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‘Frozen II’ Box Office: A Less Than ‘Incredible’ Domestic Debut

Disney’s highly anticipated sequel couldn’t break any significant records at home but did triumph overseas.
By  · Published on November 25th, 2019

There was no way that Frozen II would bomb at the box office. But such an anticipated sequel ought to have had a bigger opening weekend here at home. Disney’s fairytale follow-up debuted with almost double the gross of Frozen‘s first wide-release weekend back in 2013. Domestic attendance for the sequel, though, was on the lower end of expectations.

The first movie wasn’t an immediate phenomenon. By the end of its first 10 days (including five days in limited release, then a wide Wednesday expansion followed by Thanksgiving, then its first wide weekend), Frozen had sold about 11.6 million tickets domestically. Frozen II has already sold 14.1 million (for a gross of $127 million) in its first three days. That did exceed Disney’s own low-ball forecast.

According to Bloomberg, the studio anticipated at least an audience of at least 11 million strong ($100 million gross), while the experts at Exhibitor Relations predicted a slightly higher figure equivalent to 12.5 million ($113 million) and Box Office Pro tossed out a number corresponding to 14.4 million ($130 million). The latter had somewhat lower expectations two months ago, but they also claimed Frozen II could reach an attendance of about 16 million ($145 million). Their final forecast last week upped that potential highpoint to 17.8 million ($160 million).

And why not? By the end of its domestic run in the summer of 2014, Frozen had a domestic total of about 49 million tickets sold ($400.7 million gross) and a worldwide box office gross of $1.3 billion. The movie’s wide opening weekend gross only amounted to 16.8 percent of its domestic total. That’s some legs. As an anticipated sequel, Frozen II is likely to be more frontloaded, and while it could be plenty popular for some staying power, with less-positive reviews (75% vs 90% on Rotten Tomatoes; 65 vs 74 on Metacritic) and a lesser grade via Cinemascore (A- vs A+), the second movie doesn’t sound like as big a deal as the first.

Pop culture phenomenons don’t necessarily translate to the biggest box office. Technically, Disney’s own The Lion King remake from this year broke the record for an animated feature debut with 21.3 million tickets sold in its first three days. And last year’s Incredibles 2 opened to the tune of 20.1 million people. While Frozen II did break the record for Walt Disney Animation Studios (that doesn’t include Pixar titles), it comes in sixth place for all animated feature openings, per the following chart based on ticket sales:

1. The Lion King (2019): 21.3 million
2. Incredibles 2 (2018): 20.1 million
3. Shrek the Third (2007): 17.7 million
4. Shrek 2 (2004): 17.4 million
5. Finding Dory (2016): 15.6 million
6. Frozen II (2019): 14.1 million
7. Toy Story 3 (2010): 14 million
8. Minions (2015): 13.7 million
9. Toy Story 4 (2019): 13.4 million
10. The Secret Life of Pets (2016): 12.1 million

The new sequel did manage to pull ahead over those first three days. On Friday, its attendance was 4.6 million, which was below even Minions (5.5 million), Toy Story 4 (5.3 million), and Toy Story 3 (5.2 million). Its Saturday attendance was up to 5.5 million compared to Toy Story 3‘s 4.7 million, Minions‘ 4.6 million, and Toy Story 4‘s 4.4 million. Then on Sunday, its 3.9 million tickets sold topped Toy Story 4 (3.8 million) and Minions (3.7 million) but not Toy Story 3 (4.1 million).

Frozen II can celebrate having the best global opening ever for an animated feature with $350 million. The previous record-holder was this year’s The Lion King with $246 million, followed by this year’s Toy Story 4 with $245 million and last year’s Incredibles 2 with $236 million. Of course, international figures are arbitrary as movies don’t open in all or the same markets all the time, and we also can’t break such figures down by ticket sales. Frozen II opened in more territories all at once than The Lion King, for instance, which debuted overseas earlier than in the US.

Considering that the first Frozen only had a worldwide debut of $67 million, Disney could be looking at the sequel topping the original globally even if not domestically. At the moment, Frozen is the second-highest-grossing animated feature of all time worldwide, behind the remake of The Lion King. Considering nothing else has topped the 2013 movie since, not even Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, or Toy Story 4, there’s no reason for any concern about Frozen II opening domestically on the low-end. The sequel will triumph internationally.

Here are the weekend’s top 12 domestic release titles by the estimated number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Frozen II – 14.1 million (14.1 million)
2. Ford v Ferrari – 1.8 million (6.4 million)
3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – 1.5 million (1.5 million)
4. 21 Bridges – 1.03 million (1 million)
5. Midway – 0.52 million (4.8 million)
6. Playing with Fire – 0.51 million (3.5 million)
7. The Good Liar – 0.37 million (1.3 million)
8. Charlie’s Angels – 0.35 million (1.5 million)
9. Last Christmas – 0.34 million (3.1 million)
10. Joker – 0.31 million (36.3 million)
11. Harriet – 0.26 million (4 million)
12. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – 0.22 million (12.1 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo and its hidden archives.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.