BOX OFFICE: “Crazy Rich” Gets Richer — $25 million second weekend, “Happytime” “A.X.L.” bomb

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Last year this weekend, the last full weekend in August, represented an historic box office low with the top dozen titles drawing filmgoers at a rate not seen in decades.

It’s always one of the weakest moviegoing weekends of the year.

This year, “Crazy Rich Asians” is here to stanch the bleeding, heading towards a second weekend scarcely missing a beat from its opening frame. The upbeat family rom-com with an all-Asian cast and Chinese diaspora setting did $26 million and change last weekend, and is doing over $25 million in business this weekend, per Deadline.com. That’s a 4% falloff, at this point.

Perhaps every Hollywood exec should cancel that Labor Day vacation, or come back to work early (a safer bet) and push the whole studio system into beating the bushes looking for the next “Asians.” Yeah, that will produce sequels (Kevin Kwan wrote a trilogy of books, and is about to get J.K. Rowling rich, or close to it).

Deadline calls “Crazy Rich” the “Black Panther” for the Asian community. I still say it’s a “Big Fat Greek Wedding” for that corner of the audience, a picture with general interest amusement as well as cultural significance to its subject audience.

ax1The Chinese-financed robot dog movie “A.X.L.” suggests that the Exotic East’s financiers need protection from Hollywood hustlers when it comes to picking material. The fact this is earning over $2 million is something of a miracle, a real “Dog of August.” Who talked
Global Road into this? Suckers.

Keeping with a theme, the other big Warner-distributed/Chinese financed hit of the month, “The Meg,” is maintaining audience and will clear $100 million Sunday –– another $11 million this weekend. This pic is a real triumph of marketing. It’s not as funny as its trailers, not that entertaining. But people are very slow to catch on when TV commercials stretch the truth.

Which brings us to August’s new nickname — “STX month.” A newish distributor whose biggest hit was “Bad Moms,” Chinese-backed Hollywood operation that produced “Edge of Seventeen” and “Adrift” and a lot of fare virtually nobody saw, now has “Mile 22,” a Mark Wahlberg bomb, and “The Happytime Murders,” a Melissa McCarthy bomb, in theaters at the same time.

“Happytime” cost $40, a lot when you consider its a dirty Muppet movie. It was projected to do $13-15 this weekend, and will barely clear $10. 

But STX has a deal with Jason Statham, and “The Meg” just boosted his stock again. So stay tuned.

Screen Gems has what might be another Asian-influenced winner on its hands with “Searching,” good reviews, a career kick for John Cho? But platforming the opening, 9 theaters in a couple of cities, is proving to be a bust with a $4,000 per screen average for the weekend. Keep it out of the way of “Crazy Rich” and even “Happytime” might pay off. Or maybe this was going to be an impossible sell — father searching for his daughter, discovering her online “life” — at this time of year.

Bleecker Street was right to abandon “Papillon” in late August. Not on a huge number of screens, this misfire could have cracked the top ten on the weakest weekend of the year, and won’t.

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