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The Weekend Movie Takeaway: Disney Proves Its Franchise King Yet Again With 'Frozen II'

November 25, 2019
2 min read time

With the perceived failures of recent franchise instalments Doctor Sleep, Terminator: Dark Fate, and Charlie's Angels over the last month, there has been a lot of discussion around the inherent risks of managing a franchise narrative, and just how badly it can go when your audience lacks confidence in where a studio is taking the story.

Over this past weekend, Disney once again proved that they are the masters of this very modern problem.

Frozen II was released in theaters on Friday and earned a whopping $127 million over the three days.

It's a result that helped Disney's 2019 box office takings spill over the $3 billion mark, and speaks to their continued corporate dominance in the entertainment space. But more importantly, it speaks to how carefully they manage the narratives of their most precious intellectual properties.

The original Frozen was a massive surprise hit in 2013, eventually earning over a billion dollars. Disney could've easily just churned a sequel out straight away. But by taking their time, and giving “Let It Go” songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez space to write new songs, Disney gave one of its newest money-makers room to breathe, narratively speaking.

Indeed, the success of both the original Frozen and its sequel also points to the renewed importance of music and songs in modern popular narrative. While most blockbusters in the 1950s and '60s centered around music, such narratives have been more of a niche format in the modern era. But Disney is doing an amazing job of placing music right back in the middle of the stories that get seen (and heard) by the most people.

The weekend also saw awards season make itself properly known with the release of A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, a film about beloved children's TV host Fred Rogers, directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and starring beloved human Tom Hanks as Rogers. The film earned $13.5 in its opening weekend, coming in third behind last week's champ, Ford v Ferrari.

Heller is showing herself to be a real actors' director, with both Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant earning Oscar® nominations for Can You Ever Forgive Me?. With the release of her new film, both Hanks and co-star Matthew Rhys—who pays a cynical journalist assigned to interview Rogers—are now both firmly in the frame for the acting categories at the Oscars as well.

The weekend also saw the first screenings of a narratively-bold new film that is now almost guaranteed to be front and center come Oscar time: Sam Mendes' 1917.

Taking place primarily in real time in what mostly appears to be a single long shot, the film follows two English soldiers assigned a task that will take them deep into enemy territory during World War I.

While anything from director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition)—who notably has a writing credit here for the first time—tends to get the Academy's attention, 1917 is getting a particularly rapturous response from its first audiences, many of whom are citing the film's innovative approach to telling its story as one of its best qualities.

It's another reminder of how much can be gained from unfurling a narrative in a way that audiences aren't necessarily used to.


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