"Raya and the Last Dragon' (Photo: © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.)

Cinemas should have scored a significant boost last weekend, with two major releases in the way of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Roadshow’s Chaos Walking. Yet exhibitors report softer starts for both titles than they hoped for.

Directed by Carlos López Estrada and Don Hall, Raya topped the box office earning $1.5 million from 379 screens.

That’s a reasonable result for the COVID-era, but an animated Disney title would typically expect to open on much more. By way of comparison, Universal’s Croods: A New Age opened on $6.5 million across the Boxing Day weekend – that’s during COVID.

In the US, where New York’s cinemas recently reopened, Raya debuted theatrically on a similarly disappointing $US8.6 million.

It’s hard to know how much Raya‘s box office was impacted by the film’s simultaneously global release on Disney+; in Australia it’s priced at $34.99.

Set in a fantasy world of Kumandra, the film follows the titular warrior Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), who is determined to find the last dragon (Awkwafina) who will help her restore the fractured land and its divided people.

Some exhibitors are hopeful it will pick up the pace, with Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell observing: “It seems it will take a little more to lure families to the cinema so far out from school holidays, but we hope it will run well through Easter alongside Peter Rabbit and Tom and Jerry.”

Roadshow’s Chaos Walking, from director Doug Liman, notched $1.2 million from 388 screens.

Based on author Patrick Ness’s sci-fi books, which he adapted for screen with Christopher Ford, the dystopian actioner depicts a world where there are no women, and all living creatures can hear each other’s thoughts.

When a woman (Daisy Ridley) crashes onto the planet, a young man (Tom Holland) must help her escape his town’s villainous sheriff (Mads Mikkelsen).

Reportedly costing $US100 million, Chaos Walking been critically panned, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 23 per cent. In The States, it opened on just $3.8 million.

The weekend’s other significant new release was Oscar favourite, Disney’s Nomadland, from writer-director Chloé Zhao, hitting cinemas fresh from two Golden Globe wins.

The drama, which stars Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves home to travel around the American West, opened on $302,121 from 89 screens. That is an average of $3,395 per screen; the second best of the weekend behind Raya.

The title was no. 1 for Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, the first time in nearly 10 weeks that a film has beaten Robert Connolly’s The Dry, reports GM Alex Temesvari.

Overall the top 20 titles amassed $5.8 million, or 3 per cent up on the previous, according to Numero. In Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, today is a public holiday, so cinemas in those states are hoping for further turnout as audiences enjoy a long weekend.

Behind Raya and Chaos Walking was Warner Bros.’ The Little Things, which picked up $630,467 in its third frame, advancing to $4 million. Australia is the second highest grossing market for the Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto crime drama, second only to North America.

Last week’s no. 1, Madman’s Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train fell a staggering 70 per cent in its second frame to earn $564,342, taking it to a cume of $2.8 million.

Now 10 weeks in, Roadshow’s The Dry sits on $19.4 million after earning another $374,712 over the weekend, a drop of just 15 per cent – speaking to the film’s remarkable legs.

In its second frame, Rialto’s actioner Boss Level, starring Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts and Mel Gibson, notched $240,595, advancing to $777,371.

Fellow Watts-starrer, Roadshow’s local drama Penguin Bloom, brought in $147,992 over its seventh weekend, seeing it cross the $7 million mark.

Icon Films’ starry drama Blackbird, which boasts Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Sam Neill and Mia Wasikowska, took $143,496 in its second orbit, standing now on $497,245.

Rounding out the top 10 was another Oscar favourite, Madman’s Minari, winner of last week’s Golden Globe for Foreign Language Film. After collecting $132,612 over its third weekend, the Korean-American family drama advances to $719,530.

Of the other Australian titles in release, Madman’s High Ground now stands on $2.7 million after six weeks; Studiocanal’s Long Story Short $719,518 after four and Icon’s doco Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra $168,575 after three.

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  1. Raya’s poor performance is not unexpected. Considering a new mega multiplex made up of everyone’s living room just opened. Disney+. And at an, in general, lower price. They likely supressed the result by 50%. Still, as an exhibitor I still hope it gets reasonable traction over the holidays. As really, its the parents who want a day out, and don’t care about what film it is.. I expect the film to hold into the holiday period (I hope.)

    Still, the big message from these results is that, as expected, date-of-release simultaneous streaming has a massive effect of theatrical box office. If this was to become the new normal, Australia will need to reduce its screens by about the same amount (50%) to stay commercial.

    With all major studios have committed to 30-45 days windows after COVID, we can expect a 20-50% contraction required to maintain commercial viability for theatrical. Just exactly how much we need to contract will take a year or so to work its way though as people adopt new behaviours based on the shorter windows and streaming focus of the studios.

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