“Crazy Rich Asians” is expected to dominate the Labor Day weekend box office, with one of the best turnouts in ticket sales for the holiday in the past decade.
The film’s runaway success, lasting into its third week, stems partly from a cabal of Asian-American tech and business moguls who wanted to make sure the movie opened strong enough to ensure more diversity in Hollywood.
To do so, they bought out dozens of movie theaters across the United States for the three-day weekend in the hopes of raising enough momentum for a $30 million opening weekend, mobilizing social media followers with #GoldOpen.
It’s not a new concept, as demonstrated by the recent blockbuster “Black Panther,” but #GoldOpen is the brainchild of two tech execs: Bing Chen, a digital media entrepreneur and former global head of creator development and management at YouTube, and Kevin Lin, co-founder of the streaming media site Twitch.
“GoldOpen is a movement of Asian influencers, executives and organizations intended to ensure any project a successful launch,” Chen told ABC News. “Film, TV shows, companies, what have you. We started with Asian projects, specifically any Asian creative project that’s Asian-starring, Asian-created or Asian-influenced.”
“But the goal is to expand our Asian diaspora support for any project — anything new majority, African-diaspora, Latinx and certainly any format.”
The movie, about a Chinese-American college professor who goes to Singapore for her boyfriend’s best friend’s wedding, is a modern-day Cinderella story set in the world of the uber-wealthy in Asia.
A group of 25 top tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists gathered in July with “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu at his parents’ Chinese restaurant in Los Altos, California. Chu told the group that the fate of several Asian-led films hinged on the success of the movie’s opening.
“If this film crosses $20 million, those films will get green-lit or, at least, put into development,” Chen remembers Chu’s saying. “If it hits $30 million, we may have resurrected the romcom [romantic comedy].”
“So the challenge to the group was, ‘All right, we got to hit $30 million.'”
From that July dinner, the group began buying out theaters in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. They also bought heavily in Kansas City, Missouri, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, Texas, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Sometimes it meant going online and literally clicking on all of the seats. Sometimes it meant coordinating with theater owners. Word of mouth spread over social media.
They also paired the buyouts with nonprofits and paired celebrities with industry celebrities, like his business partner, Lin, with Olympic ice dancing darlings Maia and Alex Shibutani, and Guitar Hero co-founder Kai Huang with one of the film’s stars, Harry Shum Jr.