Last night, preview screenings were held for Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians, which doesn't open in theaters until next Wednesday. The early reviews for the romantic comedy, based on the novel by Kevin Kwan, were overwhelmingly positive, so good word of mouth should help this movie when it opens. More than that though, there is another reason to believe that Crazy Rich Asians could be a surprise hit at the box office: most of last night's preview screenings were sold out.
Warner Bros. held sneak preview screenings for the film in 354 locations last night, with the bulk of those screenings selling out. Theater chains in certain markets even had to add additional auditoriums for the 7:00 p.m. showings to accommodate demand. What's also telling about this turnout, as Deadline notes, is that these were paid preview screenings, not free ones meant to build buzz. The people who sold out these theaters wanted to see this movie early and were willing to pay to do so. Crazy Rich Asians got an early start to its box office run with around $450K-$500K, and is tracking to pull in $18 million to $21 million over its five-day opening next week.
The fact that the sneak previews saw such demand clearly bodes well for the film, but that's not the only thing it has going for it. Although there are still a lot of reviews to go, Crazy Rich Asians is currently sitting at a cool 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also has a built-in fanbase since it is based on a best-selling book that is actually part of a trilogy. Crazy Rich Asians is also the first major Hollywood production in decades from an Asian director that features an all-Asian cast that tells an Asian-American story. It is this representation that could drive Crazy Rich Asians to over-perform and be something of a sleeper hit. In a time when there is often whitewashing of Asian roles, and Asians get even less representation onscreen than even other minority groups, a movie with this level of representation that isn't a martial arts film is bound to make a splash.
Also, romantic comedies aren't as common on the big screen anymore and are more often the domain of Netflix, so there is probably an appetite for this kind of film. Netflix actually wanted to bring Crazy Rich Asians to its service, but director Jon M. Chu and the novel's author Kevin Kwan wanted the visibility and exposure of a big screen film. It looks like that exposure may pay off and prove fruitful at the box office. If I had to guess, I'd suspect that the tracking of $18-$21 million is low, and Crazy Rich Asians will actually do much better than that. As far as competition is concerned, Crazy Rich Asians gets a head start when it opens on Wednesday before Alpha and Mile 22 open on Friday.
Crazy Rich Asians opens in theaters on August 15. For all of this year's biggest movies, check out our release schedule.