The Second Rom-Coming: Netflix, Crazy Rich Asians, & What’s Next
By Jorge Gonzalez, III
2018 has proven to be quite the interesting year with a wide range of Hollywood happenings that could prove to be the precursor for the coming years. We’ve seen everything from giant indie-studios like Global Road implode due to insufficient foreign investment, we’ve heard rumors of digital and e-commerce titan Amazon looking to acquire boutique theatre chain Landmark, and now we have seen the crazy and rich indication that we are on the brink of a rom-com Renaissance or as I like to call it: The Second Rom-Coming.
Crazy Rich Asians has done what so few movies are able to do in the box office: deliver back to back weekend receipts that saw just a 6.4% dip in its second weekend and only 10.9% in its third weekend frame according to box office mojo. Needless to say Jon M. Chu’s film has a lot going for it - an incredibly brilliant all Asian cast, underlying IP thanks to Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name, and let’s not forget of course the fact that the movie is charming as hell! But what’s more, is CRA filling a void that audiences both on the big and silver screen aren’t getting enough of?
While cable and premium networks have helped usher in our current golden era of television, shows have taken viewers into the dark corners of storytelling. In our exploration of the dramatic and bleak situations of life and the gritty underworld of drugs, corruption, and greed, where has our lighter-hearted fare gone? While the tone and themes of shows like Ozark and Sharp Objects will continue for the foreseeable future, we may be seeing the early signs of audiences hungry to tap into those feel good vibes of love and laughter too.
Let’s bring in Netflix, whose seemingly bottomless pockets and precise viewer algorithms give them a crystal ball into content. While they continue to turn out shows of every genre under the sun, including their fair share of bleak and dreary dramas, they have quietly carved out a space for themselves in the rom-com arena. Let’s look at two recent releases, The Kissing Booth, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Again here we have two book adaptations (IP is king), that tap into the romantic musings of meet cutes and young love. While Netflix is notoriously tight-lipped about ratings, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told Vulture that The Kissing Booth is “one of the most-watched movies in the country, and maybe in the world.” What that means in terms of hard numbers is anyone’s guess, but looking at the tide of rom-com focused content Netflix has been releasing indicates this is just the beginning.
In August, Netflix released the film adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, another YA romantic comedy that while not necessarily driving as many headlines as CRA, has created very real buzz and hype amongst audiences. The film still boasts a #8 ranking on IMDb’s movie meter more than 3 weeks after its August 17th release. Fans have been raving on social media about it even embracing a brief cameo of the probiotic dairy drink Yakult that according to Bloomberg has helped lift Yakult’s stock price by approximately 2.6% since the film’s release. Both projects seem to be generating enough buzz and enthusiasm from fans to warrant a sequel, but without hard figures, it’s all up to Netflix.
Will the rom-com Renaissance come from more book-driven adaptations or is there hope for a resurgence in rom-com spec sales? After Crazy Rich Asians dominated the box office, New Line announced its purchase of Lillian Yu’s Chinese-centered rom-com spec “Singles Day”, which is derived from a longstanding Chinese holiday. While these projects certainly represent a growing trend, and with a crazy, rich sequel already on the horizon at Warner’s, will there be enough momentum to keep studios churning out more movies like these?
Only time will tell, but even if this ends up being just a passing trend, we’ll always be able look back and remember the summer romance of 2018.