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'Frozen' tops box office again: How it outlasted 'Hobbit,' 'Hunger Games' (+video)

In its sixth weekend of wide release, Disney's 'Frozen' topped the box office for the first time since the first weekend of December, showing the films surprising staying power. 

By Staff writer / January 5, 2014

This image released by Disney shows Elsa as the Snow Queen, voiced by Idina Menzel, in a scene from the animated feature 'Frozen.'

Disney/AP

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The resurgence of Disney Animation took another symbolic step Sunday when its latest film, "Frozen," topped the weekend box office in its sixth week of wide release.

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Staff writer

Mark is deputy national news editor for the Monitor.

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"Frozen" had already taken top spot once – on its second weekend of wide release in early December. But films that have the staying power to come back and reclaim No. 1 status in nonconsecutive weeks – particularly a month later – are rare.

"Most wide-release films in general can't sustain that kind of momentum a month after first hitting theaters," writes Steven Zeitchik on the Los Angeles Times' "Movies Now" blog. " 'Frozen' is not so much in the ballpark of other animated movies as it is like uncommon, often spectacle-driven films that do: film-biz phenomena such as 'Gravity,' which just hung on at No. 5 in its fifth week, and 'Avatar,' which continued to win the weekend on its sixth and seventh weekends of release."

For example, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" was released only a week before "Frozen" went into wide release. ("Frozen" debuted in only one theater is its first week.) While the initial surge for "Catching Fire" was much larger, it slipped to No. 9 this weekend with $7.4 million. Even "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which was released two weeks after "Frozen," could only muster $16.3 million for third place this weekend.

"Frozen" took in an estimated $20.7 million this weekend, according to Rentrak, outpacing the only new release, "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," which opened in second with $18.2 million.

With this weekend's performance, "Frozen" is set to cross the $300 million domestic mark Monday. It is already the No. 4 domestic film of 2013 and could conceivably catch No. 3 – "Despicable Me 2," which took in $367 million. In addition, the film could become the top grosser in the history of Disney Animation this week, outpacing the $312 million "The Lion King" brought in before being re-released in 3-D.

Coming on the heels of "Tangled" and "Wreck-It Ralph," "Frozen" suggests that Disney Animation is in the midst of a renaissance approaching the "golden age" of the early 1990s, when "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Aladdin" revitalized the studio.

“The movie is probably the best non-Pixar Disney movie since the classics of the 1990s,” Jim Silver, editor of Time to Play Magazine, a toy publication, told Bloomberg News.

So how did "Frozen" do it?

Brilliantly terrible marketing. For "Frozen," Disney took a page out of its own playbook. Three years earlier, Disney turned the Rapunzel fairy tale into the gender-neutral "Tangled" and marketed the main male character as an Indiana Jones-style swashbuckler. The fear was that Disney's previous fairy tale, "The Princess and the Frog," had underperformed because boys didn't want to go to a princess movie.

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