September 6, 2021
by Suzanne Joe Kai
I invited a friend to join me to see SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, the Marvel Studios movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton on its opening weekend.
Like many Asian Americans I know, we are starved with the lack of faces who look like us in mainstream movies.
We were not disappointed. In fact, the lead actor, Simu Liu, the first Asian to star in a Marvel Studios movie looked, talked, and acted just like an Asian American born and raised in the U.S. In fact, even though Simu sounded and acted just like one of us born in America, he was raised in Canada, and born in Harbin, China. He has succeeded in breaking through all boundaries in reaching North American audiences.
The ensemble cast was also terrific. Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Tsai Chin, Fala Chen, Meng'er Zhang, Ronny Chieng, the whole cast was great - listed here on IMDB.
The box office gross for SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS opened strong.
Associated Press reported forecasts predicting a $50 million box office estimate over the Labor Day weekend taking into account that we are in a Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead it smashed that forecast reporting an estimated $71.4 Million in ticket sales.
I attended a meeting at the Writers Guild of America in Hollywood a few years earlier to hear a researcher from Nielsen present findings on the potential of a "sleeper market" - the Asian American movie-goer market.
For years, the researcher explained that because the Asian American market is highly segmented and therefore harder to track due to the many ethnicities within the term "Asian American" such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Filipino, etc.
In studying the Asian American market as a whole, she said it is the fastest-growing multicultural group in America.
The Nielsen researcher urged all of us at the Writers Guild meeting to move ahead as quickly as possible with our screenplays and our films with Asian American characters.
The researcher estimated at that time that the overall Asian American consumer market was worth $1.2 trillion.
Nielsen's research premise was right. CRAZY, RICH ASIANS, and the recent SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS brought out this untapped "sleeper" movie-goer market - with those of us Asian Americans starved for movies featuring people who look like us! Nielsen's estimate for 2024 is now $1.6 trillion!
Shang-Chi Poster Credit: Marvel Studios
The author of this article, Suzanne Joe Kai, has completed her award-winning feature documentary film LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES about Rolling Stone's legendary writer and first music editor. She is in talks with prospective distributors now to distribute it to wider audiences. Update: On January 17, 2022 The Writers Guild of America nominated her film for Best Documentary Screenplay. Future Updates will be posted at: LikeARollingStoneMovie.com and on Facebook @LikeARollingStone
@SuzanneJoeKai Twitter (just launched 2022)