A not-insignificant optimism is growing for movie theaters and studios after ten days of more positive developments than negative ones for the industry. Next, Disney is set to arrive with its first domestic theatrical release in a year as Raya and the Last Dragon hits an estimated 2,045 locations this weekend.
Consumer confidence is growing. New York City’s cinema re-opening is finally here (well-timed to coincide with Raya‘s this weekend), San Francisco was also allowed to restart its theaters this week, and Tom & Jerry‘s pandemic model-busting box office opening has provided a significant benchmark on the road to recovery.
All of these developments were welcomed by studios and movie theaters, eventually capped off by news that every adult in the country will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May (two months sooner than previously expected).
Make no mistake, though. Raya is still far from a normal big-studio release, and it will likely still take time for many audiences to return — whether by choice as they wait for new content and vaccines, or by lack of choice as they wait for their local markets (such as Los Angeles) to permit theatrical operations again.
The benefits for Raya may outstrip the disadvantages, though. Disney is a brand name that families have trusted for decades, and that’s an audience which will be crucial to long-term theatrical rebounds — as evidenced by Tom & Jerry‘s over-performance last weekend and the staying power of other family-friendly pics like The Croods: A New Age and The War with Grandpa.
Raya has also garnered an incredible 96 percent Rotten Tomatoes score from more than 150 critics. That suggests not just any old content is coming back to the big screen, but potentially crowd-pleasing fare that will contribute to the nascent momentum we’re beginning to see.
The question on everyone’s minds, though, is how many families will turn out when the film is also available on PVOD for an extra $30 charge to Disney+ subscribers?
There’s no clear answer, and pre-release tracking has never had to account for a situation quite like this. Granted, Warner Bros.’ pandemic experiment has produced a handful of films released under a hybrid strategy in the past two-plus months, but all were included with the price of an HBO Max subscription. Conversely, that platform’s user base is considerably smaller than that of Disney+, and certainly not as geared toward parents and kids as the Mouse House streamer.
Social media buzz has climbed steadily in recent weeks as Disney has spun up the marketing machine for Raya. The film isn’t far off the footprints of Tom & Jerry or The Croods: A New Age leading up to their respective openings, and YouTube trailer views are likewise comparable. Raya, for instance, has generated over 26 million views across Disney’s three official trailers on YouTube. Tom & Jerry scored over 17 million from one official studio trailer page prior to opening.
Another element to consider in projecting Raya will be the impact of private screen rentals, popular options among families during the pandemic due to affordable pricing and the promise of social distancing without the element of strangers to consider. Those rentals have proven to be a significant factor in the success of other family titles recently.
The other elephant in the room is the fact that certain theater chains, namely Cinemark, Harkins, and Cineplex, aren’t booking Raya due to stalled negotiations with Disney over terms for box office splits and the like. While eleventh-hour deals are possible, this remains the status quo as of Thursday evening when Raya is gearing up for its first shows.
Because of that development, and despite the addition of major markets like NYC and San Francisco to the theatrical landscape, Raya is lagging close to 25 percent behind the number of showtimes booked by Tom & Jerry one week ago (per The Boxoffice Company’s Showtimes Dashboard tracker).
With theaters holding onto the Warner Bros. pic as much as possible (it loses the premium screen benefit to this weekend’s openers), Raya has less than 1 percent more showtimes than Tom & Jerry during the coming weekend.
Translation: it could be a closer race than it really needs to be, but the estimated 430-theater gap between what Tom & Jerry debuted with and what Raya will receive this weekend could hold back the latter’s ability to achieve the same or higher numbers (assuming all else is one-to-one, which of course, it rarely is these days).
Based on current models, Raya looks likely to open in the $10 – 15 million range with the above notes driving expectations toward the more cautious lower end of that spread. As always in this unprecedented, there is room for both under- and over-performance.
Included in Raya‘s theatrical layout will be 200 IMAX screens, 360 Premium Large Format screens, 160 3D locations, and 45 D-Box / 4D screens. The film is sharing some of the IMAX and premium footprint with Chaos Walking (which also will be available on over 200 IMAX screens), Lionsgate’s young adult sci-fi pic starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland. That film opens in 1,980 locations this weekend and is likely to open in the more typical pandemic-era range of other decently marketed films that haven’t pushed far past the $3 -5 million weekend range.
Not to be overlooked, either, will be Focus Features’ Boogie, making a play in 1,252 locations in its debut.
This Weekend vs. Last Weekend
Boxoffice projects the market will increase 30 to 45 percent from last weekend when the top ten generated $19.7 million, led by Tom & Jerry‘s $14.1 million start and continued strong holdovers from most titles.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, March 7||Location Count||% Change from Last Wknd|
|Raya and the Last Dragon||Walt Disney Pictures||$12,000,000||$12,000,000||2,045||NEW|
|Tom & Jerry||Warner Bros. Studios||$7,400,000||$23,800,000||~2,475||-47%|
|The Croods: A New Age||Universal Pictures||$950,000||$53,800,000||1,604||-24%|
|The Marksman||Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment||$600,000||$13,100,000||1,050||-15%|
|The Little Things||Warner Bros. Studios||$590,000||$13,700,000||~1,100||-37%|
|Wonder Woman 1984||Warner Bros. Studios||$575,000||$44,400,000||~1,200||-18%|
|Monster Hunter||Sony / Columbia||$370,000||$14,500,000||1,074||-20%|
|Judas and the Black Messiah||Warner Bros. Studios||$350,000||$4,500,000||~1,000||-28%|
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of weekend estimates from studios or alternative sources.
Theater counts are updated as confirmed.
Forecasts above do not necessarily represent the top ten, but rather films with the widest theatrical footprint based on studio confirmations entering the weekend.
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