Movie theaters are reopening in New York City — some of them anyway. And to 25% capacity. Vaccination levels are exceeding estimations from January and now we have been told that vaccines will be available for every American by the end of May. Normalcy is seemingly coming and people can sense it, especially those at the movie studios who continue to make schedule moves. The waters are being tested. After the numbers posted by Tom & Jerry last week does the performance of Raya and the Last Dragon tell us anything more? Well, yes. And no.
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture)
Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is yet another test of the theatrical/streaming model. Back in September the studio tried Mulan on for size with its Premier Access pricing on Disney+. The result was not nearly as lucrative as they had hoped and it surely has been a factor in the way they have weathered the storm with the release of Black Widow, still scheduled for May 7 in theaters.
Mulan only played overseas in theaters and the response to the film was mixed in general (it’s Certified Fresh on the Tomatometer but has a Rotten Audience Score of 49%). So we did not have quite the same measuring stick of a day-and-date release with streaming on top of theatrical. That changed with the Warner Bros./HBO MAX deal and began with Wonder Woman 1984 over Christmas weekend. That film opened to $16.7 million over the holiday with COVID spikes still raging and an option to sit at home comfortably with a HBO MAX subscription for the cost of less than a single ticket price in some markets. That film went on to gross $44 million to date (with another $117 million internationally) and is the third-highest grossing film U.S. theaters have had since last March.
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
The same studio’s delayed Tenet grossed $57.9 million and The Croods: A New Age has grossed over $53.6 million and most of that actually came after it hit VOD on its 24th day of release. It grossed $25.02 million in theaters up to that point. Flash-forward to last weekend – the first non-holiday weekend since March 13-15, 2020, to post an overall gross of over $20 million, and just the third overall, when Tom & Jerry opened to $14.1 million. That was the second-best opening of that timespan to Wonder Woman 1984’s $16.7 million. (Tenet’s $20.2 million also included previews from Tuesday and Wednesday of earlier that week.) That means despite the availability of the HBO MAX option, folks still opted to give those films the best openings of the pandemic era. This brings us to the latest family offering from Disney.
Disney – and, frankly, the whole industry – would have loved to have seen a $20 million opening for Raya and the Last Dragon. Even just a few million above Tom & Jerry would have sufficed – something to show that, as vaccinations increase and major markets begin to open again, the numbers are headed in the right direction. An $8.6 million start is not what anyone had hoped. After all, a $30 premium price tag at home is double what a month’s subscription to HBO MAX costs and Tom & Jerry opened around 70% higher just a week earlier. (Par for the course, Disney has not released any figures on Raya’s streaming performance.) Sure, Tom & Jerry is an established property over the new world-building of Raya, which also opened in 400 fewer theaters, partially thanks to Disney unable to come to terms with bookings at Cinemark, but can it still be spun as a positive?
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
Another way to look at it is simply within the numbers produced by a similar theater output. Tom & Jerry opened in 2,475 theaters with a $5,701 per-theater-average. Here are the best openings for films opening between 2,400-2,500 theaters from 2010-2020: Into the Woods ($31.05 million), Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27.06), All Eyez On Me ($26.43), Heaven is For Real ($22.50), Legion ($17.50), Death at a Funeral ($16.21), The Crazies ($16.06), Den of Thieves ($15.20), Tom & Jerry ($14.11), Nobody’s Fool ($13.74).
Not bad considering Tom & Jerry opened with theaters operating at minimal capacity and none opened in New York City. The animated/live-action hybrid grossed another $6.6 million this weekend. That’s a 53% drop from its opening. The WB/HBO MAX hybrid releases, Wonder Woman 1984 and The Little Things dropped 67.1% and 55.3%, respectively, in their second weekends, so those numbers are headed in the right direction for WB. Tom & Jerry’s total stands at $22.9 million, just behind The New Mutants’ $23.8 million gross – the fourth-highest during the pandemic.
Now let’s look at Raya and the Last Dragon, which opened in 2,045 theaters with an estimated $4,205 per-theater-average, and the films from 2010-2020 that also opened between 2,000-2,100 theaters: Think Like a Man ($33.63 million), The Best Man Holiday ($30.10), Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor ($21.64), Tyler Perry’s Acrimony ($17.17), Jumping the Broom ($15.21), Super Troopers 2 ($15.18), Harriet ($11.67), Annihilation ($11.07), The Hundred-Foot Journey ($10.97), Cloud Atlas ($9.61), Baggage Claim ($9.03), The Witch ($8.80), Raya and the Last Dragon ($8.6), The Switch ($8.43), Black and Blue ($8.37), Wanderlust ($6.52).
It’s a little bit further down the list, but again, theaters are mostly working with 25% capacity on the nearly one-year anniversary of the worst pandemic in 100 years. Raya and the Last Dragon is only the fifth film to open in over 1,000 theaters during this time to post a per-theater-average over $4,000. In normal times that would be a disaster. Now, it’s a hopeful sign that we have had that happen two weeks in a row. That’s where we are. In a week-by-week game now seeking the signs that normalcy is coming and each week shall be judged accordingly.
(Photo by © Lionsgate)
Family films and wannabe blockbusters are the only films garnering moviegoer’s interest enough right now to get them to leave the house. Chaos Walking may have once believed itself to be the latter, but it was not to be. In a glass-half-full way of thinking, $3.8 million is the fourth best opening of 2021 behind Tom & Jerry, Raya and the Last Dragon, and The Little Things ($4.7 million), but that’s with a $100 million price tag and no streaming profits to think of yet. The basketball drama, Boogie, had the sixth best opening of the year behind those four films and Liam Neeson’s The Marksman ($3.1 million), starting with just $1.2 million.
(Photo by @ Universal)
March 5: Two years ago, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World grossed $2.6 million on this day to cross the $100 million mark on its 12th day of release. A big record was broken in 2010 when Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland posted the highest Friday opening ever in the month of March with a $40.8 million start. That bested the three-year record of Zack Snyder’s 300, which opened to $28.1 million. Alice lost the record two years later to The Hunger Games and currently ranks fifth behind that, Batman v Superman, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, and Captain Marvel.
March 6: The only major milestone crossed on this day also occurred in 2010 when The Blind Side grossed $636,218 on day 107 of its release to cross the $250 million line. Sandra Bullock had won the Oscar for her performance just one week earlier.
March 7: In 2017, The Lego Batman Movie made $820,416 to pass $150 million at the box office on its 26th day. It was also the day that Alice In Wonderland became the first film ever in March to gross over $100 million in its opening weekend. Its $116.1 million remains the fifth best opening ever in this month.
Raya and the Last Dragon was originally supposed to open over the Thanksgiving holiday last year on November 25. Originally, we were supposed to get the fourth entry in the Jackass film series and a different Tom Holland science-fiction epic in Uncharted. Jackass 4 is now slated to arrive on September 3 and the video game adaptation is now charted for February 11, 2022.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]