‘Crazy Rich Asians’ shines bright at the box office

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Constance Wu in a scene from the film "Crazy Rich Asians." (Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)

the ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOS ANGELES — Glitz won over guns as the gilded romance “Crazy Rich Asians” debuted at No. 1 in North American theaters this weekend, surpassing industry expectations and beating out action-packed fare like “Mile 22.”

Warner Bros. estimates that the film earned $25.2 million over the weekend and $34 million since its opening Wednesday. It’s a surefire win for the film, which cost $30 million to produce and went into the weekend with months of buzz and a 93 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Breakout star Henry Golding told The Associated Press on Sunday that the film’s performance is a “testament to the people who are turning up.”

“It’s not just the Asians who are coming. It’s people of all colors from all walks of life who are enjoying this cinematic experience,” Golding said. “It’s a real shift in Hollywood.”

Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s best-seller, “Crazy Rich Asians” stars Constance Wu as an American woman who gets a culture shock meeting her boyfriend’s obscenely wealthy family in Singapore. The studio strategically bumped up the film’s opening to a Wednesday earlier in the summer.

“We knew we’d get avids who read the book and a large Asian following,” said Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein. “We figured OK, we get good reviews, open on Wednesday, word of mouth will spread and really propel the movie into the weekend, and that’s exactly what happened.”

As recently as July 26, box office experts were predicting that the film would open to at least $18 million over its first five days, but no one expected a launch of over $30 million.

“I think the audience isn’t an obvious audience,” Goldstein said. “When you get a culturally important event like this movie, I think it just takes off like wildfire.”

The stakes were high for the first studio-produced movie led by Asian-Americans in 25 years. The filmmakers even turned down a big offer from Netflix to give the historically significant film a theatrical platform. Cast members and fans started using the hashtag #GoldOpen to try to encourage more opening weekend support.

Director Jon M. Chu tweeted his appreciation Sunday and asked audiences to keep spreading the word.