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Netflix has had a lot of success in recent months picking up movies that were looking for theatrical distribution and debuting them on the streaming service instead, but there's one film Netflix wanted it couldn't get. It seems that the production team behind Crazy Rich Asians had to choose between competing bids between Warner Bros. and Netflix. One offer would get the movie, focused on an entirely Asian cast on the big screen, the other would make the team behind the film a lot of money. Just how much money. Enough to make Kevin Kwan, the author of the novel the film is based on as rich as the characters in his story. According to Kwan...
I could have moved to an island and never worked another day.
The Netflix deal was massive. It would have included a trilogy of films, with complete artistic freedom, and seven figures for everybody with a stake in Crazy Rich Asians. Everybody just becomes an instant millionaire. That had to be hard to turn down and it sounds like it was, but in the end, Kevin Kwan and director Jon M. Chu decided that, if they took the money, they would just end up spending it on another try at making a movie that would put Asians front and center on the big screen. What they wanted was the exposure, not the money, so that's what they went with.
It certainly does bode well for Crazy Rich Asians that the film was in such high demand. Clearly, both studios believed there was an audience for it, even if they saw different ways of bringing the film to market. While Netflix does usually put its films out for theatrical release, they end up in theaters at the same time they debut on the streaming service. Without an exclusive window most theaters won't run the films, and since the movie is available at home for subscribers, they don't tend to do well at the box office for the theaters that do run them.
While I'm sure the Warner Bros. deal itself was a pretty good one, it shows just how dedicated the team behind Crazy Rich Asians was to the broader purpose of getting Asians on the big screen in leading roles. According to The Hollywood Reporter, everybody that was advising them was urging them to take the better financial deal. The rest of the producers had deferred to Kwan and Chu to make the decision of which deal to take.
Currently, Crazy Rich Asians is looking to have an opening weekend somewhere in the neighborhood of about $20 million, which is pretty solid for a romantic comedy. It will make its all-important big screen debut August 15.