How Disney's ‘Frozen’ Turned Into a $500 Million Box-Office Avalanche (Video)

No competition, spot-on marketing and a movie that critics and audiences love adds up to a Disney smash

“Frozen” has become a force of nature at the box office, and on Monday crossed the $500 million mark globally.

The 3D animated film from Disney Animation was edged out for the top spot over the long Christmas weekend by “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” — but no one at the studio was disappointed.

That's in part because they remember that “Frozen” was beaten out over the long Thanksgiving weekend, too. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and Disney's tale of Anna and Elsa combined to drive a record holiday weekend, with the $93.6 million debut by “Frozen” topping that of “Toy Story 2” and “Tangled.”

And it's shown remarkable staying power since then.

The $28.6 million fifth-weekend showing by “Frozen” was up a whopping 47 percent from the previous week, a feat that has been topped only twice before – by “Avatar” ($42.8 million) and “Titanic” ($30 million), according to Box Office Mojo.

Also read: ‘Hobbit’ Holds Off ‘Frozen’ as Nail-Biter Caps Record 2013 at Box Office

“Frozen” topped $250 million mark at the domestic box office Monday, and is on the way to $300 million.

Its overseas numbers are impressive, too. It brought in $50.5 million over the weekend and with about three quarters of its run complete, it's over $250 million abroad as well. China and Japan are still to come for “Frozen,” which was produced by Peter Del Vecho (“The Princess and the Frog”) on a budget of $150 million.

What's driving it?

Mainly, it's that critics and audiences love it. It has an 89 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and received a rare “A+” CinemaScore. Several critics compared it to earlier Disney classics, and TheWrap's Alonso Duralde called it the best animated Disney musical since “Beauty and the Beast.”

Like “The Little Mermaid,” it's loosely based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen.”

It follows fearless optimist Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell), who teams up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) in an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, who wrote the screenplay, directed the film and the husband-and-wife s team of Robert Lopez ad Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote the songs.

The marketing has been on the money, taking full advantage of the Disney brand with the Thanksgiving launch and playing on its connection to another Disney Animation hit, 2011's “Tangled.” It also played up the fun – hello Olaf, you silly snowman – and the protagonists’ family ties. In earlier iterations, the Snow Queen was a flat-out villain, rather than a troubled sis.

Also read: John Lasseter, Disney Legends Celebrate 90 Years – and Campaign for ‘Frozen’

The advertising also tied it to 2012's “Wreck-It-Ralph,” another Disney Animation movie that clicked with kids and adults. A minor flap over an animator's comments regarding crafting female characters melted away quickly.

“Frozen” has benefited greatly from having the family field largely to itself. “Free Birds” was largely played out by Thanksgiving, and “Walking With Dinosaurs” failed to connect, so “Frozen” has had two unencumbered holiday runs.

That's not changing anytime soon. The next animated family film scheduled is Open Road's “The Nut Job” on Jan. 17.

Five Christmas Day wide openers couldn't keep “Frozen” from battling for the top spot, and this weekend's new entry, Paramount's horror film “Paranorma Acitvity: The Marked Ones,” isn't kids stuff. So don't be surprised if Anna and Elsa are up there with Bilbo Baggins again.

  • Cal P

    How about an 800 million box office…tsunami?

  • haanames

    Funny cuz it's about to hit $400 million domestic, $1 billion worldwide, highest grossing animated movie…etc. Who'd think a couple months ago it'd do whats its done?