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‘Crazy Rich Asians’ success shows 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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