As the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend winds to a close, Disney’s Frozen is freezing out the competition. Placing second for the extended weekend at the box office, both first place The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen beat the previous Thanksgiving box office record holder, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Within its own little world, Frozen blew away every previous record for an animated film opening from Disney. The animated musical grossed a gargantuan $26.9 million on Friday (this after earning $26.3 million on Wednesday and Thursday). The film will end at about $68 million over the weekend frame, which would give it about $97 million after its first five days in wide release.
Disney’s previous best opening for an animated film was last year’s Wreck-It Ralph, which came in at $49M. 2010’s Tangled opened in the same Thanksgiving holiday timeframe with a $48.8M weekend and $68.7M extended weekend holiday gross. Going back even further, The Princess and the Frog and a pre-twerk Miley Cyrus in Bolt barely opened to 24–26 million in early December 2009 and mid-November 2008, respectively.
Peaking over at what Pixar is able to do, we see that the little CG studio from Emeryville has always had a leg up on the parent company. This summer’s Monsters University opened with an astounding 82 million and 2012’s Brave about the same as Frozen with 66 million.
The growth in Disney’s animated box office is a welcome sign to the studio, and a direct result of John Lasseter’s great sense of the market. Frozen has traveled a troubled road to reach this milestone, with a director almost losing his job (instead of replacing Chris Buck outright, Lassiter just added writer Jennifer Lee as co-director to clean up the movie as best she could). Jennifer Lee also wrote last years Wreck-It Ralph. Whether at Pixar or now at Disney, John Lasseter really does seem to be able to deliver hits to the animation studios.