Crazy Rich Asians investor wants to show the world the new face of China’s wealthy young in sequel
Liu Yang, head of the China Cultural and Entertainment Fund, says the movie will show what young Chinese care about: electronics, the internet, AI and e-sports
The Chinese investor behind the production of the history-making Hollywood comedy Crazy Rich Asians will turn her attention to the lives of the country’s newly wealthy in a sequel to be set in Shanghai.
Liu Yang, head of the private equity fund China Cultural and Entertainment Fund (CCEF) which bought a stake last year in the movie’s producer SK Global, said she wanted the sequel to reflect what young Chinese care about – electronics, the internet, artificial intelligence and e-sports – to bring global audiences closer to the country’s newest and most dynamic generation.
“The sequel will truly come to China, and it has to reflect the new money. The first movie is about old money, the sequel is about new money,” Liu said in an interview.
“The sequel has to link to the fresh power in China, the new consumption, the new ideas. We may even rename it ‘Shanghai Rich Girlfriends’.”
She has agreed with John Penotti, president of SK Global, that she would be heavily involved in the sequel’s production right from the conception of the screenplay.
This is in contrast to a more passive role she took in the making of Crazy Rich Asians, as she said she “was not very interested” in Singapore, where the film was set.
With a budget of just US$30 million, Crazy Rich Asians – the first Hollywood film featuring an all-Asian cast in 25 years – has taken US$131 million in global box office sales since it was released in the US on August 15.
It topped the US box office for three straight weekends following its release, according to Box Office Mojo, a portal tracking ticket sales.
Based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, the film follows a young Chinese-American woman who travels to meet her boyfriend’s family and is surprised when she discovers they are among the richest in Singapore.
The novel’s initial success spawned two sequels: China Rich Girlfriend in 2015 and Rich People Problems in 2017.
However Liu acknowledged that investing in China’s film market was extremely risky, as only the top 10 per cent of the over 470 movies produced in the country each year broke even and only the top 1 per cent actually made big money.
Liu previously lost money on her investment in the Chinese film The Founding of an Army, which was commissioned by the government to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.
It failed at the box office largely due to a clash of schedules with the military action blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2, which became the top-grossing film of all time in China.
After working for the state-owned investment firm Citic Group in Australia, Liu took the helm of Atlantis Investment Management in 2009.
Its flagship Atlantis China Fund has recorded a 12.4 per cent annualised return rate since inception.
Liu later diversified into entertainment-focused private equity, founding CCEF with HK$1 billion (US$127.4 million) raised from her family and closest friends, and has invested in the film The Mermaid, China’s 2016 box office No 1, as well as its upcoming sequel.
SK Global was formed last March by a merger between Ivanhoe Pictures, which focuses on the Asian film market, and Hollywood studio Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.