Did ‘Raya And the Last Dragon’ Sell 1.18 Million Copies in the U.S. on Its Opening Weekend?

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Let’s start with what question I’m NOT answering today:

Should Disney keep releasing films to “premier access”?

Ultimately, yeah, I want to answer that question. It’s really important. (For those who don’t know, Premier Access is the movies released at the same time as theaters that cost $30. I’ll call this PVOD, or premium video-on-demand, for the rest of the article.) Presumably, if we know how much money Raya and the Last Dragon made in PVOD, we’ll have an idea if Disney should release its future films on PVOD.

In addition to PVOD, we need to factor in different release styles, Covid-19 and the quality of the films that were released. There are so many variables to these release strategy equations, along with so few examples, that evaluating success would be more about justifying our prior beliefs than finding truth. 

What can I tell you? 

That I think Raya and the Last Dragon sold about 1.18 million units on its opening weekend, with a low end of 840K and a high of 1.48 million. Ultimately, that means I think it will make about $150 million in PVOD sales globally, in addition to $94 million in box office, with $32 million domestic.

That took a lot of math. Which I’ll explain. But before we can go forward, let’s go backwards.

How Many People Bought Mulan?

Given that the release of Mulan was so unique, multiple analytics/streaming measurement firms jumped into the fray to provide data about how many folks watched it. I summarized this in three articles last fall, ultimately landing (initially) on about 1.2 million folks ordering Mulan during its opening weekend. Here was a table that acted as a “poll of polls” on Mulan:

(Really, you should read all three articles on Mulan to understand how I work though a data problem like this and to learn about film economics.)

A few weeks later, Nielsen came out with their estimate, and it was notably higher. Using some calculations, like the number of people in the household and the completion rate, I came up with a range from 1.4 to 1.8 million people watching it, according to Nielsen. Combining the two, I’d say 1.2-1.8 million folks purchased Mulan on its opening weekend in the U.S.

That led to this projected revenue from the Disney Premier Access window for Mulan. This estimate includes the decay for the next two months, along with global purchases:

The Lack of Data for Raya and the Last Dragon

Because Mulan was so unique, lots of folks tried to figure out how many units it sold. And they told us publicly. Which meant I could make that kick butt analysis chart with several estimates.

Raya is no longer the shiny new release strategy on the block. Heck, Warner Bros. decided to release ALL their films to HBO Max. That’s the big headline now. And it meant way fewer people were paying attention to Disney’s PVOD ambitions. Also, each week new films are releasing in theaters. When Mulan released on Disney+, it almost had the theatrical calendar to itself.

Which meant that fewer firms leapt into the “How did Mulan do?” sweepstakes this time around. But not everyone, so we can take some stabs at the data. 

– First, Nielsen provides their weekly three top ten lists, which has been the most consistent and reliable data set I use. (In fact, I don’t mention data websites that don’t release regular data anymore to bias towards regular data releases.) 

– Second, Antenna also released an estimate of purchases by Raya. They have released a few charts of PVOD and TVOD sales since 2020, so we can use this to make estimates.

– Third, Google Trends is available.

Meanwhile, I scoured the interwebs for anyone else making estimates and couldn’t find any. Reelgood released a top opening weekends in film in Q1 2020, but Raya didn’t make the cut. As far as I can tell, Samba TV and 7Park didn’t provide updates either.

Luckily, three data sources is enough to make some estimates.

How Popular was Raya and the Last Dragon?

Um, middle of the road. As I wrote in my streaming ratings report yesterday, a good rule of thumb to determine if something is popular is whether it makes Nielsen’s combined “top ten” list for Nielsen. (Nielsen provides three separate top ten lists, sorted by Originals, Acquired and Films. I then combine them by total hours viewed into a refined top 30.) In terms of hours, Mulan was watched for 8.8 million hours during its opening weekend, but only 5.9 million hours for Raya and the Last Dragon.

You can see this in the Antenna data as well, which gives a good clue that both Nielsen and Antenna are measuring the same impact:

Finally, we can put these films into Google Trends as well. Again, similar story:

So Raya was a fine film. It was definitely not a blockbuster, but did just well enough that it probably isn’t a total flop. (Notably, for Disney, an “average” film is probably a flop for their expectations. But that’s because they are so far ahead in feature films.)

So How Many People Bought Raya and the Last Dragon?

To figure this out, first, I made a table comparing the estimates by their various different measurements:

For a simpler look, here are those numbers in percentage terms:

Google Trends is the outlier, and Antenna and Nielsen are extremely close in their estimates, which makes me trust them both more. If you take nothing else away from this, you can say, 

Raya was about 80% as popular as Mulan on PVOD.”

Lastly, using some math, I estimated the different potential units sold:

There is a lot of math on this, so some quick notes on my assumptions:

– I used both my 1.2 million and 1.8 million units sold for Mulan to estimate the sales for Raya. I used both because both are reasonable estimates. I trust Nielsen most as a data source, but I also trust the poll of polls. 

– For Google Trends and Antenna, I multiplied their percentages by both those numbers. That gets numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 above.

– For Nielsen, I did the same analysis as Mulan, dividing viewership by the length of the film, which helped Raya in this case. However, I think Raya as a kids film has a higher completion percentage than Mulan. Actually, it could be dramatically higher, given that kids watch films over and over. My completion percentage is 125% for the low case. It is 100% for the regular case. This gave numbers 4 and 5 above.

– For both Nielsen numbers, I used 2.25 as the number of viewers per household.

With that math in hand, it gave me these numbers for the potential revenue in PVOD for Raya and the Last Dragon, which you can compare to Mulan above. 

How Did Raya Do At the Box Office?

Lastly, Raya also came out in theaters. While Mulan made nothing at the domestic box office, Raya did okay and netted $93 million in its global run so far and $32 million at home. Here’s how that compares to other pandemic released titles, according to The Numbers:

IMAGE X - Theatrical

In Conclusion…

Those are the numbers. Again, what do they all mean? I’ll be honest, the initial draft of this article had, oh, a thousand extra words, and I still didn’t answer that question as well as I wanted. So I’ll have more to say in the future. But for now, we can say Disney again sold about a million units (plus or minus several hundred thousand) for its latest Premier Access title.

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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