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Disney's Frozen sequel opens with US$127m haul

New York

DISNEY'S Frozen 2 was a bit of gamble: Rarely do musical sequels succeed, and this movie was being released a whopping six years after the original.

The second instalment of the animated flick ended up being a success. The original grossed over US$1 billion worldwide, and this follow-up has been aggressively marketed by a studio that dominates the industry.

However it was framed, Frozen 2 proved its strength at the North American box office over the weekend, opening to an estimated US$127 million in ticket sales. That is far more than the original Frozen made during its first weekend in 2013 (US$67.4 million, not adjusting for inflation), which had the advantage of being a Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Frozen 2 brought in an additional US$223.2 million overseas over the weekend, according to the studio.

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"This is a sensational opening," David Gross, a movie consultant, wrote in a report. "Audiences have shown wariness of sequels, including animation," he added, referencing Secret Life of Pets 2 and The Angry Birds Movie 2, both of which opened this year to weaker sales than their predecessors. Disney's own Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, released last month, about a half decade after the original, also failed to match its forerunner.

Not so with Frozen 2. The original Frozen introduced audiences to the royal sisters Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), distinctive supporting characters like the bubbly snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and the movie's megahit song, Let it Go. (All of its songs were written by the married duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.)

Adventure in an enchanted forest

Frozen, directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, drew praise for its focus on female self-reliance over romance, and won Oscars for best animated feature and best original song. Frozen 2 brings back Elsa, Anna and the rest of the ensemble. And again it is directed by Lee and Buck with songs by Anderson-Lopez and Lopez. It tells a story that centres on an adventure in an enchanted forest.

The new movie received a generally favourable reception from critics, if a less enthusiastic one than the original's - Frozen 2 holds a 75 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the original stands at 90 per cent. In her review for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis called Frozen 2 a "diverting, prettily animated musical".

Frozen 2 was by far the main event at theatres during the weekend - it made more than double the amount brought in by the rest of the top 10 movies combined - but two other brand-new releases were also in the top five.

Sony Pictures opened A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a drama in which Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers, to a respectable US$13.5 million in ticket sales. STX Films' action movie 21 Bridges opened to a solid US$9.3 million in sales. That movie stars Chadwick Boseman as a Manhattan detective on a manhunt.

Those two movies landed in third and fourth place; neither could outpace 20th Century Fox's racing drama Ford v Ferrari, which had a strong opening the previous weekend and brought in an additional US$16 million in the most recent weekend according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. Midway, a World War II action movie distributed by Lionsgate, rounded out the top five with US$4.7 million in domestic sales. NYTIMES