Disney’s upcoming animated film “Raya and the Last Dragon” will open as a premium video-on-demand release on Disney+ at the same time as its theatrical release on March 5, the company announced on Thursday.
The film was initially set for release in November 2020 but was moved to March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film now becomes the latest Disney release to jump from theaters to streaming, and follows the model in which the studio released its live-action remake “Mulan” last August: requiring consumers to pay a premium for access to the film on top of the basic monthly Disney+ subscription fee.
It is not immediately clear whether the film will be released at the $29.99 PVOD price point that “Mulan” was released on this past August.
But the company has not charged an additional fee on other films that it debuted on streaming after initially planning a theatrical release — including “The One and Only Ivan,” the Broadway hit “Hamilton” and Pixar’s “Soul,” which will be released on Disney+ at no extra charge on Christmas Day.
Disney also has not shared information on PVOD revenues for “Mulan,” which opened in theaters in markets where that was possible. According to Boxofficemojo, the film grossed a modest $67 million from about 20 markets — including a disappointing $40 million from China.
The “Raya” move comes as studios try to gauge the timetable of COVID-19 vaccination and recovery efforts over the course of 2021, with Warner Bros. moving all of its 2021 releases to a day-and-date strategy for both theaters and HBO Max. With vaccination efforts expected to take at least four months to reach the majority of the population, industry analysts expect a slow but steady resumption of the theatrical business over the course of Q2 2021.
With that in mind, Disney is opting to release “Raya and the Last Dragon” in theaters that have reopened in March with the option for home viewing for Disney+ subscribers through their Premium Access program.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” stars Kelly Marie Tran as a young warrior in the fantasy kingdom of Kumandra, who seeks to bring peace to her home by finding the last known shapeshifting dragon, played by Awkwafina. Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada are directing from a screenplay by Qui Nguyen and “Crazy Rich Asians” screenwriter Adele Lim.