Disney’s family film Frozen melted hearts at the Wednesday box office, opening to a stellar $15.2 million from 4,173 theaters and putting it on course to sail past $80 million in its five-day Thanksgiving debut. Bullish box office observers believe the animated 3D pic — earning a coveted A+ CinemaScore — could even approach $90 million.
Anything over $70 million would be a victory for Walt Disney Animation Studios, considering Frozen was expected to open on par with the $68.7 million grossed by Tangled over Thanksgiving in 2010.
Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen‘s classic fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen tells the story of a fearless princess (Kristen Bell) who sets off on an epic journey to find her sister, whose icy powers have caused an eternal winter. Last weekend, the 3D pic did big business when it played exclusively at Disney’s El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.
Frozen isn’t mighty enough to topple The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which remained at No. 1 despite the onslaught of new competition. The Lionsgate sequel grossed $20.7 million on Wednesday as it sailed past the $200 million mark domestically after six days in release.
Catching Fire is widely expected to top the Thanksgiving holiday chart ahead of Frozen, with a gross in the $90 million to $100 million range.
After Frozen, the news was mixed for the other new holiday films.
Action-thriller Homefront, starring Jason Statham, opened to $1.4 million from 2,572 theaters on Wednesday to come in No. 4 after Catching Fire, Frozen and Thor: The Dark World. Distributed by Open Road Films, the movie may have trouble hitting $10 million by Sunday.
Homefront, receiving a B CinemaScore, features Statham as a widowed ex-DEA agent who moves to a small town with his daughter, only to have the decision blow up in his face. James Franco and Winona Ryder also star.
Fox Searchlight’s holiday musical Black Nativity, targeting black moviegoers and faith-based consumers, may fare dismally after opening to $440,000 Wednesday from 1,516 theaters. Directed by Kasi Lemmons and based loosely on Langston Hughes‘ play, Black Nativity‘s ensemble cast is led by Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige.
The film, about a streetwise teen from Baltimore who travels to New York to spend the holidays with his estranged family, may only eke out a five-day gross in the $3 million range, far less than hoped for. Black Nativity, earning an A- CinemaScore, is likely being hurt by other African-American films still strong in the marketplace, including The Best Man Holiday.
Spike Lee‘s Oldboy, opening in 583 theaters on Wednesday, may not hit $2 million by Sunday, a disappointment for the filmmaker and FilmDistrict. From a script by Mark Protosevich, the remake of the cult South Korean film stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley. Oldboy marks the final release from Peter Schlessel‘s FilmDistrict before Schlessel officially takes over as CEO of Focus Features on Jan. 1.
Stephen Frears‘ critically acclaimed Philomena may outshine both of those films as it expands into a total of 753 theaters. The awards contender stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.
Also making a major push on Wednesday was the 20th Century Fox drama The Book Thief, based on the best-selling novel by Markus Zusak about a young girl living with her foster parents in Nazi Germany, and starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nelisse and Ben Schnetzer.
The Book Thief, opening in select cities earlier this month in a bid to build word of mouth, cracked the top 10 Wednesday as it expanded into a total of 1,234 theaters. The film grossed $725,000 on Wednesday for a total $2.2 million to date.