A film's opening weekend is always the most crucial because it can mean the difference between box office success and barely breaking even. That's why the push for fans to see "Crazy Rich Asians" during the first few days of its release was so huge — and people showed up in droves.
Torontonians were among the thousands who turned up to support the film, rallied by Canadian actor Simu Liu, star of CBC's "Kim's Convenience." The 29-year-old asked fans to join him on Sunday at the Yonge-Dundas Cineplex.
"I want us to show up as a community, because one of the ways that Hollywood will create these opportunities for Asian creatives and Asian actors is through the success of a movie like 'Crazy Rich Asians,'" Liu previously told the Canadian Press.
Fans did not disappoint — the 7:30 pm showing of "Crazy Rich Asians" was completely sold out. Liu documented the night through Instagram stories on HuffPost Canada Living's account (watch the full story in the video above).
Actor Andrew Phung, who stars alongside Liu in "Kim's Convenience," was also in attendance, and also described the vibe in the theatre as "electric."
"When I walked in, people were cheering. There was this buzz and energy of people genuinely excited," Phung told HuffPost Canada in an email. "The audience reacted to the entire movie, either making noises or clapping. Even in moments of heart and tension, the audience reacted in communal moments of silence. There were so many tears and laughs shed."
"It was an unreal movie-watching experience," he continued. "Walking away, I just felt a sense of pride. Pride that we watched a story from our own culture and with things we could all understand."
The buzz continued even after the movie, as Liu and Phung hung around to meet with fans and talk about the film's importance. On social media, many movie-goers wrote about the experience and how much the film meant to them.
Liu, who viewed a screening of "Crazy Rich Asians" prior to Sunday, previously revealed that watching the movie "felt like home."
"I loved certain sequences that celebrated our culture without over-explaining or distilling it," Liu told HuffPost Canada in an email. "I found myself getting emotional watching the characters play mahjong, or make dumplings. Every Asian person in the theatre knows what these things are, but to see it on a western screen was refreshing and new."
The actor also joked on Twitter that "if nothing else #crazyrichasians should definitively prove once and for all that Asian food is the f**king bomb."
For those unfamiliar, "Crazy Rich Asians" is the first Hollywood movie in 25 years to feature an Asian-majority cast. And while the film had crazy high expectations to live up to, it exceeded those expectations by earning $25.3 million in its opening weekend in Canada and the U.S.
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"'Crazy Rich Asians' won the box office because they identified Western-raised Asians as an underserved audience starving for content," Liu said. "People want to watch their culture and their values celebrated in a way that makes them feel like they matter. And for 25 YEARS we didn't see our traditions and values and customs being accurately reflected in Hollywood, the largest exporter of culture in the world."
"This movie was very clear in its advertising that it would offer audiences something different from Hollywood's typically homogenous offerings. That's why people showed up for it. Other studios had better take the hint; we're ready for something different."
The film's success proves that representation matters and that there is a need for diversity on screen.
"[Representation] matters because we exist, people of all colours, genders, orientations, looks, sizes, exist," Phung said. "When we see ourselves in the media, portrayed in a positive light, it means we exist, and that we're part of the narrative. TV/film has the power to make people think, make people smile, make people laugh, that's all we've wanted. A chance to be part of it all. This movie gave me 10+ characters that I love, and saw myself in."
"I believe this is the beginning of a movement in Hollywood," Liu added, "and of a realization that diversity is not a black-and-white issue; it is colourful, nuanced and just damn good storytelling."