The box-office success of 'Crazy Rich Asians' was a long time coming, and shows the power of Asian American consumers

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  • The success of "Crazy Rich Asians" has been a long time coming.
  • Nielsen's VP of Strategic Community Alliances, Mariko Carpenter, told Business Insider that the firm's research into the Asian American market showed the demographic has been worth investing in for a while, and is growing.
  • Carpenter said Sandra Oh being the first Asian woman nominated for a best actress in a drama Emmy award marked a turning point for Asian Americans in entertainment and media.

In its opening weekend, "Crazy Rich Asians" proved something many already knew: inclusion sells.

The first film starring Asian Americans and an all-Asian cast since 1993's "The Joy Luck Club" outdid box-office predictions, earning $25.2 million its opening weekend. The opening was so successful that Warner Bros is already in talks to make a sequel based on Kwan's second book, "China Rich Girlfriend."

"Crazy Rich Asians" is not only a historic moment in Hollywood's long-overdue interest in stories starring women and people of color - like "Wonder Woman" and "Black Panther" - it also marks the comeback of the romantic comedy in a way that Netflix movies "Set It Up" and "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" can't demonstrate without box-office numbers or ratings. "Crazy Rich Asians" is the first romantic comedy since 2015's "Trainwreck" to top $20 million its opening week and it's receiving glowing reviews, including my own.

Business Insider recently spoke to Mariko Carpenter, Nielsen's VP of Strategic Community Alliances, about what the research firm has learned about the Asian American market and its relationship to movies. (Yes - that Nielsen, which goes far beyond calculating ratings of TV shows.)

Carpenter and the Diversity and Inclusion team at Nielsen researched Asian American consumers and shared their insights with clients that include content creators, manufacturers, brands, and retailers. "Big, big, big, brands in America," Carpenter said.

According to Carpenter, Nielsen's research showed Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI's) buy movie tickets 75 percent more than non-Hispanic whites. They also watch and download movies online 83 percent more than non-Hispanic whites. According to Warner Bros., Asians comprised almost 40% of "Crazy Rich Asians'" audiences opening week.

"The influence and power that we [Asians Americans] have as a community is so powerful that any brand today looking to grow their business, or even maintain their current business, really needs us," Carpenter said.

"When you look at the top rated shows, a lot of them are those that have multicultural casts," Carpenter continued. "You have 'Big Bang Theory,' 'This is Us,' 'The Good Doctor.' Americans, particularly your Gen Zs and your Millennials, are used to seeing diversity. They live in a diverse community and culture, have a diverse friend group and family."

Asian actors and actresses also have a high score on what Nielsen calls an "end score." An end score marks the overall marketability of celebrities, and brands will use it find who to find as a spokesperson.

"I know when I used to work at Conde Nast, we used to look at the end score to book our cover star," Carpenter said. "When we look at these end scores, we see that Asian American actors like Daniel Day Kim, John Cho, and Sandra Oh actually score above the norm for things like likability. For things like being a good role model."

Carpenter said Sandra Oh being the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for an Emmy for her leading role on "Killing Eve" is a reflection of a more permanent shift in diversity in media and entertainment. Many Asian actors including Oh, "Crazy Rich Asians" star Constance Wu, and Kelly Marie Tran from "The Last Jedi" have said in the past that they never imagined people who looked themselves would get leading roles. But all that has changed.

"I just keep thinking back at these young Asian Americans who are going through, who are trying out for their lead roles in their school plays and want to go into this field," Carpenter said. "Movies like 'Crazy Rich Asians' let them know that they can do it. AAPI's can be directors, they can be producers, they can be actors. And we shouldn't have to wait for another generation before they can do that again. So, it's really, really, an exciting time for us. And a time of celebration for our community."

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