tickets. That gave the desktop-based thriller the best per-screen average of the weekend, with an attendance of 4,600 people at each location. Compare that to the 800 tickets sold per screen for Crazy Rich Asians. That isn’t the best for the year, not even for a release of under 10 screens, but it’s up there and is a very laudable debut. Hopefully, it also proves to have great legs.

Here are the past weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Crazy Rich Asians – 2.6 million (8.2 million)
2. The Meg – 1.4 million (11.2 million)
3. The Happytime Murders – 1 million (1 million)
4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – 0.9 million (20.7 million)
5. Mile 22 – 0.68 million (2.7 million)
6. Christopher Robin – 0.67 million (8.3 million)
7. Alpha – 0.64 million (2.2 million)
8. BlacKkKlansman – 0.5 million (3.4 million)
9. Slender Man – 0.298 million (2.7 million)
10. A.X.L. – 0.297 million (0.3 million)

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.