What Does Crazy Rich Asians’ Lackluster Box Office Returns in China Mean for Luxury Brands?

A version of this story appeared on our sister site, China Film Insider.

Just a few short months ago, it looked the release this fall of the blockbuster film Crazy Rich Asians in mainland China would be very good news for luxury brands.

The characters in Crazy Rich Asians live an exceptionally privileged lifestyle in Singapore, from first-class flights to shopping sprees to parties on private islands, and don a slew of ultra-expensive outfits while doing so, many from luxury brands including Elie Saab, Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Richard Mille, Giambattista Valli, and Missoni.

But hopes that the rom-com, which has so far generated about $250 million at the global box office, would spur the massive conspicuous consumption in China that its characters engage in proved unfounded.

On Friday, Nov. 30, Crazy Rich Asians — whose Chinese title translates to “An Unexpected Tale of Picking Gold” — premiered in the country to lackluster ticket sales, our sister site China Film Insider notes. Box-office revenues slid further over the course of the weekend, according to movie-review and revenue-tracking website Maoyan.

By Monday, Dec. 3, the film had made a paltry $8.6 million in China; meanwhile, the 2016 Mel Gibson movie Blood Father, released the same day, raked in $11.8 million, and Bollywood flick 102 Not Out amassed over $23 million.

Then, this past weekend, Chinese movie-goers enthusiastically embraced Aquaman.

While attendance certainly may have been dented by the earlier availability of pirated copies of Crazy Rich Asians, the film also has not been widely loved by Chinese film-goers. On movie-review site Douban, it earned a middling score of 6.2 out of 10.

The namesake adaption from the best-selling novel by Singaporean-American writer Kevin Kwan was released months after it opened in other countries. The long wait for approval for the first major Hollywood film to ever feature an all-Asian cast made many industry analysts believe Beijing was not comfortable with the film. Swanky displays of wealth are generally frowned upon by the Chinese government, as evidenced by an earlier nationwide anti-corruption campaign and a recent crackdown on celebrity ultra-pay.

But China’s approval of Crazy Rich Asians finally came after the nation’s luxury spending showed signs of a slowdown in recent months.

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