Entertainment

Disney was very strategic in releasing 'Frozen II' before the Thanksgiving weekend

Key Points
  • This is the first year since 2014 that a Disney film will not be released during the Thanksgiving holiday week.
  • Arriving in theaters the week before Thanksgiving will likely not hinder"Frozen II" at the box office.
  • Current estimates for the film's opening weekend range from $120 million to $140 million.
Anna and Olaf from from Disney's "Frozen II," voiced by Kristen Bell and Josh Gad.
Disney

This year marks the first time since 2014 that a Disney film will not be released during the Thanksgiving holiday week — but that's not likely to hinder "Frozen II" at the box office.

The hotly anticipated sequel to Disney's 2013 breakout hit "Frozen," arrives in theaters on Friday, five days ahead of a typical Thanksgiving release.

For years, the studio has thrived on releasing an animated feature during the holiday, launching titles like "Moana," "Coco" and "Ralph Breaks the Internet" during a time when families are already gathering together. However, by releasing "Frozen II" the week before, Disney could stand to gain even more at the box office.

"While Disney has dominated the Thanksgiving 5-day frame (meaning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after), movies that open the Friday before Thanksgiving (like 'Hunger Games') or are in the marketplace in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, can gain a ton of momentum and play well for that period," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said.

"Frozen II" was always going to be a big draw for audiences, but having it appear in theaters ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend means the film will likely not only have a strong opening weekend, but also repeat viewing during the next week.

Sven the reindeer and Olaf from "Frozen II."
Disney

"I think it will do really well opening up ahead of a holiday week," Erik Davis, managing editor at Fandango, said. "A lot of kids are actually off all of next week. It gives ['Frozen II'] a chance to have legs and open up in a really big way."

Current estimates for the film's opening weekend range from $120 million to $140 million. Some speculate that "Frozen II" could earn even more during its opening, especially as advance ticket sales for the film continue to spike.

On Atom Tickets, "Frozen II" has sold more tickets than "Toy Story 4″ and "Incredibles 2" combined during the same time period and outpaced the volume for live-action Disney remakes including "The Lion King" and "Aladdin."

Not to mention, on Fandango "Frozen II" set a new animation record for total presales, outselling Pixar's "Incredibles 2," "Toy Story 4" and every other animated film in the ticket seller's 19-year history.

Davis noted that the tradition of seeing a Disney movie over the Thanksgiving holiday paired with the familiarity of the "Frozen" brand is going to drive a lot of traffic to theaters during the film's first two weeks.

"It's just going to do fantastic business and do a lot of repeat business," he said. "There isn't another significant family movie until you get near Christmas."

Not to mention, there are very few films released during the year that target the preteen audience. Animated films are often geared toward younger kids, not the tween demographic. That lack of content is going to drive a lot of people to go see this film, Davis said.

"I think it's a smart strategy," Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, said of the earlier release date. "It has time to build word of mouth and get that holiday boost in the second week."

Disclosure: CNBC parent Comcast owns Fandango.

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