Currently, Frozen 2‘s domestic box office total comes in at $477.4 million, and its international box office total stands at a staggering $1.45 billion-the tenth-highest cume of all time. And if we don’t count 2019 ‘s The Lion King as an animated film, then that makes the much-anticipated sequel to Frozen the most successful animated movie ever. There’s simply no denying what an astounding success Frozen 2 has become.
But…here’s the thing: the film should have been a much bigger success.
And the main reason it wasn’t? Japan.
Obviously Frozen 2 capitalized on its brand to build on the original movie’s success-the numbers unequivocally show that. The original film only amassed $400.7 million domestically compared to the sequel’s current $477.4 million total. Even Frozen‘s $1.281 billion global gross seems like chump change compared to Frozen 2 ‘s $1.45 billion cume.
You can see the same trend repeating as you move from territory to territory overseas. In China, Frozen only made $48.2 million to Frozen 2‘s $122.3 million. In South Korea, the original film accrued $69.2 million to the sequel’s $95.6 million. In The United Kingdom, the first movie made $57.9 million to the second film’s $69.7 million. In total, Frozen made $880.3 million outside the United States compared to Frozen 2 ‘s $972.4 million overseas accumulation.
But in Japan? The original Frozen made a whopping $249 million-easily the most of any region outside of the United States. And that total more than doubled what Frozen 2 has accrued in the same territory so far: $122.3 million.
Of course, $122.3 million is an extravagant amount of money. Japan has, after all, generated the third-most amount of money after the United States and China. Disney had always planned on Japan being a huge earner, considering the world’s biggest film studio marketed heavily in the country by opening several Frozen 2 cafes in major cities weeks before the movie’s late 2019 premiere.
And the studio probably wasn’t even deterred by Frozen 2‘s slow start in Japan. The film opened to a timid $17.9 million weekend in the country-nowhere near the animated juggernaut’s $130.3 million three-day premiere in the U.S. But that total had eclipsed what the original Frozen made on opening weekend in Japan back in 2013: $7.5 million.
The real difference came in the following weeks. By the fourth weekend in Japanese theaters, Frozen 2 had made $67.3 million-which was narrowly outdone by Frozen‘s $75.1 million total. After eight weekends, Frozen‘s Japanese earnings stood at $143.2 million to Frozen 2‘s $110 million. And by the time of Frozen 2‘s current $122.3 million Japanese cume? Frozen had put together a $232.5 million run.
The key was that Frozen didn’t have a cool down period until very late into its run. Of the movie’s ridiculous 25 lucrative weeks in Japanese theaters, 18 of those weekends earned at least $1 million; 15 of those weekends earned at least $3 million; and 11 of those weekends earned at least $7 million.
That’s what Frozen had that Frozen 2 doesn’t: durability. For the first 12 weeks in theaters, Frozen‘s weekend totals largely ranged between $7 million and $9 million, with the best weekend reaching $11 million. During that time, theater count ranged between 600 and 700, with per-theater averages consistently achieving five figures. At no point did it seem that the Frozen fever would ever let up in Japan.
Obviously that wasn’t the case for the sequel. While Frozen 2‘s first two weekends in Japan netted larger earnings than any weekend did for Frozen, the successor couldn’t sustain the magic from there on out. By the ninth weekend, Frozen 2 ‘s earnings slipped below $2 million-something that didn’t happen to the original film until Week 17.
To put it plainly: Frozen 2 simply didn’t have the legs the first film had. While Disney was putting lots of eggs in its Japanese basket, the territory simply didn’t excel like every other region did internationally. If Frozen 2 had been able to match its predecessor’s numbers in Japan, then its international total would currently stand at $1.577 billion-which would have made it the eighth-highest-grossing film of all time.