The producers of “Crazy Rich Asians,” which doesn’t release in China till the end of next month, are already warming up plans to shoot the film’s sequel in the Middle Kingdom.
Producer John Penotti, president of SK Global, said that “China Rich Girlfriend” is targeting a shoot in Shanghai. He made the revelation Monday in Los Angeles at the Chinese American Film Festival’s Co-Production Summit.
The sequel is an adaptation of novelist Kevin Kwan’s second book in the “Asians” series. It is located substantially in China and set two years after the events of “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Penotti said that it is currently unclear whether the producers will attempt to structure “China Rich Girlfriend” as an official China-U.S. co-production. ““We certainly tried to make the (first) film as a China-U.S. co-production. But (as a company, we) haven’t been very good at doing co-productions.” “Crazy Rich Asians” was a Warner Bros. Pictures release and presentation, and produced by SK Global, Starlight Culture, Color Force, Ivanhoe Pictures, Electric Somewhere.
It was released in North America in August and in most Asian territories in September and October. To date it has grossed $232 million worldwide, including $177 million in North America.
Obtaining a China release has the potential to lift the film’s results to another level, but five weeks ahead of its outing its expected box-office performance is unclear. “I have no idea whether the film will be a hit in China,” said Adele Lim, the film’s screenwriter. “We tried to make it true to our culture. We knew we couldn’t make every Asian happy, we can’t make every Chinese happy.”
After a prolonged approval process, which often seemed in doubt, the film recently obtained a Nov. 30 release date for China. Penotti said that no cuts have been requested by the censors and regulators in China.
Penotti speculated that the spicier elements of the book may have given the Chinese censors initial cause for concern, and that the finished film’s approval may have been held up by organizational changes within the Chinese government. “We were never told there was something specific. There was an upheaval over the approval process over the last few months. We fell prey to that, rather than anything content-related,” said Penotti.
Kwan’s original book made large play of decadent behavior by the super-rich, and made use of a plot point in which the heroine’s father languished in a Chinese prison. The Jon M. Chu-directed film focused more on the romance and omitted the father character. Chu is expected to direct the sequel.
The title of “China Rich Girlfriend” is a reference to a line in the first movie where the Singapore matriarch, played by Michelle Yeoh, plays down her family’s wealth in comparison with others: “These people aren’t just everyday rich with a few hundred million. They are China rich.”