Frozen II, starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, topped the Black Friday box office with a whopping $34.031 million (-18% from Thursday), continuing to show that folks were indeed very excited for the animated sequel but (comparatively speaking) were willing to see it with the kids “at some point” over what was essentially a ten-day opening holiday frame. We saw that with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (a $7.5 million opening day and a $195 million 14-day holiday sprint) in December of 2017, and with Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace in May of 1999 (a $105 million Wed-Sun debut and then a $66 million Fri-Mon Memorial Day weekend frame), and we may see something similar with Cats and The Rise of Skywalker next month.
The film now earned $236.354 million in North America, soon to best the unadjusted domestic earnings of every non-Pixar Disney toon save for Zootopia ($341 million in 2016), Frozen ($400 million in 2013/2014), The Lion King ($422 million, counting the 2011 reissue) and The Lion King ($543 million in 2019). Presuming the 36.3/63.7 domestic/overseas split from last weekend (when it opened with $130 million domestic and $228 million overseas) has held, Frozen II has earned around $651 million worldwide. So, yeah, it’ll probably pass $269 million domestic and $740 million worldwide by tonight. With a possible/likely $88.44 million Fri-Sun weekend (-32%) and $128.17 million, besting Catching Fire’s $73 million/$109 million Thanksgiving weekend haul, Frozen II will have around $292 million domestic (and around $800 million worldwide) by tomorrow night.
That will give it the 15th-biggest, sans inflation, ten-day total ever, above Finding Dory ($286 million toward a $486 million cume) and below Beauty and the Beast ($319 million/$504 million) and Incredibles 2 ($349 million/$608 million). As noted yesterday, it’s already Walt Disney Animation’s biggest-grossing theatrical sequel, ahead of Ralph Breaks the Internet ($529 million in 2018) and, uh, The Jungle Book 2 ($186 million in 2003), Peter Pan 2: Return to Neverland ($115 million in 2002), Fantasia 2000 ($90 million in 2000/2001) and Rescuers Down Under ($27 million). Unlike Pixar, Illumination or DreamWorks, Walt Disney Animation almost never makes theatrical sequels to their theatrical toons. Frozen II is a very rare thing by virtue of its existence, which only made it more unique within the marketplace.
They have, starting with The Return of Jafar in 1994, made plenty of direct-to-VHS or direct-to-DVD sequels to their animated theatricals. Both Jungle Book 2 and Return to Neverland originally began life as direct-to-DVD titles. For that matter, so too did, once upon a time, Pixar’s Toy Story 2 which was initially a home video release before they overhauled the film and made something worthy of wide theatrical release. You could say that decision was a game changer but, let’s be honest, it’s not like DreamWorks wasn’t going to make Shrek 2 after Shrek earned $484 million in the summer of 2001. And, yes, Frozen is one of the few recent Walt Disney Animation flicks that was huge/popular enough that it merited a theatrical sequel.
Since Frozen was not created as a franchise-starter, it has an advantage over many of the disappointing sequels we’ve seen of late. It only exists because of consumer demand, not because the studio wants to milk a once-successful IP or because certain filmmakers want to roll the dice again with their favorite franchise. The core appeal of Frozen was the character chemistry of Kristen Bell’s Anna and Idina Menzel’s Elsa, and the buzzy songs, so the film merely had to deliver that to please the fans and the crowds. While, I may take issues with the story/plot, the sequel works on a character-driven/emotional level, which is arguably more important if you must triage. In this sense, Frozen II = The Force Awakens (which I just rewatched two nights ago).
After Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die vacated for early 2020, Disney moved Frozen II to November 22. That was the launching pad for three (out of eight) Harry Potter films (Chamber of Secrets opened two weeks before Thanksgiving), all three Hunger Games sequels, four out of five Twilight movies and (thus far) the first two Fantastic Beasts flicks. We’d usually have the big fantasy launching on the pre-Thanksgiving frame and then a big (usually Disney) toon debuting over Thanksgiving. Frozen II became the big YA fantasy/adventure blockbuster AND the seasonal animated biggie of the moment, essentially canceling out its own competition. That Terminator: Dark Fate and Charlie’s Angels bombed also made Frozen II the only game in town for big-scale, female-led action/fantasy blockbuster thrills.
Frozen II is this year’s Hunger Games/Twilight/Harry Potter, the family-friendly Grinch (from 2000) and the court-appointed Disney toon (Moana, Coco, etc.) all wrapped up into one appealing package. It’s not unlike how Joker ended up playing the role in October/November of the big horror movie, the big adult-skewing prestige flick and the big franchise/comic book movie all in one. Canny scheduling and good fortune left Frozen II as the event film of the movie for nearly all demographics. So, it took a week, but I would argue that Frozen II is indeed a “breakout sequel,” with a ten-day wide release cume far surpassing the first Frozen’s $134 million “end of second weekend of wide release (Frozen opened at the El Capitan one weekend before it went wide) total.
Frozen’s second wide release weekend was in early December, but that was part of Disney’s diabolical plan. And even if it drops dead after Sunday, think The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I ($281 million total after a $220 million ten-day cume), well, we’re still talking about a toon that’ll earn well over $373 million domestic and (unless it crashes even harder overseas) over $1 billion worldwide. If the Twilight Saga sequels are the doom-n-gloom scenario, then The Grinch (1.87x its $137 million ten-day cume for a $260 million total) is the pie-in-the-sky scenario, one that would give Frozen II a $554 million domestic finish. Even post-Thanksgiving legs between Justice League (1.33x) and the first Twilight (1.6x) still gets Frozen II between $388 million and $469 million domestic.
Frozen II snagged the third-biggest animated opening of all time and will snag the biggest non-opening weekend ever for a toon, ahead of Incredibles 2’s $80 million second-weekend gross (from a $183 million debut). Frozen has the record for the biggest Thanksgiving debut ($67 million Fri-Sun/$93 million Wed-Sun), but now, as of tomorrow, Frozen II will best Catching Fire’s second weekend gross to snag the biggest Thanksgiving Fri-Sun and Wed-Sun gross ever. Even if it drops dead after Thanksgiving, and it might not since it’s the only “big” game in town until Jumanji: The Next Level on December 13, it’ll near $400 million domestic and probably cross $1 billion worldwide. Frozen II is a breakout sequel, even if it (to paraphrase the Dixie Chicks) took the long way around.