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Like a warm summer day, Frozen II is here to thaw the frosty fall box office. Unlike other recent sequels and reboots which have faltered, there is zero doubt that the hugely anticipated sequel to the 2013 phenomenon will be a hit, it’s just a question of how big a hit. We won’t know the answer to that until the totals come in on Monday, but we have our first inkling because we now know how much Frozen II actually made on opening night.
Frozen II, from returning directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, debuted to $8.5 million from domestic preview screenings on Thursday night according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a great start for an animated film and represents the best preview screening performance of any movie since a little title called Joker opened back in October with $13.3 million.
Comparatively, Frozen II’s $8.5 million blows away the original Frozen’s $1.2 million preview showing as well the last Walt Disney Animation Studios film, Ralph Breaks the Internet, which debuted to $3.8 million last year. It should be noted that unlike Frozen II, both of those two films opened the week of the Thanksgiving holiday.
While Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen II debuted strong, it is not the biggest opening night for an animated film under the Disney corporate umbrella this year. That belongs to Pixar's also long-awaited Toy Story 4 (not counting The Lion King as animated), which set a mark of $12 million when it opened this summer. Whether Frozen II will ultimately be able to beat Toy Story 4’s $120.9 million opening weekend, we’ll have to wait and see.
The long-range tracking had Frozen II pegged to open between $115 million and $145 million. As we’ve gotten closer to release those number have come a little bit down with the industry expecting a $105 million to $115 million opening bow for the animated sequel.
In addition to the obviously high anticipation factor, Frozen II sleds into the weekend on the strength of largely positive reviews, although the sequel is not as universally loved by critics as its predecessor. There’s really no competition for the top spot at the box office this weekend but there are some other films opening hoping to get some benefit from a counterprogramming strategy.
The Tom Hanks Mister Rogers film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood also opens this weekend and it got off to a start on Thursday night with $900,000. Also debuting is the Russo Brothers-produced Chadwick Boseman film 21 Bridges, which started its run with $700,000 from Thursday night previews.