Box Office: 'Raya and the Last Dragon' No. 1 With Soft $8.6M Debut

Raya and the Last Dragon
Courtesy of Walt Disney

Several large theater chains refused to play the animated film after Disney declined to provide more generous terms in exchange for a day and day debut on Disney+ Premier Access.

Raya and the Last Dragon had no trouble topping the weekend box office, but couldn't match other studio family films that have played during the pandemic and despite movie theaters finally opening in New York City.

The Disney film, which earned glowing glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore, took in an estimated $8.6 million in its North American debut, compared to $14.1 million a week earlier for Warner Bros.' Tom & Jerry.

Part of the reason is likely due to the refusal of several key chains — including giant Cinemark Theatres— to carry the fantasy-adventure because they wanted more generous terms since Raya debuted simultaneously on Disney+ for $30.

AMC Theatres, the largest circuit in the U.S. and world, did play Raya. But Cinemark, the second-largest chain in the U.S. that's open, wanted a more generous split, similar to Warners Bros.' arrangement for its 2021 movies that are debuting day and date on HBO Max (including Tom & Jerry).

Overseas, Raya and the Last Dragon debuted to $17.6 million from 32 markets for a global bow of $26.2 million. China led with $8.4 million.

Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina lead a predominantly Asian-American voice cast in Disney's action-packed, Southeast Asian-inspired quest adventure about a young princess and a dragon.

Even if Raya underperformed expectations, the weekend was a milestone for Hollywood because of the reopening of New York City cinemas, which helped deliver strong numbers — at least in the pandemic era — for an array of films, something that hasn't happened in months.

Tom & Jerry fell to No. 2 with a sophomore haul $6.6 million for a domestic total of $23 million and $57.3 million globally.

Doug Liman's long-delayed dystopian action pic Chaos Walking (Lionsgate) opened to $3.4 million.

Focus Features' specialty pic Boogie followed with a debut of $1.2 million. The film symbolized the importance of the reopening of the New York market — 20 percent of the gross came from cinemas in the city, which is the second-largest moviegoing market in the country behind Los Angeles. Movie theaters in L.A. are expected to reopen in the coming days.

"The sheer number of newcomers collectively drove solid overall weekend numbers," says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore. "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."

Universal and DreamWorks Animation's The Croods: A New Age rounded out the top five in its 15th weekend with $780,000 for domestic total of $53.6 million and $157.7 million.

Award contender and specialty film Minari (A24) made headlines in South Korea with a debut of $2.2 million, almost double Raya's $1 million.