In one of the most action-packed theatrical weekends since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March, Raya and the Last Dragon topped the domestic box office with $8.6 million, beating out Lionsgate's Chaos Walking by about $5 million.
While this figure is considerably lower by pre-health crisis standards, it should be noted that the film (helmed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada) is also available to Disney+ subscribers for a one-time "Premier Access" fee of $29.99. Disney may eventually release streaming numbers, but for now, it's unclear how many households didn't to stream to movie in favor of braving a local theater. Internationally, the animated fantasy feature did much better, raking in $26 million for a global bow of $34.6 million. Not a bad haul for an opening weekend in the current times, but not great either, especially since high-end animated projects come with a price tag of around $100 million, writes Variety.
Heavily inspired by the rich cultures of Southeast Asia, Raya follows a young princess and warrior (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) who must locate the titular last dragon (Awkwafina) in an effort to save the divided kingdom of Kumandra.
“There were a lot of conversations in the beginning about wanting to make sure that this was a character that we had never seen before,” Tran told SYFY WIRE at a virtual press junket ahead of the film’s debut. “This is a very different type of hero, a very different type of princess."
The family-friend feature — which currently holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes — also features the voices of Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy), Alan Tudyk (Resident Alien), Gemma Chan (Captain Marvel), Izaac Wang (Good Boys), and Thalia Tran (Little).
As mentioned above, Raya beat out Chaos Walking, which also hit theaters this weekend. The long-delayed sci-fi film (directed by Edge of Tomorrow's Doug Liman) took third place at the North American box office with $3.8 million. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie's internationally tally stands at $730,117. Set on a planet where male thoughts physically manifest themselves for all to see, Chaos Walking stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Demián Bichir (Alien: Covenant), Cynthia Erivo (The Outsider), Nick Jonas (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), and David Oyelowo (Selma).
Adapted by Patrick Ness from his own series of best-selling sci-fi novels, the release was not well-received by critics and currently holds a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nevertheless, it's nice and to see a genre-based showdown on the big screen after nearly a year of very little fresh content. In short, it inspires hope for the future of in-person screenings, even if the North American numbers continue to remain low.
"In the 13 years since the book came out, we've had story after story about how women are not listened to," Ness said during an interview with SYFY WIRE. "In this movie, they are effectively silent, and that has driven some men completely crazy because if you're pushing your own image of what a woman is onto a woman and not listening to them as a separate human being, that's the first step to dehumanization. It's an easy step to misogyny, which is an easy step to genocide. It's not as long a road as it very much should be."
After surpassing financial expectations last weekend with almost $14 million, Warner Bros.' Tom & Jerry fell to $6.6 million in its second frame, placing it just below Raya and taking its domestic haul to $23 million. The live-action/animated hybrid project has made $11.6 from 36 other global markets, boosting the worldwide box office figure to $57.3 million. Like all of WB's major releases this year, Tom & Jerry is available to stream on HBO Max for the next month.
Lastly, The Croods: A New Age remained a top contender with another $780,000, boosting its Stateside cache to $53.6 million. Globally, the animated sequel is on the verge of breaking $160 million, making it one of the few true successes of the pandemic.
Overall, the North American theatrical industry had its best weekend since theater locations shut down almost a year ago with an estimated $25 million, writes The Hollywood Reporter. That's due, in part, to New York City and Bay Area theaters being allowed to resume operations this weekend, albeit with reduced capacity. Both New York and California serve as the backbone for the entire U.S. box office.
"Perhaps this could be interpreted as a turning point for the industry and a most welcome sign of the big screen recovery in-progress," Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian told the trade outlet. "Fortunately movies this weekend drove solid overall numbers with Raya and the Last Dragon, Chaos Walking, and Boogie, along with holdovers, bringing in a collectively impressive box office total of over $25 million," he continues. "This is arguably the first 'normal' weekend since the start of the pandemic, benefiting from a combination of an appealing big screen lineup that drove a strong frame despite only 45 [percent] of theaters currently open in North America."
(SYFY WIRE & DreamWorks Animation are both owned by NBCUniversal)