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Thanksgiving Box Office: Anna and Elsa Are No Match for Woody and Buzz

‘Frozen II’ seems to have broken Thanksgiving box office records, but a previous Disney animated sequel is still on top.
Anna And Elsa
By  · Published on December 2nd, 2019

Congrats seem to be in order for Disney this week, for yet another milestone. But not so fast! Frozen II may have grossed more money than any other movie ever during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. The sequel took in another $125 million since Wednesday, and that is numerically higher than The Hunger Games: Catching Fire‘s figure of $109.9 million back in 2013. However, that wasn’t technically the Turkey time ticket sales champ, so the Frozen feat is hardly that noteworthy — don’t worry, Disney will be fine.

The true Thanksgiving five-day weekend record older is actually Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 2, which sold about 15.8 million tickets during the holiday break back in 1999. Frozen II only pulled in an audience of 13.9 million. At least Frozen II has sold more tickets in its first 10 days now than Toy Story 4 did earlier this year (31.9 million vs. 26.5 million). And more than Toy Story 3 did in its first 10 days (28.8 million) in 2010. It did better than Toy Story 2‘s first 10 days, too, but that was mostly because its first five were spent on only one screen.

Frozen II isn’t the second-best Thanksgiving weekend performer, either. That would be another movie about a young magical hero: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The first installment of the Harry Potter series was enormous out of the gate, and the five-day frame was actually the adaptation’s second weekend. Fans continued to flock, many probably their second and third, etc., time, to the tune of 14.6 million people. And The Sorcerer’s Stone sold 33 million tickets in its first 10 days compared to Frozen II‘s 32.1 million.

Here’s a look at where Frozen II falls in the top 12 for Thanksgiving five-day ticket sales (* refers to movies opening that Wednesday before the holiday):

1. Toy Story 2 (1999): 15.8 million
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001): 14.6 million
3. Frozen II (2019): 13.9 million
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): 13.6 million
5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013): 13.5 million
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005): 12.7 million
7. Frozen (2013): 11.5 million
8. Back to the Future Part II* (1989): 10.8 million
9. 101 Dalmatians* (1996): 10.2 million
10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014): 10.1 million
11. A Bug’s Life (1998): 9.8 million
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010): 9.5 million

Two things are evident in the above figures. One is that Queen Elsa and co. are a match for Harry Potter and co. when you compare Frozen II to Harry Potter 4 and Harry Potter 7. Maybe the other Harry Potter sequels, as well, but they didn’t open around the Thanksgiving holiday so it’s not relevant. Right? Well, Chamber of Secrets sold 25.5 million tickets in 10 days, Prisoner of Azkaban sold 25.4 million, Goblet of Fire did 31.4 million, Order of the Phoenix did 27 million, Half-Blood Prince did 26.8 million, Deathly Hallows 1 did 27.8 million, and Deathly Hallows 2 did 34.5 million. Only the first and last did better than Frozen II.

We also see in the chart how much better Frozen II is performing compared to the original. That’s natural, and the sequel does seem to have some legs despite the uncertainty on my part last week. The first movie only sold about 11.6 million tickets in its first 10 days. However, that movie spent half the time on only one screen. Still, the first 10 wide-release days amounted to only about 13.5 million. Because the original was such a surprise phenomenon and wound up with a lot of staying power in theaters, comparing the first and sequel will be best left till their final numbers are available.

What’s also interesting about the holiday week of Frozen is that 2013 is the only year with two titles on the chart, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire being the other one. The estimated movie attendance for the five-day holiday frame in 2013 for all movies out that week is 35.6 million people. This year’s estimated movie attendance for the same period is only 28.7 million. That’s way down from last year, too, when the combination of new releases Ralph Breaks the Internet, Creed II, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald helped ticket sales reach 34.6 million.

Here’s a look at how bad Thanksgiving weekend attendance was this year compared to the rest of the decade:

2019: 28.7 million
2018: 34.6 million
2017: 29.8 million
2016: 30.1 million
2015: 30.5 million
2014: 27.8 million
2013: 35.6 million
2012: 36.4 million
2011: 28.4 million
2010: 32.7 million

So this was the worst year for the holiday since 2014, when the big openers were The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Penguins of Madagascar. The latter came in second place and did about 4.3 million tickets, compared to this week’s number two, Knives Out, which did about 4.6 million (Rian Johnson’s best non-Star Wars debut). This year was also better than 2011 when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and The Muppets were new. Apparently it’s not usually a good time for movies that are part one of a two-part finale. Presumably, 2010, year of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, would have been another bad holiday were it not for Tangled also opening the same time.

Here are the holiday 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 – 13.9 million (32.1 million)
2. Knives Out – 4.6 million (4.6 million)
3. Ford v Ferrari – 2.1 million (9 million)
4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – 1.9 million (3.8 million)
5. Queen & Slim – 1.8 million (1.8 million)
6. 21 Bridges – 0.9 million (2.1 million)
7. Playing with Fire – 0.67 million (4.4 million)
8. Midway – 0.63 million (5.6 million)
9. Last Christmas – 0.32 million (3.5 million)
10. Joker – 0.31 million (36.7 million)
11. Harriet – 0.28 million (4.4 million)
12. The Good Liar – 0.24 million (1.7 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.