‘Crazy Rich Asians’ turned down a ‘gigantic payday’ from Netflix so the movie would be seen in theaters

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Warner Bros.

  • Netflix made a huge offer to distribute the “Crazy Rich Asians” movie, but the author of the book it’s based on, and the film’s director, said “no” in favor of a theatrical release.
  • “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first studio film to tell an Asian-American story in 25 years.
  • Because of the film’s significance, author Kevin Kwan and director Jon M. Chu decided that a major theatrical release was more important than the money and creative freedom Netflix offered.

“Crazy Rich Asians” could potentially have made a lot more money as a Netflix original movie, but despite a huge offer, Netflix got a “no” in favor of a major theatrical release.

The movie, based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name, doesn’t come out for over a week, but it’s already made history as the first studio film starring an Asian-American cast (Constance Wu of “Fresh Off the Boat” stars as Rachel Chu) in over 25 years. The last film to do so was 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix swooped in with an offer to buy “Crazy Rich Asians” that was bigger than the Warner Bros. offer.

“I could have moved to an island and never worked another day,” Kwan told THR.

But while Netflix offered more money and more artistic freedom, it couldn’t offer the one thing that was important to Kwan and director Jon M. Chu: getting Asians on the big screen.

Kwan and Chu both considered the huge payday, but ultimately went the traditional route, despite what advisors suggested. “Here, we have a chance for this gigantic payday instantaneously,” Kwan said. “But Jon [Chu] and I both felt this sense of purpose. We needed this to be an old-fashioned cinematic experience, not for fans to sit in front of a TV and just press a button.”

Kwan and Chu agreed that they wanted this historic film to prove that these stories sell tickets, instead of never knowing how many people watched the movie on Netflix, which doesn’t release its numbers or even tell its creators.

The August 15 release of “Crazy Rich Asians” could continue the movement of diverse hit movies like February’s “Black Panther,” and will hopefully ensure it won’t be another 25 years until the next Asian-American story is told on the big screen.