LOS ANGELES — “Crazy Rich Asians,” powered by jubilant reviews and pent-up demand for a major Hollywood film led by Asian stars, took in a strong $25.2 million at North American theaters over the weekend, easily enough for No. 1.
It was the best result for a PG-13 romantic comedy in six years — since “Think Like a Man,” which featured an all-black primary cast and collected $33 million over its first three days. Among all nonsequel comedies, “Crazy Rich Asians” (Warner Bros.) posted the biggest turnout since the R-rated “Girls Trip,” which was released last summer and focused on four black women, a rarity.
“This shows — once again, with emphasis — that true diversity matters,” Brad Simpson, a “Crazy Rich Asians” producer, wrote in an email on Sunday. “Audiences are tired of seeing the same stories with the same characters. And we have to give people a reason to get off their couch or devices. We have to give them something different.”
“Crazy Rich Asians,” starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding in a love story complicated by dazzling wealth (his) and a treacherous mother (his), is the first Hollywood studio movie in 25 years to have an all-Asian cast. The last one was “The Joy Luck Club,” which Disney released in 1993. As a result, “Crazy Rich Asians” was seen as a watershed moment by many Asian-Americans, echoing the emotional manner in which African-Americans responded in February to “Black Panther,” which was rooted in black culture.
About 38 percent of ticket buyers for “Crazy Rich Asians” were Asian, according to Jeff Goldstein, Warner’s president of domestic distribution. Asian moviegoers typically make up less than 10 percent of the opening-weekend audience for a film. About 68 percent of the audience was female.
“Crazy Rich Asians,” which cost an estimated $30 million to make and tens of millions more to market, took in $34 million since arriving on Wednesday. (The film will roll out overseas in the weeks ahead.) To compare, the hit romantic comedy “27 Dresses,” starring Katherine Heigl, took in the same amount over its first five days in domestic theaters in 2008, after adjusting for inflation, going on to collect $200 million worldwide.
The movie business has changed dramatically in the last decade, however, making the turnout for “Crazy Rich Asians” all the more impressive. As living room entertainment services like Netflix and Amazon have grown in popularity, filling seats in theaters has become much harder. To compete, studios have moved to the extremes: horror movies made on shoestring budgets, and lavishly expensive franchise films aimed at the broadest possible audience.
In turn, studios have largely abandoned mid-market movies like romantic comedies and uplifting sports dramas.
Netflix almost beat out Warner Bros. for the film rights to “Crazy Rich Asians,” which was directed by Jon M. Chu and based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling book. But Mr. Chu and Mr. Kwan decided at the final minute to forego the Netflix offer, which included generous upfront payments and the guarantee of a “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy. The men decided that it was important for their film be seen on big screens and backed by a thundering studio marketing campaign.
For the weekend, “The Meg” (Warner) placed second, collecting $21.2 million, for a two-week global total of roughly $300 million, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data. Third place went to “Mile 22” (STXfilms), which took in $13.6 million, a bit below what most analysts had expected. “Mile 22,” which cost about $35 million to make, stars Mark Wahlberg as an elite intelligence officer.
Also of box-office note: “Billionaire Boys Club,” an indie film starring Kevin Spacey, was released in 10 theaters and took in $500 — a humiliating result that cements Mr. Spacey’s status as a Hollywood pariah. Last year, more than a dozen men accused Mr. Spacey of sexually harassing, groping or assaulting them; he denied some of the accusations against him while also saying he would seek unspecified “treatment.”
“Billionaire Boys Club,” which was already available as a video-on-demand release, is about affluent high school boys in Los Angeles who get involved in a Ponzi scheme. Filming was completed before accusations against Mr. Spacey surfaced in October. The film’s distributor, Vertical Entertainment, justified the release by saying the rest of the cast should not be penalized.