Disney’s new warrior heroine has a tough fight on her hands, as Raya and the Last Dragon got a somewhat lukewarm welcome at the global box office. The Southeast Asia culture/folklore-inspired fantasy-adventure premiered Friday, March 5 in select theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access for a $30 digital rental fee. Happily, the pic has been well-received by critics, scoring a 95% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Domestically, the film earned $8.6 million at 2,045 theaters over the weekend — 41% under Tom & Jerry‘s $14.1M opening for Warner Bros. the previous weekend (the hybrid family comedy also launched free for subscribers on HBO Max) and less than the $9.7M three-day take for DreamWorks sequel Croods: A New Age (now sitting at a $157.7M global total). The title’s boycott by certain exhibitors, including Cinemark, over Disney’s decision to go day-and-date with an in-home release is one element at play … although the Mouse does get to keep all of that PVOD rental cheese.
Raya‘s international picture is a bit rosier. The new release scored $17.6M across 32 markets — a rare double-digit-millions pandemic opening. However, in China (the only fully operational major territory for theatrical releases), the film took in just $8.4M despite lots of positive buzz. Raya also did well in Russia (No. 1, $2.8M), Korea ($1M) and Japan ($700K), and hit No. 1 in Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Ukraine, U.A.E., Qatar, Oman, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Trinidad.
Besides the domestic PVOD option, facets in Raya‘s lower than expected pull posited by BO watchers include it being a non-franchise film lacking the built-in fan base and roiling anticipation of a Toy Story sequel, or a Marvel or Star Wars release — though the new pic’s China opening is 51% bigger than Pixar’s Soul, also a new IP, which nevertheless went on to become the studio’s second-highest-grossing release ever in the market.
Still, Disney’s willingness to break away from the studio-exhibitor status quo is raising concerns about the future, which Deadline‘s Anthony D’Alessandro goes into here.