Why 'Crazy Rich Asians' Rejected 'Gigantic' Netflix Deal

The film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians could've been viewed with the click of a button via Netflix, but author Kevin Kwan and director Jon M. Chu claimed they rejected the streaming service's "gigantic" distribution deal. They opted out, however, to allow for the film to be shown in theaters.

Netflix is working toward becoming a major player in the film world. It's nabbed the rights to Sundance darlings Mudbound and To the Bone, and distributed Cannes Film Festival standout Okja. Not only did the streaming service offer a massive payday to secure the rights produce Crazy Rich Asians, but it guaranteed a trilogy and complete creative freedom.

Despite Netflix's rising success in film, it doesn't offer films a theatrical release. Given the monumental nature of Crazy Rich Asians' release, Kwan and Chu weren't 100 percent sold on Netflix's offer.

"I could sense every lawyer on the call shaking their heads: 'Ugh, these stupid idealists.' Here, we have a chance for this gigantic payday instantaneously," Kwan told The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday. "But Jon 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."

Cho expanded on Kwan's sentiment in a Wednesday interview with Vulture, saying: "Taking it to the theater, it's a symbol that a Hollywood studio system thinks it has value, and we were all in a position in our careers where we didn't need the money anyway."

Like the book that preceded it, Crazy Rich Asians follows Chinese American protagonist Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) discovering her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), comes from a highly wealthy Asian family. He's regarded as one of the most eligible bachelor's in Singapore as well. Worst of all, Rachel's forced to contend with Nick's very critical mother (Michelle Yeoh).

Asian actors like Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh have graced the big screen before. Crazy Rich Asians, however, holds historical significance due to it boasting an all-Asian cast. It's the first major studio film to center around an Asian American's experience in 25 years. The last movie to do so was The Joy Luck Club in 1993.

"Before CRA [Crazy Rich Asians], I hadn't even done a tiny part in a studio film ... I never dreamed I would get to star in one ... because I had never seen that happen to someone who looked like me," Wu, who also stars on the Asian American-centered sitcom Fresh Off the Boat (FOTB), tweeted Tuesday. "CRA is changing that, just like FOTB did. CRA not only centers an Asian American story, it is also filled with a talented, dynamic, unique all-Asian cast."

Despite the film's historical importance, diversity issues in the film industry still persist. On Tuesday, a newly released study showed that studio's diversity hiring practice hasn't improved in 2017. Out of the 48,757 film characters examined, female actresses held 30.6 percent of speaking roles and 29.3 percent of actors were from diverse racial/ethnic groups. Only 2.5 percent had disabilities, and fewer than 1 percent were representative of the LGBTQ community.

Crazy Rich Asians is tracking for an $18 million-plus opening during its five-day debut, according to estimates from Variety. In 2017, Forbes suggested the motion picture could be this summer's Girls Trip—a sleeper hit that beat box office expectations by opening domestically to $31.2 million.

Crazy Rich Asians will hit theaters August 15.

'Crazy Rich Asians' Rejects Netflix Distribution Deal
'Crazy Rich Asians' was initially offered a massive payday in a distribution deal from Netflix. Here, actress Constance Wu is pictured as Rachel Chu in a still from 'Crazy Rich Asians,' out August 15, 2018. Warner Bros. Pictures