The year of Disney dominance at the box office continues as the most anticipated sequel in their arsenal arrives to kick off the holiday movie season, kinda.
By Tim Briody
November 24, 2019
Late in the last decade, Disney had settled into a pattern of releasing an animated film around or on Thanksgiving weekend almost every year. Most of these you've forgotten, and include Bolt (let it begin!), The Princess and the Frog, and Tangled. They were okay performers, but the $200 million performance of Tangled in 2010 made people take notice that this plucky little company was onto something.
Wreck-It Ralph kicked off November in 2012, but it wasn't until 2013 that Frozen arrived over Thanksgiving. Taking the formula that worked for Tangled and applying it to the Hans Christian Anderson story The Snow Queen, Frozen opened to $67.3 million over the holiday weekend and a solid $93.9 million in its first five days. After surviving The Void, the holiday money train kicked in and despite opening at Thanksgiving, Frozen ended up the big winner of that December, even returning to the top spot in its sixth weekend. As "Let It Go" became ridiculously ubiquitous through the early part of 2014, Frozen continued to hold well through January, eventually ending up with a massive $400 million in box office before the end of its run. Frozen-mania continued throughout the year, as it earned Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song at that year's Oscars, and once it hit home video, millions of parents across the country were terrorized by "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" ad infinitum.
As with any runaway success, a sequel was inevitable, and given the lead time needed to produce an animated film, here we are six years later with Frozen II, getting a small promotion with the primo pre-Thanksgiving weekend slot.
The wait was worth it for the fans of the original, as Frozen II opens to a massive $127 million. It's the biggest debut for a Walt Disney Animation film and the third best animated opening of all time (behind The Incredibles 2 and Finding Dory). It's also the fifth biggest November weekend of all time, behind The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and three Twilight films. Ah, simpler times.
While nobody was exactly expecting Disney to recapture the magic of the first Frozen, they sure did try. Frozen II rated 75% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes (the first one earned 90%) and earned an A- CinemaScore, whereas Frozen of course earned an A+.
While it's certainly too early to tell whether Frozen II becomes a cultural phenomenon to the same level as Frozen did, this is certainly a good start, and given the incredibly light release schedule for the rest of the year as well as the state of box office in 2019, Frozen II stands a good chance of remaining in the conversation a month from now when we're looking at Christmas releases.
Last weekend's champ, Ford v Ferrari, drops 49% from opening weekend to $16 million. The probable Best Picture contender has $57.9 million after two weekends. Add in the overseas earnings and it's at $103 million, which is a few million more than its reported production budget. That bodes well for Fox (ahem Disney), but it needs a decent holiday weekend to cement the deal as far as whether it's a financial success.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood takes third place with $13.5 million. A biopic of Fred Rogers starring Tom Hanks, it's a potential Oscar contender for several categories, including Best Picture and of course for Hanks, but in the Supporting Actor category (Matthew Rhys plays the main role, as the film is based on a magazine writer's profile of Rogers later in his career, and finds his life impacted by the interview).
Critically acclaimed, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood rated 96% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, and while the box office figure feels underwhelming, especially in the shadow of Frozen II, the film only cost $25 million to make, which it will certainly have made back by next weekend.
21 Bridges is the weekend's third release, and it once again proves that just because you're in a Marvel movie, it doesn't make you a draw. Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman wasn't enough to get the cop thriller beyond $9.3 million. It wasn't reviewed well (45% Fresh) and that's absolutely key for this film to succeed, if that's even possible anymore. There was a reported $33 million budget, and I don't think STXEntertainment will see a return on that investment.
Midway adds $4.7 million in its third weekend and has $43.1 million to date. Still a way to go before making back its $100 million budget, which isn't going to happen.
Family comedy Playing With Fire earns $4.6 million and has $31.6 million after three weekends. The John Cena family film is trying to get what it can get at the box office before Jumanji takes the bulk of the family dollars in a few weeks. There should be an okay hold over the holiday weekend for those who don't have any interest in Frozen.
The Good Liar holds fairly well, dropping 40% to $3.3 million, though it has an anemic $11.7 million in two weekends. The Helen Mirren/Ian McKellen thriller is aimed squarely at older audiences, thus the best hold, such as it is, among the top ten films.
Charlie's Angels, on the other hand, sees the biggest drop this weekend with $3.1 million, down 62% from its opening weekend. With $13.9 million in two weekends, that's the nail in the coffin of this IP for a good long while, and perhaps forever.
Last Christmas loses a third of its screens and drops 53% to $3 million and has $27.7 million in three weekends. The holiday romcom was just a few weeks too early. Plus there's the Hallmark Channel for all your hokey holiday film needs, so why bother seeing this one?
Joker takes us home with $2.8 million in its eighth weekend and a still ridiculous $326.9 million to date. A billion worldwide? Sure, why not.
The top films this weekend earned $191.8 million. Frozen II made it a race, but it can't compete with last year's Thanksgiving releases, which earned $209 million, led by Ralph Breaks The Internet's $56.2 million and Creed II's $35.5 million. I'm pretty sure next weekend's comparison will go much better for 2019.
Thanksgiving brings us only two new releases, the critically acclaimed Knives Out with an ensemble cast, written and directed by Rian Johnson, plus Queen and Slim, a thriller starring Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out fame.